(Photo: Ed Stetzer)
When Pastor Pete Wilson tweeted a need for volunteers, hammers, trash bags and brooms, hundreds showed up to start relief work in and around a badly-flooded Nashville.
"I love being able to mobilize so many volunteers ... so quickly," said Wilson, who has more than 54,000 Twitter followers. "I love that power of communication."
Pastors throughout Tennessee have been vigorously thumbing their limited characters since the "thousand year" flood ravaged several counties over the weekend.
"It appears that I have moved into storm central. Thinking about preaching about Noah tomorrow," Ed Stetzer, who is currently serving as interim pastor at Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, tweeted Saturday.
"Lost additional power to downtown this a.m. No repairs until water recedes. Friday at earliest," he tweeted Tuesday.
Stetzer acknowledged that he was posting so many tweets on the flood that people were following a story live – a story that has been getting less coverage that the "Balloon Boy," he says.
"Thx Jon Stewart for mentioning #nashvilleflood. You are not real news, but the 'real news' is too busy for our flood," he tweeted Wednesday.
When rain began to fall in the weekend, Stetzer thought it would just be a little storm. But with more than 13 inches of rain dumped in the Nashville area, the Cumberland River swelled and crested about 52 feet downtown Monday evening, nearly 12 feet above flood stage.
Thousands of homes, churches and businesses were submerged and at least 18 people died in Tennessee.
President Obama on Tuesday declared disasters in Nashville and three other counties.
The affected areas were mainly affluent and many have temporarily moved in with their friends or families. But most homes as well as businesses that suffered considerable damage were found without flood insurance.
After having surveyed the affected areas, Wilson of Cross Point Church said the extent of damage is so big that he almost felt paralyzed as he and his church team tried to outline a disaster response.
"It's heartbreaking," said the young pastor, who, like many other pastors, had to cancel Sunday services. "I have never seen anything like this."
"Once these families get past the emotion of losing their personal belongings and their house, ... not to have any insurance money to start rebuilding and refurnishing their house is going to be really tough," said Wilson during the "Exchange" webcast, hosted by Stetzer, Tuesday.
Cross Point has been sending out a couple hundred volunteers daily to help clean up homes and provide pastoral care. Other churches nearby have also sent volunteer teams to Cross Point to aid in relief and recovery work.
"I love seeing the body of Christ be the body of Christ," Wilson commented.
Making the most of an otherwise dismal situation, the Cross Point pastor said churches should step up and reach people in the name of Christ.
He noted, "We're not just about trying to attract them to our weekend services, although we think that's important as well, but we want to get out there and serve them, love on them, show them Christ.
"This is when we can communicate to friends and neighbors and family that God is most powerfully present even when He seems to be most apparently absent."
Cross Point Church has set up a flood assistance flood and plans to gather some 2,500 volunteers on Saturday for a big push in recovery work. Currently, volunteers have been providing drinking water, ripping up carpet and cleaning up houses.
Two Rivers Baptist Church, which suffered only rain damage, just came out of "Servolution" weekend – a churchwide community service campaign involving cleaning up schools and parks, among other things. Following the flood, Stetzer is planning on "Servolution Part 2."
In the meantime, the pastors are faithfully keeping their Twitter followers up to date from the ground.