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“Jesus Daily” — which started off as a preacher’s son’s hobby now has the most highly engaged Facebook audience in the world, reports Jennifer Preston in the New York Times.

Dr. Aaron Tabor

The page hosted by Aaron Tabor, 41, a North Carolina physician, far surpasses anything offered on Facebook by celebrities and sports teams — and that includes Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and NFL Football.

Dr. Tabor simply draws on the words of Jesus and posts them on Facebook four or five times a day. He also has a daily feature on Beliefnet.

He told Preston that he grew up watching his father preach at churches in Alabama and North Carolina, and started the Facebook page in April 2009, he said, as a hobby.

He also uses the internet social media phenomenon to market his diet book and online diet business — which includes selling soy shakes, protein bars and supplements. According to Preston’s Times article on the front page of Monday’s Business section:

For the last three months, more people have “Liked,” commented and shared content on the Jesus Daily than on any other Facebook page, including Justin Bieber’s page, according to a weekly analysis by AllFacebook.com, an industry blog. “I wanted to provide people with encouragement,” said Dr. Tabor, who keeps his diet business on a separate Facebook page. “And I thought I would give it a news spin by calling it daily.”

Facebook and other social media tools have changed the way people communicate, work, find each other and fall in love. While it’s too early to say that social media have transformed the way people practice religion, the number of people discussing faith on Facebook has significantly increased in the last year, according to company officials.

Amid pages for Lady Gaga, Texas Hold’em Poker and Manchester United, Joyce Meyer Ministries is in the top 20, along with another page devoted to Jesus Christ, and the Spanish-language page Dios Es Bueno, or God Is Great. And Facebook got its first Bible-themed game recently, the Journey of Moses.

But the increase in the number of people finding faith communities via social media platforms provokes the question of what constitutes religious experience and whether “friending” a church online is at all similar to worshiping at one.

For some, the Jesus Daily has become a faith community online, where people share their troubles and provide and receive words of support. “Jesus Daily reminds me every day that I am not alone,” said Kristin Davis-Ford, a single mother and full-time student in Houston. “Every single prayer request I have posted has been answered,” she said, “and I know it is the power of God’s children, coming together and standing in agreement.”

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