I have engaged to a new side project with the mission of helping a Lutheran church in England to reconfigure – and in due course, reimagine – how they embrace digital communications to better engage with their congregation and also to reach out to a wider targeted audience.
As I started researching their context and identifying think tanks and best practices for 21st century-tuned churches, some very interesting sources and voices kept my ideas busy for a long time.
One of those sources was the book The Social Church (2014), by the American author Justin Wise, discussing what it means to think theologically about digital communication: for yourself, for your church, and for this generation. An inspiring teaser of his approach can be seen in this 2 minutes-video.
Another discussion that caught my attention was presented in a video series named What would Luther do today?, produced by ChurchNext.tv and presented by Mrs. Elizabeth Eaton – fourth Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). You can have a taste of the first of these videos in Church Next’s youtube channel.
Now, think of that (in the words of Mrs. Eaton, “stubborn high achiever”) Luther and his openness to take advantage of the cutting-edge social technology of his day – Gutenberg’s printing press – to outreach and spread the Word to new audiences, using the very Bible he began translating in 1521.
Think of that Luther who has brought music to the heart of his proposed doctrine. In 1524, Luther and his friend Paul Speratus published the first Lutheran hymnal (in German Acht Liederbuch) containing eight scripturally based songs — four by Luther, three by Speratus, and one by Justus Jonas. Despite displeasing his antagonists, the success was bold and a second edition was published that same year, now bringing 25 hymns to help teach theological truths and spread the Word in current language.
Think of that Luther that eventually inspired the devout Lutheran Johann Sebastian Bach, among many other composers, to produce wonderful pieces of sacred music, including the famous Bach Cantatas especially written for the Lutheran Vespers.
Maybe now you will start, as I did, entertaining ideas of what Luther would do today, when humans face one of the largest shifts in human communication in the history of the world.
The opportunity this new human communication approach brings – to the churches and particularly through the adoption of a language heavily supported in its core by music and video – is virtually endless!
And I close sharing a choral version for one of the eight songs part of the first Lutheran hymnal, “Nun freut euch lieben Christen g’mein“, here by the Bachchor Weimar, musicians from the Weimar Stadtkirche (Herderkirche) and conducted by the Cantor Johannes Kleinjung. I hope you enjoy it!