10/13/97 Pastors describe uses of cellular telephones

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)--Ministers who have cellular phones often describe them as a tool that increases efficiency and enhances communication with church members.

Bill Reed, minister of education at Shades Mountain Baptist Church, Birmingham, Ala., describes the cellular phone as "a time- saver."

"If you're on the way to the hospital and you get halfway there, the secretary may call and tell you of someone else who has been admitted to the hospital," Reed said. "It's enabling us to do a better and more efficient job."

Gary C. Redding, pastor of First Baptist Church, North Augusta, S.C., said cellular phones have been a valuable tool during outreach activities.

"It has been a very great help when I'm going to visit prospects and having difficulty finding their house," Redding explained. "I have used the phone to call the people I am visiting by appointment, and they have clarified directions to their home. Some have even visually guided me as they looked out their window or stood on their porch watching my headlights come down the street."

Many pastors spend significant time traveling in their automobiles, noted Murray Wilton, pastor of Southside Baptist Church, Huntsville, Ala.

"You'd be surprised how much time a minister spends in his car," Wilton observed. "I do a lot of my calling when I travel, just keeping in touch with folks with a quick call."

Some ministers indicated they are protective of the amount of time they spend on the cellular phone, which usually accrues per-minute charges for incoming and outgoing calls -- both local and long distance.

"Only a few people have my cellular number," said Larry Carter, pastor of Northwood Baptist Church, Greer, S.C. "It has been useful that this number is a long-distance charge, so it is only used when I really am needed."

Tom Fillinger, pastor of Dutch Fork Grace Community Church in Irmo, S.C., said he does not answer incoming calls on his cellular phone but simply uses it to check messages with his secretary, wife and voice mail.

"It is a functional tool I use daily that saves me much time and makes my travel very efficient," Fillinger said.

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