SIMPLY GOD 101
In this digital age, myriad distractions exist to keep believers from contemplating God’s Word.
Simply God 101, a text message ministry started by Terry Garner, exists to remind people of higher things on their mundane weekday mornings.
Bridging the gap between Sunday services is part of why he started sending devotional texts to friends, Garner said.
“We are influenced so much by the world, and we need more influence from God to counteract that worldly influence. These texts fill the gap between Sunday and Sunday of being in God’s Word.”
Garner began texting a few friends occasional devotions he wrote in the autumn of 2012. In January, he “felt the calling to start a website,” then he had about 40 people signed up to receive his devotions.
Now, more than 200 receive his devotions through texts and more than 1,000 follow the ministry on Facebook.
“It’s really taken off, and it’s all been word of mouth,” Garner said. “God put some people in my past that help me do this, people who run all the IT stuff, people who do outreach networking, they get my devotion and they send it to people. It’s almost like a pay-it-forward type thing.”
Right now, Garner sends out three devotions a week, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings – he usually writes them about two weeks ahead, and deciding what he will write about often is through providence, he says.
“A lot of times it’s really weird stuff that’ll pop in my head. I did a devotion on considering the trash alongside the highway – it’s whatever the Holy Spirit puts in my heart. Sometimes we walk through the day and don’t see God because we’re not looking good enough. He’s there in everything.”
Garner’s devotions average about 200 words, which is long for a text. On smartphones they show up as one message, but those with older phones get them in strings of 10 or 15 texts.
Garner has been sending out all the devotions from his own phone, which naturally required him to have an unlimited texts plan, he says.
Recently, First United Methodist Church of Williamsport took on Simply God 101 as an outreach ministry. The church will provide the technology to distribute the devotions.
A group of members at First Church also come together to work as the Simply God team, with some of them starting to write devotions. The group also wants to expand the ministry to send the devotions, via DVD, to shut-ins and nursing homes, and do some mission work around the city.
The group prays for each person they send texts to and, when people send in a prayer request, they pray as a group.
“This isn’t like a mass texting list,” Garner said. “We’re always trying to find more people to get involved. We do it as a network outreach, where each person gets a list of 15 to 20 people so they can pray for them, and it’s not overwhelming for one person to do that … We try to reach everybody. There was a guy I talked to this morning, who said, ‘I really needed that today.’ Some people it seems to make their day to get a devotion in the morning, it gets them in touch with God early and reminds them of being with God.”
To sign up and receive messages from Simply God 101 texting ministry, text 570-279-0167 and write, “sign me up” with your name in the message box. Or you can sign up for email devotions at simplygod101.com or find them on Facebook or Twitter under “Simply God 101.”