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GodTube spreads the word to the next generation, one computer at a time

POSTED: March 20, 2008 5:00 a.m.

"Common Sense" is a three-part series by Lakewood Baptist Church that can be seen on GodTube. The videos were used to supplement a sermon series about money by the Rev. Dr. Tom Smiley

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So, we all know we can upload and broadcast our favorite home movies or music videos for the world to see on YouTube.

But the Christian community has recently launched its own version of YouTube called GodTube.

"I found that the issue was that the church is having difficulty reaching the 20-, 30-somethings and the teens in a language that they understand," said Chris Wyatt, founder and chief executive officer of GodTube.

"They don’t respond to direct mail (or) e-mail solicitations, so that is why GodTube was created — to help the church reach the next generation."

The online Christian video social network, which has many features similar to YouTube, launched in August and is headquartered in Dallas, Texas. Features include channels, videos and virtual Bible studies.

Web surfers can also log on to GodTube to see videos from Lakewood Baptist in Gainesville. The church uses the site to get more attention to some of the Rev. Dr. Tom Smiley’s sermons.

"It was actually close to this time last year that Dr. Tom was doing a series on money and asked us to put together some dramas," said David Simms, Lakewood Baptist member and drama team leader at the church. "We had wanted to do more video projects and this was a perfect opportunity, and we acknowledged in the GodTube description it’s kind of an homage to ‘Arrested Development.’"

The recently cancelled Fox TV show centered around a wealthy yet somewhat dysfunctional family. The comedy developed a cult following during its four year run.

The Lakewood Baptist drama team put together three short episodes of "Common Sense" to supplement Smiley’s sermon series on finances.

The skits followed the Greene family, who were once wealthy and have now found themselves in financial hardship and continue to make bad financial decisions. Along with Simms, the other actors in the episodes are Chris Adams as Jeff, Maribeth Joyner as the sister, Barbara Hicks as the mother and Bryan Parker as the father.

"It went over really well and it was a great concept that came together well," Simms said. "I wanted to put them on the Internet and see what kind of attention we could get to those videos, if anybody else was interested in watching them."

So, not long after uploading the church videos to GodTube, there was a response all the way from the West coast.

"A church from California recently contacted me ... and said, ‘We saw your videos on GodTube and we have a similar series coming up we wanted to know if we could use your videos for that,’" Simms said. "So now we have bicoastal popularity, I guess."

And that is the kind of Christian community that Wyatt set out to create.

"GodTube is designed to connect the body of Christ, not only the believers but the churches," he said. "(It’s great) for pastors that are looking for ideas on sermons."

Wyatt quickly added that the Web site is not a replacement for church but there to "extend its message globally."

Since the site launched on Aug. 8, more than 200,000 have signed up as members, including 25,000 churches.

"We grew 973 percent," Wyatt said. "We outgrew MySpace, Facebook and YouTube all combined in our month of launch. We’ve got about 30,000 video clips, which represents approximately 800,000 hours of footage."

Currently the most popular video on the site is "Little Girl and Psalm 23" with 4.6 million views.

"Beth Moore (Christian author and speaker) got up and showed it at a Women of Faith conference and there was only 12,000 views," Wyatt said. "Overnight there were several hundred thousand; it had mushroomed to 4.5 million on the Web site."

Wyatt, who is currently a student at Dallas Theological Seminary, said the idea for GodTube came to him while sitting in class.

"I read a study by the Pugh Internet survey that basically said in 2025 half the people will be going to church as compared with 2000," he said. "I was very alarmed by that. If this was in the financial or the automobile sector ... it would be front-page news."

So the seminary student, who had a background in Web and television production, bought the domain name for $400 and GodTube was born.

"We are on track to do approximately 5 to 10 million unique visitors in December," Wyatt said. "We’ll be as large or larger than some denominations."

GodTube is nondenominational and is a safe Web site for children as well as adults.

"Every single minute of every video is reviewed before it is posted. All the comments are filtered for dirty words," he said. "We like to say whether you are 8 years old or 80 years old, there is something on God Tube for everybody."


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