The Impact of Technology through the Years on Churches Everywhere

by Emily on May 3, 2017

in Articles

If you read the Bible, you will see that in both Old and New Testaments the word was spread in a way we would refer to today as ‘pounding the pavement.’ Disciples of the old way as well as the new covenant trekked from village to village sharing their story and for most of that time, it was an oral tradition, not in writing for thousands of those early years. So, in a word, you could say that the way in which we are able to ‘get the word out’ is the greatest impact of technology, but there are other ways in which technology has had a major impact on churches everywhere. Consider the following.

The Gutenberg Printing Press

There probably isn’t a student anywhere on earth who hasn’t studied the advent of the printing press in the 15th Century and German goldsmith, Johannes Gutenberg. It had been his desire for more than one reason to keep his invention a ‘secret’ but despite all that, today there are still around 50 copies of the original first printing of the Gutenberg Bible still in existence somewhere around the globe.

Imagine that! Being impressed because we have 50 copies of something? Today with advances in digital technology printing presses we can print more than 50 copies in a minute – hard copies that is – and with digital telecommunications, computer screens around the world can view the entire Bible in moments by downloading the Book in its entirety or through a series of study apps such as those built by groups with the church apps on iBuildApp builder.

However, getting back to the printing press, it is the one greatest invention in church history that is even credited with changing the course of church history. Without a Bible in written form, Protestants wouldn’t have had a major reason for the reformation, which was that the Bible should be available to all, not just for clergy. That was a biggie with Rev. Martin Luther, once a revered Catholic priest. It was his contention that the Holy Bible was meant to be read by all, not just an elite few who could interpret it as they pleased and so it went, leading up to the Reformation as the ultimate trigger.

Electricity, Lighting, Sound and Climate Control

Now consider what the mere discovery of electrical charges and electricity have done for churches. Without going into the long, and sometimes contentious history of how electricity was first harnessed and the light bulb was invented, it should be self-evident the benefits to churches around the world. Now services can be held in lighted assemblies which can be kept heated or cooled as needed.

Previous assemblies met by candlelight and wood burning stoves to keep warm in the colder months, but now the invention of electric (incandescent) lighting and electric heat and cooling systems made it possible for people to enjoy a comfortable climate on Sundays with enough light to see the preacher and read the prayer books, song books and Bibles in front of them.

Again, without going into the history of the amplification of sound, it is now possible to hear what is being said in the far reaches of even major cathedrals. No more getting to church hours early to get a seat up front so that you could hear what the pastor was saying. Amplified sound and a series of hard-wired speakers strategically placed throughout the church make it possible for all to hear what is going on.

Video and Broadcast

In the second half of the last century, television evangelicals made all the major headlines. Not only could churchgoers see what was happening up front on the altar because of big screen images throughout the assembly but that same service could be broadcast around the world. TV evangelicals popped up all over the place and the word was spread via satellite to the farthest reaches of the planet. Although many of these rather questionable evangelicals did more harm than good, their place in technological history is significant. This was a decisive turning point in how the word would spread.

First, there was the written word made possible by the Gutenberg printing press, to radio and television to satellite broadcast throughout the developed world. You can see a definite progression here and it is definitely the result of advances in technology. There are no two ways about it. Technology enabled the rapid dissemination of the word. Whether broadcast on local channels, cable television or via a satellite uplink, without technology this would not be possible.

Wireless and Mobile Technology

In today’s world, it is no longer necessary to even be at home to hear the message! With live podcasts and social media, a church’s reach is infinite. Wireless and mobile technology has given ministers of the Word the ability to ‘tape’ weekly sermons and podcast them via the internet to mobile phones everywhere. It only takes creating a free YouTube upload to your own church YouTube channel to put your podcast sermon online for billions of potential viewers to see and hear.

In all of this there is also the internet. That’s another subject for another time, one which could take an entire semester at a major university to trace the advent of. Today the internet is second nature to everyone in every country, no matter how impoverished, and so it’s hard to imagine a world without it. Even so, the invention of the internet (the beginnings of which are also contentious) is integral in the rapid deployment of services and dissemination of information that has helped church organizations grow and thrive.

In Summation – Food for Thought

Wrapping it up, here is a bit of food for thought. Fundamentalist Christians believe the Gospel message word for word. In so doing, they look to the Book of Revelations to see that the prediction was made that once the word was heard in every part of the world it would usher in the beginning of the end – the Rapture. There are many who hold to this theory and are looking to the skies to see if today just might the day. They are listening for the trumpets to blare and white horses to come riding in on the clouds.

Whether or not you are a prepper, it’s interesting to note that many world religions also preach similar end times theories. Could it be possible that technology is the beginning of the end? Alas, there are no answers to that either, but it is an interesting theory to investigate further at some later point in time.

Perhaps some ingenious iAppBuilder application will be able to track the GPS coordinates of that army riding in from the east. As a believer, it would be fun to track a second coming with technology, wouldn’t it? An interesting thought with which to close and all possible thanks to the rapid rise of technology. Amazing. Simply amazing.

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