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It is extraordinarily important that Baptists and those curious about Baptists should be directed to sites that are more than misinformed Web-filler.

Since those humble beginnings Baptists have spread around the world ”and the World Wide Web. In observance of the approaching 400th anniversary of Baptist beginnings, the Baptist History and Heritage Society is publicizing the history of those four fascinating centuries. The society itself has an interesting history, too.

It was first organized in Richmond, Va., in 1938 as the Southern Baptist Historical Society. It was re-chartered in Tennessee in 1952 “as an auxiliary to the Historical Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.” When that relationship ceased in the 1990s, the society moved toward independence and became the Baptist History and Heritage Society in 2001. It now has offices at Mercer University in Atlanta.

The BHHS Web site offers the interested surfer valuable information about events, educational opportunities, and important books about Baptist history.

In the past, the society’s main organ for disseminating Baptist history has been its journal, which goes back to 1965. It, too, survived transition in the 1990s and is now sponsored by the BHHS and co-sponsored by the Center for Baptist Studies at Mercer University.

But print journals alone are no longer sufficient, in this information age, to grab the attention of potentially interested parties. Indeed, without a Web presence, print journals are unlikely even to be known. Hence, the BHHS has wisely added alongside its excellent journal an important Web site.

Other Web sites, of course, should be bookmarked by Baptist surfers. Baptists Today offers up-to-date news, views and conference information of interest to Baptists. Ethics Daily covers important current events from a Baptist point of view. And the newest entry into the sometimes tangled Web is a Facebook group made up of those who are members of, or are interested in, the work of the BHHS.

In particular, the Facebook group offers Baptists the chance to network with one another, reconnect with colleagues and friends, meet new colleagues and friends, share ideas, events, and programs, and post photos, videos and links relevant for Baptists. The Facebook phenomenon may be known to many readers here, but others may not have yet encountered it. Facebook, in short, is a free community networking site that keeps members informed about the happenings of their friends. Interested people merely sign up and then join groups of interest.

Why, though, are these various sites important? Because the Web is, indeed, a tangled mass of both information and misinformation. Googling the word “‘Baptist” can produce sites that are, to be charitable, misleading. Hence, it is extraordinarily important that Baptists and those curious about Baptists should be directed to sites that are more than misinformed Web-filler.

Each of the sites mentioned above is rich in links to sites that are reliable, intelligent and worthwhile for understanding Baptists.

Baptists have a long history of engagement with society. Engagement via the Web is just one more method by which they can share the Gospel with a new and ever-changing world. Whether you visit the links above or join Facebook, the mere fact that you have found your way here means you are already online.

Now, be engaged.

Jim West is pastor of Petros Baptist Church in Petros, Tenn. He blogs at http://jwest.wordpress.com/

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