Remembering 149 Years of Technology at CPH

September 11, 2018 Katy Munson

Remembering 149 Years of Technology at CPH

Happy 149th birthday, Concordia Publishing House! Of course, there’s a bunch of excitement about the big one-five-zero happening a year from now (and rightfully so!), but you only turn 149 once. Whatever the number, birthdays are a great time to remember, reflect, and celebrate—so here we go!

Technology May Change, But God’s Word Won’t

As Concordia Publishing House began way back in the fall of 1869, founding president C. F. W. Walther wrote, “The new printery should serve Christ alone. . . . May God bless the hands penning the manuscript, setting type, and printing pages, to His honor and men’s salvation.”

In the time since, much has changed and much has remained the same. The earliest resources produced by CPH included Bibles, books on theological topics, and music. Today you’ll still find Bibles, a range of theological books, and music, along with various educational curricula, congregational administration resources, software programs, and online study courses.

Though the way content is created, delivered, consumed, and applied looks different in many ways, one thing will always remain constant: “the word of the Lord endures forever” (1 Peter 1:25).

As congregations and families, we have a similar experience. Digital technology has changed the environments in which we live, work, worship, and learn. These days, family devotions may be read from an iPad, and notes of encouragement sent via text message. Bible studies might include videos, and podcasts can be a part of our confirmation curriculum. And still “the word of the Lord endures forever.”

The Birth of Concordia Technology Solutions

Technology, in a broad sense, has always been a part of these experiences and endeavors. Scribes in Old Testament times used reeds to write God’s enduring Word on papyrus and parchment, and it’s well known how the “new technology” of the moveable type printing press played a huge role not only in spreading Luther’s Reformation writings but also in putting Bibles in the hands and homes of everyday people. In fact, this was such an emphasis that the Latin phrase “Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum” (meaning “the Word of the Lord Endures Forever”), or its shorthand “VDMA,” is known as the motto of the Reformation.

The use of technology in our congregations and homes isn’t limited to the products and resources we see, hear, and interact with in more direct ways, but God has given us the brains to develop and use technologies that provide a framework for going about our days and doing the work to which He has called us—however mundane or thrilling it might be. CPH has done this throughout the years, installing systems like electric lighting (1908), pneumatic tubes for sending documents between different parts of their campus (1925), a Univac computer for order processing (1961), an IBM computer for direct data input (1974), a phone ordering system for customers (1978), and a website (1997). The technology division, Concordia Technology Solutions (CTS), was born out of the desire to provide these supporting tools for congregational use, releasing their first software in 1984.

And here we are today, on CTS’s Technology and Your Ministry blog, a place that seeks to serve church workers and leaders as they leverage technology, reflecting the overall mission of helping churches work more efficiently so they can focus on what really matters—ministering to the people in their churches and communities by providing churches with the tools they need to get to know the people they serve and to turn that knowledge into increased outreach opportunities and points of connection.

Honoring God in Our Use of Technology

Day in and day out, we use technology of all sorts in our education and leisure time and in the administration of our personal and professional lives. Calendars (paper or digital) serve to keep track of schedules, appointments, and to-do lists. Email and text messaging provide avenues for communicating ideas and information with family, friends, and colleagues. Websites, blogs, and social media serve as platforms to share, consume, and engage with information and insights we might not have otherwise encountered. In some instances, digital avenues can be a helpful way to steward physical resources and time.

Looking at these examples and countless others, we remember that the creativity of humankind, which drives technological innovation, is merely a reflection of God’s creative nature. When we create, we do so with the materials God has provided, whether they be physical, intellectual, or digital. As we navigate the use of changing technologies in our lives, work, and culture, we recognize that we do so as fallen, imperfect people—families, congregations, and publishing houses alike. But even as we fail, Jesus redeems. No choice we make will be perfect, but we live in the confidence that God will work in spite of our failings, offering forgiveness in Christ and direction in His Word—which remains forever.

Sometimes technology is just plain fun. Other times it serves to facilitate very important work in our families, our congregations, and the church at large. And then there are times when we would do well to consider the merits of a good, old-fashioned approach. Regardless, we strive to use such tools in ways that honor God and communicate His love and truth.

Celebrating 149 Years at CPH

So on this day, CPH’s 149th birthday, let’s celebrate! Let’s celebrate that God gives us good gifts, often choosing to use the people and technologies of a particular place and time. In the vein of Walther’s words at CPH’s founding, may God bless the hands, hearts, minds, and voices typing manuscripts, writing code, creating videos, illustrating books, designing curriculum, innovating, and exploring new ways to nurture faith and equip the saints!

Above all, thanks be to God that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8)!

Special thanks to Hannah Osborne for sharing the information on CPH’s implementation and use of various technologies over the years!

Hear more from Katy as we live-chat with her about technology in the church through the ages.
Thursday, September 13 at 11:30 a.m. (CDT) on Facebook

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