By Jeff Brumley
Two Cooperative Baptist churches — one in Alabama, the other in Florida — are embroiled in a social media rivalry over college football that’s making headlines and inspiring mission work.
It all started Tuesday when Bill Shiell, the senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Tallahassee, posted a Tweet asking his followers and those of First Baptist in Auburn who they are picking in Monday’s BCS championship game.
“I didn’t know what would happen,” said Shiell, whose city is home to No. 1 Florida State. The Seminoles will play the No. 2 Auburn University Tigers in the final BCS matchup.
What happened was that First Baptist, Auburn, fired back with scriptural references to triumphant eagles and eagles’ wings — a clear reference to Auburn’s War Eagle mascot.
It was game on at that point.
“He put shields and SPEARS in all the cities, and made them very strong,” was one of the Tallahassee minister’s biblical comebacks, alluding to the Seminoles’ helmet logo and Native American influence.
And it’s gone back and forth ever since, generating retweets and Facebook postings, blog postings and media requests for interviews.
“They were all pretty funny and clever,” Tripp Martin, the pastor at First Baptist, Auburn, said of the church-versus-church Tweets.
Shiell said he doesn’t know Martin personally but he did know the fellow CBF church and figured they could take a good-natured jab.
“I was just looking to having a little fun in the midst of all this craziness of football culture,” Shiell said.
Local media in both cities are airing and publishing non-stop stories on everything to the diets of the players to every move of the coaches. The mayors of the two cities recently placed food wagers on the outcome of Monday’s game.
“It’s 24/7, 365 nonstop,” Shiell said. “It’s all people live, breath, sleep and wear.”
Shiell and Martin took their churches’ Tweet-off to a new level. In personal e-mails to each other, they agreed the winning church will plan and host a local mission trip to which the other group will travel.
“Nothing is planned yet,” said Martin. “But it will probably involve college students and others from each church.”
In addition to the good feelings and fun generated by the social media exchange, Martin said he’s encouraged by what it says about the body of Christ fellowshipping and working together.
“Both churches are thinking a lot about this upcoming football game because of where they exist and where they serve, and the neat thing … is this larger connection it’s creating for each church and their mission,” he said.