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Web video craze expanding to churches

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (BP)–Move over, YouTube. Baptists have video cameras, and they’re using them.

Now they have a safe place to share their videos online, thanks to Bill Nix, CEO and president of Axletree Media.

Axletree’s E-zekiel, a website builder and host used by churches and other nonprofits around the world, has come out with a video counterpart to its popular service — E-zekiel.tv, which launched in early November.

“E-zekiel.tv is the answer to the question many churches have been asking,” said Nix, a member of First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala. “Many of our churches whose websites are on E-zekiel have been wanting to share videos online, but the option of going to YouTube wasn’t an option.”

With YouTube, a public video-sharing website, a possibility always exists that users could encounter questionable content, Nix said.

“For instance, there was a church that posted their video on YouTube, and when one deacon finished watching it and it gave a clip of the next video [one that didn’t belong to the church], it was inappropriate,” Nix recounted.

E-zekiel.tv helps churches rest easy, he said, noting that videos posted on E-zekiel.tv are monitored for questionable content so that the site remains Christian-based and family friendly.

And anyone can use it for free, Nix said. “You don’t have to have an E-zekiel website to use E-zekiel.tv,” he said.

Jim Jackson, director of missions for the Elmore Baptist Association in Wetumpka, Ala., can attest to that.

Nix handed Jackson and several others small Flip video cameras at the Alabama Baptist Pastors’ Conference in Mobile and asked them to give the E-zekiel.tv site a try.

Jackson tried it, and he said he’s sold.

“It’s very simple. You just have to sign in and create an account, then you can start uploading,” he said.

The Elmore association’s site isn’t powered by E-zekiel, but Jackson said there are plans to link its site to E-zekiel.tv so videos can be posted.

“We’ve been thinking of some of the ways we could use it,” said Jackson, who’s already envisioning his churches using it for online videos welcoming visitors to their church, among other things.

The site has made an impact on Jackson’s family as well. His son-in-law Brian Gay recently went to Guatemala with First Baptist Montgomery and was able to upload videos of missions work while still in Guatemala.

“It was really neat for us, because he had left an itinerary behind so we could be praying for them, but when we could see the video and see the folks they were working with, that made it even more real,” Jackson said.

Nix noted that YouTube and GodTube.com, one of the pioneers in Christian video sites, plowed some of the ground for E-zekiel to get into this line of ministry.

GodTube, a self-described “video-driven social network,” launched officially last August and offers such services as video sharing, chatting, messaging and blogging. Watchman Fellowship of Alabama was called on to help the site monitor its content after it became the fastest-growing site on the Web during its launch month.

GodTube, based in Plano, Texas, currently is the largest broadcaster of Christian videos on the Web, with more than half a million unique visitors hitting the site each month.

Nix is getting on board with that trend but said he has different plans for E-zekiel.tv than the one-to-one relationships inherent to YouTube and GodTube.

“I imagine that there will be churches setting up groups and using this to communicate with their members,” Nix said, adding that churches could use it for all kinds of purposes, such as sending videos to their members.

“I can envision a person visiting a church, filling out a visitor card and providing the church with an e-mail address. Then when that person gets home, there’s an e-mail invitation asking them to be a part of the church’s video group online. That person then has access to videos explaining the church’s mission, giving a virtual tour of its facilities and ministries — the list could go on and on,” he said.

Nix also hopes that people who move to new cities can do a search for that city on E-zekiel.tv and find out more about the churches in the area through their videos.

Ministers also can share videos for sermon illustrations, such as a fishing video Jay Wolf, senior pastor at First Baptist Montgomery, shot in a boat and posted on E-zekiel.tv.

“There are so many possibilities with this site, and we are certainly hoping for an explosion of growth with it,” Nix said.
Grace Thornton is assistant editor of The Alabama Baptist newsjournal, on the Web at www.thealabamabaptist.org.