Imagine worship services gathering Christians regularly to hear God’s Word preached, and praise and prayer returned to God, in their own birth languages: Bulgarian, German, Hmong, Japanese, Mandarin (Chinese), Nepali, Nuer (Sudanese), Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Telugu, Urdu, and Vietnamese.
We have in our fellowship the resources to supply speakers of all these languages, and more, with regular opportunities to join in worship with their own language community. This vision can be realized by streaming services over the internet. Worship streaming’s highest purpose is to gather a Christian community around the Word of God.
Many congregations have begun to stream their English worship services live on Sunday morning, then archiving them for viewing at any time later. Their usual audience consists of members who for one reason or another could not be present that Sunday, but would like to worship with their home congregation, and with streaming they can do so online. When we are away from home, we worship online at our home church, Peace in North Mankato (ELS) which streams at 8:30 every Sunday morning (1:30 p.m. GMT). A growing list of WELS churches that stream worship in English is found in the WELS online directory.
More opportunities for online worship in English are offered by our colleges, all three of which live-stream their chapel services every weekday morning:
- Bethany Lutheran College at 10:00 a.m. (3:00 p.m. GMT)
- Martin Luther College at 10:30 a.m. (3:30 p.m. GMT)
- Wisconsin Lutheran College at 10:00 a.m. MWF or 11:00 a.m. T Th.
A more specialized application of worship streaming can serve a more wide-spread audience – people in the US and around the world who speak a common language. For some of these, dire circumstances in their home countries have forced large numbers of individuals and families from their ancestral homes. Pockets of people speaking their home languages can now be found throughout the US, Canada, and other countries. Many such people are members of our churches, and their desire to bring the Gospel to others like them – whether they be nearby in the U.S., far off in their home countries, or scattered around the world – has prompted them to start streaming worship services in their various languages. They hope that they can not only bring news of God’s love to their fellow countrymen, but perhaps gather them, even though widely scattered, into a kind of online fellowship.
Below I survey some of the streamed services already available in “world languages” from our churches, and then note a few other languages in which worship streaming is (or could be) planned. After the survey, I comment on two special challenges these services must manage in order to maximize their potential for outreach around the world. Click here to go directly to the challenges.
The churches of the EFLK in Germany are quite sophisticated in their use of the internet, including live-streaming worship in the German language. Read about it in Outreach in My Community – Germany in this conference. Live worship streams go online Sundays at 9:30 a.m. (8:30 a.m. GMT). Archived services, such as this one from Schönfeld, can be found on YouTube.
For a special treat, view the Gottesdienst mit Aufführung der Kindersingewoche (Service with Performance for the Week of Children Singing) recorded on October 8 at Zwickau-Planitz. You don’t have to understand German to enjoy these talented young people celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with a musical pageant, “Martin Luther – das Musical.” My favorite moments: “Martin Luther” sits down at his desk to start writing the 95 Theses (about 46 minutes in), and some of the great Lutheran hymns, including “A Mighty Fortress” sung like you’ve never heard it before (starts about 59 minutes in).
Team members not pictured: Chou Thao, David Yang, Ge Yang, Solomon Lor, Suav Moua, Tsong Va, Voos Muas, and Yeng Moua.
Immanuel Hmong Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, uses Livestream to stream video of worship services primarily in the Hmong Daw dialect every Sunday at 1:45 p.m. Central Time (6:45 p.m. GMT). Viewers find the service live on the Immanuel Facebook page. Services are then made available on Immanuel’s YouTube page. The Facebook page is also at the center of their effort to spread the word about this service, with members inviting friends to follow and “like” the page. Anyone who “likes” the page receives a notification about the live streaming, and an invitation to connect to it as well as the other updates and announcements of events. Both the live stream and the YouTube archive can track how many people are watching – a varying number depending on the time – but those who watch regularly are considered a part of the congregation.
The Hmong language services are also broadcast locally in the Twin Cities on radio station KPNP Radio 1600am on Thursdays at 1:00 p.m. and Saturdays at 10:00 a.m. The Immanuel Hmong Lutheran Church is led by Pastor Pheng Moua.
Aganai (Redemption) Evangelical Lutheran Church provides a variety of features in the Japanese language on their website. Live-streaming of Japanese worship can be viewed every week on Sunday morning, starting at 10:15 a.m. local time (1:15 a.m. GMT). English worship is broadcast on Saturday nights, starting at 7:00 p.m. (10 a.m. GMT).
Pastor Young Ha Kim and his worship team at Seoul Lutheran Church stream worship services in Korean on their church website at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday local time (1:30 a.m. GMT). This would be Saturday evening in the USA, 7:30 or so depending on time zone. The church website also contains around 1,000 Korean written sermons, and as an added treat a number of musical anthems by their excellent church choir.
You can view archived Korean-language sermons by going to YouTube and searching for 서울 루터 교회.
At St. John’s Lutheran Church, in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, Pastor Joshua Yu conducts worship in Chinese on Saturday evening. They recently began an experiment in recording a worship service. It turned out to be of excellent quality, and they made it available online. While this video was not easy to find on the church website at the time I am writing this, you can go to it directly – but be patient to sit through a couple minutes of unrelated promotional slides at the start.
Dan Schmal is managing the technology for this venture, hoping to make it a service for Mandarin-speaking people wherever they are in the world. As the program develops, the website will doubtless be adjusted to make these services easier to find by online searchers.
The Lutheran church in Brazil has archived some worship services in Brazilian Portuguese on their website. You can read details about their use of technology in the presentation by Beth Flunker, “How we make use of technology in the Brazilian mission,” in this conference.
Pastor James Strand is working with a group of people from Somalia who have settled near Bloomer, Wisconsin, to develop a website to gather speakers of their language both in their home country and around the world. At present there are no worship services on the site, but the platform to deliver them will be available soon.
The worship streaming in Spanish from Medillín, Colombia, is part of the extensive online outreach program to the Latin American world gathered around the Academia Cristo website. In 2015 Pastor Paul Fries, Communication Director of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, traveled to Colombia to install their streaming system that has since been operated by members there. The services are conducted by Pastor Henry Hererra. Using Ustream, they upload live services to the iGLesia Luterana Cristo webpage and then also to Facebook for later viewing. The schedule is 9:00 a.m. Colombia time (2:00 p.m. GMT) from Medillín.
More recently another service streamed in Spanish has been available from Pastor Matt Behmer at Cristo Rey Lutheran Church in Bell Gardens, part of greater Los Angeles, California, live on Saturday evening at 6:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time (1:00 a.m. Sunday GMT). (See the presentation El alcance del evangelio en nuestra comunidad - in both Spanish and English – in this conference.)
The services have been promoted on Facebook pages at iGlesia’s own page, as well as those of Academia Cristo and Cristo Palabra de Vida. They have several dozen regular viewers including brothers and sisters in Christ from Chile, Argentina, Peru, Colombia, United States, Mexico, England, France, and China. They plan to expand their worship streaming from the present two to five different countries.
Pan de Vida Lutheran Church in Santa Ana, California, also streams worship in Spanish Sunday mornings at 9:00 a.m. (4:00 p.m. GMT).
Paul Fries, ELS Communication Director who designed and installed the streaming equipment for iGlesia Luterana Cristo, did the same in Omaha for their stream of worship services in Nuer, the language of South Sudan, from the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church website.
School principal Joel Lauber oversees streaming of both English and Nuer services. Using Wirecast to stream, the Sudanese services conducted by Pastor Peter Bur can be seen live at 12:30 p.m. Central Time (5:30 p.m. GMT) on the second and fourth Sundays each month. All services are archived for anytime viewing on Vimeo.
While there is at present no live-streaming of worship services in the Urdu language, a fine website contains a variety of excellent teaching material including several videos of Bible history stories, and the Road to Emmaus film. For a special musical treat, go to YouTube and search for “Roop Jordan” to enjoy videos such as this one.
Randy Brown, a member at Peace in Jesus Lutheran Church in Boise, Idaho, installed streaming equipment made available by a grant from their WELS Board for Home Missions. They stream their services using Wirecast, through the YouTube Creator Studio.
The Vietnamese worship service live stream begins each Sunday at 10:30 a.m. Mountain Time (2:30 p.m. GMT) on the Vietnamese language side of their website. Services are archived there for viewing at any time.
The Vietnamese worship streams have viewers from various states and numerous countries. The services are promoted by personal communication with friends and families in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Active for only a few months, they already have a dozen or so regular viewers.
They are developing an online school using Google for Education (made available free) which will be used to share materials in the USA as well as in Vietnam. Mr. Huu Trung Lê, the congregation’s president, coordinates materials which include a Bible Information Course in English and Vietnamese, Bible Studies, Christian tracts, ESL, EFL, Citizenship training and other materials. A Vietnamese version of the Come Follow Me movie, currently being dubbed in Hong Kong, is expected soon. Huu Trung Lê does a lot of the streaming, training other members to do it as well.
In addition to the above, we have among us people, and pastors, who speak Punjabi, Telugu, Nepali, Bulgarian, Russian, and no doubt others. Perhaps one day soon we can be using internet worship streaming to bring God’s pure Word to speakers of all those languages wherever they are in the world.
The special challenges
Whenever worship is streamed, two special challenges must be mastered in order to maximize their potential. The first concerns program quality, the second community building.
It does not take a great deal of money to set up a streaming system – see “Worship Streaming as a World-Wide Mission Tool” GOWM spring 2016 - and the costs are dropping. Almost any kind of video camera can provide a picture adequate for streaming. But more important than the quality of the video is the quality of the audio. Since the message is almost always dependent on preaching, it is imperative that the words be clearly understood. Understanding the words becomes quite difficult if the stream uses the audio from the camera, which is usually placed some distance from the speaker. For a small additional investment, the video stream can be connected to audio from a microphone on or near the speaker. I commend and admire any attempt to stream services, but the effectiveness of the stream is greatly improved by good sound quality.
Only if interested individuals find the worship stream online can the site build a community. Several successful ventures have found systematic use of social media essential in building their following – see Updates on Media Ventures in the GOWM spring 2016 conference. The procedure for beginning outreach via social media is carefully and helpfully explained in #Social: Getting Started with a Church or School Social Media Program in the GOWM fall 2016 conference.
The list above describes streamed worship services of our fellowship that I know about. There may be others. If readers know of them, please describe them in the comments, or otherwise notify me. I plan to provide information and links to all streamed services in world languages on the Christ in Media Institute website.
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