DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

What do Gutenberg, Calvin and Obama Have in Common?

Written by: on November 12, 2015


A Social History of the Media: From Gutenberg to the Internet is a highly researched book that views how media has shaped and impacted the world in which we live.  From Gutenberg’s press in the 1400s to the crazed social media era we live in today, Asa Briggs and Peter Burke explain how media has shaped and influenced the world.


The world is not disconnected.  We are shaped and informed by media.  In the 1400s and 1500s, those who mastered the new printing presses were able to shape culture.  Today, those who can communicate loudest in the best medium have the ability to shape values that can change a nation.  This is the essence of this book.


The world has been profoundly changed by people adopting new forms of media.  In the the late 1400s, the very first printing press was brought about by Gutenberg.  This invention created a revolution in the European world.  The advent of this media, printed materials, distributed those materials faster and changed the spiritual landscape.  Men like Luther, Calvin, Tyndale and many more took this new medium and created a cultural and spiritual revolution that is still being felt today.  It was media that sparked the European revival known as the Reformation.  Through the printing press, the Reformers could get the word of God into people’s hands.  They could reproduce their doctrine at a remarkable fashion.  Much like President Obama and his political campaign seizing upon social media to promote his agenda and eventually swept him into power, the Reformers capitalized off of the printing press.  No longer was information controlled by the Catholic Church, but Gutenberg’s press allowed for the Reformers to produce so much information that it would eventually overwhelm Rome, and allow the Reformer’s a real voice and foothold in European Spirituality.

Even more interesting was the fact that an invention with “almost hallucinatory similarity to Gutenberg’s (p.13)” was invented in Korea.  A machine with movable type was invented.  However, it did not seem to have the same power as Gutenberg’s in Europe.

This staggering information regarding a similar press in Korea begs one question.  Why was a revolution spawned by Gutenberg in Europe while there is very little evidence for a revolution in Korea?  Based off this book, and while it is my assertion that media can affect society and culture, it is is neutral.  Media has a great power if it is harnessed and used.  Having vision for how media can affect a society or a culture is a remarkable tool for a leader to have.  It proved true in 2008.  The social media campaign that was harnessed by Obama was new.  A campaign had never focused on this new medium before, but the gamble paid off for the President.  Whether you like his politics or not, everyone must agree that having that foresight brought him to power. The same is true for the Reformers.  They saw a new medium that allowed them to present their ideas to the masses. It is evident that media alone does not shape cultural, but media in the right hands can and will shape it.

Looking at these two cases and examining this book leads me to ask myself this question.  What forms of media am I ignoring or am not using to its fullest could be used to advance the Gospel?  How do I harness those forms to its fullest capacity?  Would my church be impacted by the use of new media?  What forms of media need to die within my organization as well?

We tend to think of media as being unconnected to life, but this book presents a new idea, at least to me.  Media is essential to shaping values, society and culture.  Media is as part of life. As leaders, we must recognize this and ask God to help us steward this powerful tool.

About the Author


Jason Kennedy

I am a pastor of a thriving church in Grapevine, Texas. With two little girls (5,8), and a wife that is a medical doctor (family practice), life is non-stop.

11 responses to “What do Gutenberg, Calvin and Obama Have in Common?”

  1. mm Marc Andresen says:

    You wrote, “…but media in the right hands can and will shape it.” Sadly media in the wrong hands shapes culture as well. One of the most sobering and chilling museum exhibits I’ve ever seen was at the Holocaust Museum in Washington D. C. The display portrayed the use of propaganda by Hitler. We’ve probably all heard the joke these days that if it’s on the internet you can believe it. We know that is not true. Tragically the bulk of Germany lacked the discernment or resolve to recognize that most of what Hitler said was a lie or half-truth (which is even more dangerous than a lie).

    I think you’re on to something regarding using media for ministry. So would you agree, then, that media is neutral and becomes good or evil based on who uses it?

    • Jason Kennedy says:

      Absolutely Mark. Sorry, I did not fully develop that thought. We see it right now with culture wars…media is neutral however those who use it are not.

  2. Jason,

    Wow what an attention grabbing headline to get me to click quickly on your post.

    What do they have in common?

    I agree with you that I want to use every possible form of media that I can. I still haven’t figured out snap chat but the world is taking this simple app and making strides into communication like never before. There three minute advertisement spots on their new platform have inspired me to develop something for our ministry that would fit their style and format. Periscope is another platform that I am determined to master to bring messages to kids.

    What do you see that we could do as the “church” to advance the cause of the gospel through current communication modes? Are you engaging your new church with social media? Hope all is going well on that front.

    God Bless


    • Jason Kennedy says:

      They all took advantage of new technology.

      I believe the church should use the new forms of media. We engage Facebook with devotional blogs, sermon power clips, and a host of other things. Since I have been here, visitor volume has increased primarily due to social media.

  3. Aaron Cole says:


    Great Blog! Your titles slay me! Where do you come up with these perspectives? What do they have in common or what is the common denominator?


    • Jason Kennedy says:

      They all adopted new technologies. Calvin and Luther used the new invention known as the printing press to overwhelm the Catholic Church. Their message moved quicker and with more volume. It was the same with Obama in 2008. He was able to capture the heart of a generation not because he spoke their language, but because he used the new medium.

      One point on Calvin, his great manifesto, Institutes for Christian Religion was written in his 20s. That is amazing when you see how large it is.


  4. mm Phil Goldsberry says:


    You caught my heart also. I do not want to miss any media potential that would allow the message to be diminished! If Luther, Calvin, Tyndale were seen as progressive and brought a renewal to Europe, what do you believe is the media potential that we should embrace in 2015, heading into 2016?

    We’ve read about ethnography and social culture theories from a secular perspective. Briggs and Burke touched a little on the involvement in the church throughout history. The innovations that were deemed secular, some innovators within the church embraced them and brought change and reformation. What do you see within your new church? Innovation? Fear of innovation?

    Keep up the good work as you transition your church to its greatest days.


  5. Hey Jason. I too ask these questions: “What forms of media am I ignoring or am not using to its fullest could be used to advance the Gospel? How do I harness those forms to its fullest capacity? Would my church be impacted by the use of new media? What forms of media need to die within my organization as well?”

    How have you experimented with finding answers?

    • Jason Kennedy says:

      We are trying video devos, video clips of services…we do everything we can to touch people through new media. Facebook boosts are huge…

      We need to look at new media in the way revivalist looked at tents. I think every church should view new media as outreach.

  6. Great read, Jason!

    It’s interesting how media has shaped the world – not only in technological usage, but in value and moral perspective. Globalization has enabled us to make an impact on all nations and creeds; however, it has also enabled us to be influenced by various beliefs and mores. Has this affected the way that our audience interacts with our sermons? Rachel Held Evans describes her spiritual journey as one who left the church searching for Jesus and came face-to-face with Christianity – a Christianity that stemmed from numerous authors, websites and articles. Her new-found faith was shaped and fashioned by worldwide theology. She states, “ On Sunday morning, my doubt came to church like a third member of the family, toddling along behind me with clenched fists and disheveled hair, throwing wild tantrums after every offhanded political joke or casual reference to hell” (Search for Sunday, Evans, 57). Now, I’m not supporting her stance or arguing with her beliefs, but I am bring to the forefront that the majority of answers are being sought outside of our doors. This challenges us to not only understand our own theological view, but to delve into the secular mindset of so many who are questioning the validity of Christianity. You stated, “Today, those who can communicate loudest in the best medium have the ability to shape values that can change a nation.” How can we make Christianity the loudest voice that shapes the nations? What needs to change in our presentation and perspective in terms of media usage?

    • Jason Kennedy says:

      I think we have to embrace media the right way. Think about the ridiculousness done by the Starbucks red cup guy. His loud and obnoxious rant painted us in the wrong way. Wow we do have morals and standards and doctors wow we do have morals and standards and doctrine, There does need to be a balance.

      We will never get everybody to like what we stand for. But when most of the things we stand for or negatives, then it is difficult for people to listen to our message. This doesn’t mean we stray away from him sin. But we should think about our first messages. Think about it. We live in a sound bite culture. Our message must be precise enough that people can hear it. The negatives wash out that message. Make sense?

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