Technology and the Church
In early 1440, a German goldsmith named Johannes Gutenberg saw that there was a way to improve the current printing presses that were humming in shops around Europe. Instead of carving each page on a wooden block, he figured out that by making each letter separate a printer could move the type as needed. Movable type (and the ease with which books and pamphlets could now be printed) came along at a momentous moment in the history of the church. Just over 75 years later, an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther insisted (among other things) that the Bible should be read by the people in their language (not solely by a priest in Latin). This, along with his deep beliefs about justification by faith alone found in Scripture, presaged the beginnings of what we now know as the Protestant Reformation. The movable type brought to life by Gutenberg and others led to the publication of the Bible in more than one local language, opening the Word of God to the faithful in ways people couldn't have envisioned a generation prior. More importantly, Luther and other leaders of the Reformation could produce essays and tracts that led to the spread of this new way of encountering God.
New technology and the ways in which it affects the life of the church is not a new dynamic in the history of the Christian faith. It has led to new ways of learning, new ways of communicating among the faithful, and new ways of drawing closer to God. In the last two weeks, we have seen churches large and small looking for those new ways of being the Body of Christ in the 21st century. Online worship, group video Bible chats, updated websites (!) - we are seeing pastors, leaders, and lay members all looking for ways to gather in a season that calls for physical distance. These new ways of being and seeing will never replace the beauty and gift of Sunday worship. We will arrive at the time when are able to gather again as the embodied people of God around the Word and Table, hearing each others voices in song and prayer, and taking the bread and cup as a transforming sacrament and means of God's grace. We are dispersed, but we worship a God who gathers by whatever means necessary. David's prayer of thanksgiving in 1 Chronicles speak to this longing in both our hearts and God's heart - "“Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather and deliver us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise. Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting!” (1 Chron. 16:35-36). Praise be to the God who uses new ways to gather us, give Him glory, and witness to the unity and connective grace of the Holy Spirit!