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Tuscaloosa Baptists start Facebook prayer group, see concept take offcomment (0)

May 20, 2010

By Kathy Dean

Chip Freeman said the view from the pulpit is sobering.

“You walk into churches and you see whole churches that are a third full. You wonder where the people are,” said Freeman, a bivocational pastor who also supply preaches in the Tuscaloosa area.

He found them on Facebook.

So Freeman, pastor of Old Union Baptist Church in Brent, and Jimmy Dockery, a member of South Highlands Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa, started a Facebook group, On Our Knees in Tuscaloosa, to draw people to God through prayer and Christian fellowship. 

Freeman designed a logo, a silhouette of a man on his knees in prayer against an outline of Tuscaloosa County, and last August, he and Dockery sent Facebook invitations to their friends, who then invited their friends. Soon people from across the county and those with ties to it who now live elsewhere were posting prayer requests, sending invitations to church events and building relationships.

The group has grown to include more than 1,100 people of all ages, races and denominations and has spawned other On Our Knees groups.

There are currently On Our Knees groups, ranging in size from three to nearly 500 members, for Limestone, Jefferson, Lamar, Madison, Hale, Morgan, Pickens, Shelby and Autauga counties in Alabama; Okaloosa County in Florida; Hardin County in Tennessee; and U.S. troops serving worldwide.

In all, more than 2,300 people are participating in the Facebook prayer groups.

“We want On Our Knees to be a conduit where people can come together to edify the Lord, to spread the Word of the Lord, to let others know that we are people that care. Our goal is to promote Christianity through the group — first through prayer, then wherever the Lord leads down the road,” Freeman said.

Dockery said using Facebook to connect people to the power of prayer is one way of incorporating an awareness of God into daily life.

“They can check their Facebook account in the middle of playing FarmVille (a game on Facebook), and if somebody posts a prayer request, they can think of that person and say a little prayer,” he said. “God is being shut out of the world so much. We want to ease access to God back [into] everybody’s life.”

Carol Sutton, a member of Indian Lake Baptist Church, Northport, is one of those praying for people who post their needs on the Tuscaloosa group’s page and being prayed for.

“I love being able to know that there are people I don’t even know who are my brothers and sisters in Christ that lift me up in my times of need. And I love being able to pray for others who need me to,” she said.

Since the majority of the groups are focused on a particular county, people often have an opportunity to share God’s love in person after reading a prayer request.

Sutton said she recognized the last name of a girl who was asking for prayer for her sick father and realized that the girl’s mother was a fellow church member.

“I found out they need a lot of prayer now,” said Sutton, who also plans to reach out in other ways to comfort the family.

The Tuscaloosa group has moved beyond gathering on Facebook to gathering at churches for prayer minirevivals every two months.

Brent Jarrett, who organized On Our Knees in Limestone and is a member of Sardis Springs Baptist Church, Athens, can attest to the power of a Facebook group to draw people to church.

“He said he grew up in church, had gotten away from it and had forgotten what kind of love that is,” Jarrett said of a co-worker who returned to church after seeing the Facebook posts.

And that’s something Freeman hopes will keep happening.

“I want people to realize there are brothers and sisters in Christ who care for them,” he said. “Maybe [these groups] can draw us back together to (the) Christian fellowship and unity that the Bible tells us we are supposed to have.”

For more information, contact Freeman through the On Our Knees in Tuscaloosa page on Facebook or by calling him at 205-792-8667.

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