Updates on Media Ventures (Panel)

Academia Cristo (Mike Hartman)
WELS-tech Webcasts (Martin Spriggs)
Time of Grace Ministry (Bruce Becker)
Bread for Beggars (Mark Parsons)
Truth in Love Ministry (Tom Walters)
The Wartburg Project (Brian Keller)

Archived discussion

About the presenters

Michael Hartman has served as a WELS missionary in Mexico since 1999. In 2013 he was called to serve as the coordinator for WELS mission work in Latin America. This includes the Academia Cristo and iGlesia Luterana Cristo ministry efforts. Missionary Hartman and his family live in the beautiful central Mexican city of León.
Martin Spriggs has been the WELS Chief Technology Officer since October 2004, and speaks at workshops and conferences to help churches and schools make effective use of technology to aid in their ministries. A former WELS pastor, Martin earned his MBA from Keller School of Management, then worked for Net Quotient Consulting Group and Qwest Communications. A member at Peace, Hartford, Wisconsin, he, his wife Debra, and their three children live in Slinger, Wisconsin.
Dr. Bruce Becker is the Executive Vice President of Time of Grace Ministry, a Milwaukee-based international outreach media ministry. After graduating from the seminary in 1982, he served as lead pastor of two churches, one in Springville, New York, and the other in Brillion, Wisconsin. From 1995-2009, he served as an administrator for WELS Parish Services. He joined the leadership team at Time of Grace in 2009, and in 2012, he completed a professional doctorate in leadership and ministry management.
Mark Parsons has been a pastor at Faith Lutheran Church, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, since 2014, after serving previously at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Port Charlotte, Florida. His areas of emphasis at Faith are school, youth, teen and family ministry. He and his wife Molly have 3 children, and they cherish the time they make together each night to watch good movies and television that connect to the problems that we all face as human beings.
Tom Walters for the past five years has been a member of, and currently chairs the board of TILM, the foremost organization in the world dedicated to sharing the gospel of Christ crucified with souls trapped in the false beliefs of Mormonism. A retired certified public accountant who worked 39 years for an international accounting firm, he was the managing partner of the Minneapolis office for the last 10 years. TILM is led by Rev. Mark Cares, the founder of this ministry.
Brian R. Keller, pastor of St. Stephen Ev. Lutheran Church (WELS) in Adrian, Michigan, serves as the New Testament Editor of the Wartburg Project. His earlier pastorates were in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Strongsville, Ohio. He wrote two People's Bible Teachings volumes - "Bible" and "Heaven and Hell." He has produced several articles on the New Testament, especially on translations, for the Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly, the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Translation Symposium, five WELS pastors' conferences and the Today's Christian Women's Retreat.

by Michael Hartman
from León, Mexico

Until now the focus of the Academia Cristo online school project was to become a known entity in Latin America. That work will continue, with the process now in place - see conference session "Using Social Media to Become Known Throughout Latin America."

An additional focus for 2016 – we call it "Phase Two" – will be connecting with some of those who reach out to us and training them to become leaders. We want to use online means to train people for on-the-ground ministry. We plan to launch Phase Two on April 3 at the beginning of the CELC regional meeting in Medellín, Colombia. If you are reading this before that date, your input, feedback and questions are welcome as we prep. After April 3, this message will be updated to enable you to connect to the new website. [post-April 3 update: connect here to a video describing the new phase.]

Reaching out through mobile devices continues to be a high priority in our planning, especially in view of these facts: Over 77% of those who connect to Academia Cristo's website do so via mobile devices. And over 92% of those who connect from mobile devices do so using an Android operating system. Considering our limited resources, everything we produce must be Android mobile-friendly. Everything else is a far lower priority.

Here are some of the changes coming to the website in connection with Phase Two:

  • The home page will be redesigned.
  • Visitors will be invited to click on "Conócenos" (Get to know us). Those who do can view a 3-minute video that explains how to use the school site.
  • Visitors will also be invited to sign-up for live classes. This is the big change that is coming. Starting in April we will begin to offer live classes. Everyone who signs up for the live classes will start by taking an introductory class. Our goal is that by 2018 we have 25 live classes going on at any given time with 70 people trained to lead those classes. 50 of those people will teach an introductory live class.
  • The live classes will be taught using GoToMeeting because it is the most mobile friendly of the platforms we tested.
  • Each class will have its own WhatsApp group led by the teacher. WhatsApp has become the most common way for people in Latin America to communicate on their mobile devices. We can take advantage of this. Using WhatsApp, the group can communicate outside of class and the teacher can share discussion questions during the week.
  • Finally, the emphasis of each class will be to teach the students how to share what they learned with others. Our focus is to use online means to train people for on-the-ground ministry.

by Martin Spriggs
from Milwaukee, Wisconsin USA

The WELSTech Podcast is a weekly conversation exploring intersections between technology and ministry. Produced weekly in both audio and video formats, WELSTech has been airing since January 9, 2008 and is approaching 440 episodes. Since it is available through many outlets like iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, WELS Mobile, and RSS, it is hard to estimate viewership, but it's likely that each week between 500 and 750 listeners/viewers tune in. However, over the years the show has likely touched many more than that. These include people from all over the globe, including Mexico, Canada, China, Africa, Germany, India, and Pakistan.

The show format includes a primary discussion topic, occasional interviews, tips/picks of the week and ministry resources. Other regular segments include book reviews, how-to's, and special event /on-location interviews. A special focus during the 2015-16 season is a photo challenge where listeners are encouraged to submit original photos to our public domain image album. Over 450 images, suitable for use in ministry settings, have been added to the album thus far.

One of the key features of the show is contribution from listeners. Each week any number of emails, social network comments, voice mails, and mailing list posts provide commentary, questions, answers and ongoing discussion that feed, or are the result of, show topics. The show "theme" is "join the conversation." These conversations give the show variety and wider appeal as it deals with topics that pastors, teachers, staff ministers, and technology leaders from around WELS and ELS want to talk about. The show's primary goal is to enable Gospel ministry through the technology tools of today.

The show hosts are Martin Spriggs, WELS Chief Technology Officer, and Sallie Draper, WELS Business Analyst. Regular guest hosts are teachers Jason Schmidt and Gail Potratz, who assist with a once-a-month classroom technology focused show.

The technology that makes the show go includes the following:

  1. Content
    1. WordPress – provides the blog platform which houses the show notes, embedded video and audio.
    2. Vimeo, YouTube, and Azure Cloud Storage – provides video and audio storage for the shows themselves.
    3. Google Sites – the platform used to house the WELSTech wiki, a companion site that allows contributions of ministry related assets from show listeners.
  2. Production
    1. Google Hangouts On Air – used each week to conduct the show and record it. It is later downloaded for editing from YouTube.
    2. Adobe Premiere – the software program to edit the video.
    3. VLC – the software used to extract just the audio from the finished video.
  3. Planning
    1. Mindjet Mindmanager – mindmapping software used to track show topics, brainstorming, and an "in show" script.
  4. Social Media – the show maintains a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, and Diigo

Be sure to "join the conversation" at WELSTech.

by Bruce Becker
from Milwaukee, Wisconsin USA

Time of Grace Vision: Transform lives now and forever

Mission: Connect people to God's grace

How: We connect people with the timeless truths of God's word through television, print and digital media

Reach: Nearly 2.3 million pieces of content are engaged with monthly

2015 Highlights:

  • Time of Grace television program airs on three national networks, twenty local markets, and American Forces Network (AFN)
    • Television program reaches 400-500,000 people in the U.S. each week
    • Network added: Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN)

    • Networks exited: The Church Channel, Daystar

    • Markets added: Columbus Georgia, Birmingham Alabama, Salt Lake City Utah

    • Markets exited: Orlando Florida, Flint Michigan
  • Since October 2013, 1.6 million completed reading plans on YouVersion® the Bible app
    • Plans available in English, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese
  • Nearly 15,000 "likes" on Facebook 

  • Nearly 10,000 people receive daily Grace Moments devotions 

  • Research on Wisconsin viewers conducted November 2014 

    • 33% Lutheran

    • 14% Catholic

    • 15% None/agnostic/atheist

    • 30% are lapsed church goers or unchurched

    • 90% have a favorable impression of Time of Grace
    • 65% claim Time of Grace has strengthened their faith
  • Active donor base grew 24% versus 2014

2016 Highlights:

  • Market added: Charlotte North Carolina 

  • Launched Your Time of Grace (January 18) 

    • As of March 25
      • 56,256 Facebook Likes

      • 5,002 YouTube subscribers

      • Nearly 3.5 million total views
  • Time of Grace Facebook likes up to 25,386 

  • Brand "refresh" launched Easter Sunday, March 27 

    • New look and feel around the core program message
    • Tagline "It all starts now"

by Mark Parsons
from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin USA

Bread for Beggars is refocusing its emphasis onto providing church-year-based materials for called workers and lay people; this emphasis will appear in its new series How Great Thou Art.

How Great Thy Art will be a weekly Bread for Beggars blog post featuring a piece of classic or contemporary Christian art that captures a scene or concept from a lesson in the coming week's Scripture readings. The blog posts will contain historical and biographical content about the artist, summary of the style and type of artwork, commentary on the artwork itself, and a devotion based on the Scripture upon which the artwork is based.

A high-resolution image of the artwork will be the featured image each week. In addition, the post will provide free of charge two slides for download. One slide will contain a stylized version of the artwork size 1920x1080 px, and a second stylized slide of the same size will provide biographical information about the artist and the painting. These will be specifically designed for use in the classroom or for brief Bible study devotionals conducted by pastors, teachers and lay leaders.

Each post will provide a link to enable users to purchase a complete set of slides based on the weekly art and appropriate for use in Bible class or worship. The stylized slide set will feature the following slide types: Welcome, Header, Hymn, Scripture, Spoken Response, Prayer, Announcements, and Generic.

Please keep this project in your prayers. We plan to launch it during the season of Pentecost for the current church year.

by Tom Walters
from Eden Prairie, Minnesota USA

Truth in Love, a ministry for reaching out with the Gospel to Mormons, recently adopted a new vision: to match the Mormon mission force one for one. Each year the Mormon church has about 80,000 missionaries around the world. Our goal, therefore, is by 2021 to train 80,000 Christians to share Christ with Mormons.

Obviously we will have to rely heavily on technology to make this vision a reality. We will need to develop an online curriculum with an adequate infrastructure for tracking. We are also looking at making an app-based version of this curriculum. In addition, we are hoping to develop another app that people can access right while they are witnessing to Mormons. This app could give them passages and witnessing tips for specific topics.

We have been encouraged in this endeavor by the positive reception of our website, pleaseopenthedoor.com. This site is dedicated to helping people witness to Mormon missionaries. It has four layers of security with people being able to access additional levels as they progress in their activity. We have found this has kept the site from becoming overwhelming to many people.

We also are conscious of the need to nurture people leaving Mormonism. Our plans include the creation of a virtual congregation that, at the very least, would act as a bridge for these people before they connect with a local congregation. We are hoping that this virtual congregation would give them opportunities for worship, education, fellowship, and even service.

We are encouraged in this by our two secret Facebook support groups: one for people with a loved one in Mormonism and one for those witnessing to Mormon missionaries. Just last week a woman whose daughter became Mormon wrote us telling us how the support group has changed their lives.

Another important component will be using social media and other platforms to alert people to these various resources.

We are presently in the process of gathering a group of experts from various fields to act as our consultants. After listening to their advice we will begin creating the various components needed to make our vision a reality.

by Brian Keller
from Adrian, Michigan USA

The Wartburg Project is a group of WELS and ELS pastors, professors, teachers, and laypeople who are working together to produce a new Bible translation called the Evangelical Heritage VersionTM or EHVTM.

Translation tools - From its beginning in September, 2013, the Wartburg Project has made wide and regular use of computer and internet technology. Team members regularly use the tools available through Logos and BibleWorks to translate and check translations. It is much faster to check the lexicons and other technical resources by using these tools. We've used word processing technology to take draft translations and revise them. Technical reviewers were able to make comments on documents and send them to the editors by email. We've used computer technology to check how often a word is used in the Hebrew, Greek, or English text. It's been possible to consult and communicate with many experts and team members without any travel time or costs. As a result, the New Testament and Psalms translations are finished and being prepared for publishing by NPH. We are making rapid progress through the Old Testament with this very efficient method, utilizing technological capabilities.

MEETINGS - The Wartburg Project has had very few meetings in person because we've been able to have conference call meetings. We've communicated via email and telephone. This permits each team member to serve where he is. It has saved travel time and costs, as mentioned above.

KINDLE - We were able to publish the test translations of Matthew and Psalms through Kindle publishing at Amazon.com. This was very efficient for us to publish a book and have it available to many people very efficiently. Matthew has now been revised in an updated translation too.

UPDATES - In the old days, to get the word out, someone would have had to mail newsletters. We are able to share information very rapidly and widely via email, Facebook, Twitter, and our website. We've also been able to receive input, as we did for example before choosing our Bible name, "Evangelical Heritage Version." We are able to post responses to Frequently Asked Questions on our FAQ page.

PASSION HISTORY - Many pastors and congregations downloaded the 2014 Passion History. We were able to make this available for free and provide it without postage costs, utilizing PDFs and the internet.

LECTIONARIES FOR 2016-2017 - We plan to make EHV Scripture lessons freely available using internet downloads from our website beginning this Advent. From that point on, we expect to freely provide Scripture lessons (Old Testament, Epistle, and Gospel) for worship services on our website. Scripture lessons will be provided for the lectionaries of Christian Worship (three year and one year), Christian Worship Supplement , and the Lutheran Service Book (three year and one year). Yes, this includes the Old Testament lessons. We hope that this will permit pastors and congregations the opportunity to use and test what we've been working to produce. Pastors will be able to cut and paste EHV texts into bulletins for use in worship.

WEBSITE - Our website has more information. See FAQ #15 on the Bible name and the paper in the "Resources" section. Sign up on the "Contact" page to receive free monthly e-newsletters. Like us on Facebook to receive the latest updates posted there. (There are no debates on Facebook, but we've been able to share information with many people very quickly that way.)

PAYPAL FINANCIAL SUPPORT - The Wartburg Project has not been subsidized by any synodical funds. We have used technology to allow our supporters to provide financial support, using PayPal. Most of our support has come via checks. (PayPal does take a cut of whatever amount is sent.)

We continue to be a "purely positive" effort, avoiding debates and controversy. We are just quietly and humbly trying our best to translate the Bible "to spread its light from age to age." So far, so good! God has richly blessed us. To God be the glory and praise for all of his blessings!

God's Word is our great heritage
And shall be ours forever.

To spread its light from age to age
Shall be our chief endeavor.
Through life it guides our way.
In death it is our stay.

Lord, grant while worlds endure
We keep its teaching pure
Throughout all generations.

We are on track to publish a New Testament and Psalms special edition in 2017.

See the latest book-by-book progress chart at the Wartburg Project website.

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Mark R. Harrington 26 days ago
Bruce: I have recently noticed a lot more "Time of Grace" feeds in Facebook and have frequently "Liked" and "Shared" those feeds. I believe among other media resources that Facebook is a very effective application for that program. Also, those videos are fairly short, engaging, and hit people where they live -- a great combination!
Bruce Becker 26 days ago
Mark, thanks for your comment and for participating on our social platforms! Our new initiative, Your Time of Grace, with the short, weekday devotions have done very well on Facebook. Of the 3.5 million views we've had to date, about 3 million are on the Facebook platform. Because of Facebook's algorithms, they reward the sites that are most active. Your observations about the videos being engaging and real are what we are hearing from many others. Thanks for sharing!
Mark R. Harrington 26 days ago
Brian: I downloaded "Psalms" from the EHV and think that it's a good idea for the releases of various books for electronic download so that folks can look over, digest, and perhaps have a feedback mechanism back to the "The Warburg Project" for potential adjustments. Also, it would be so helpful just to have a "Gospel of John" in EHV to handout for evangelism as most other translations for the Gospel of John either have a "Sinner's Prayer" type insert or the translation itself is a bad one.
Brian R. Keller 24 days ago
Thanks, Mark! Did you know we have Matthew on Kindle also? I will pass along your idea to our publisher (NPH). They already have the text, but to print/publish the book would be a decision to make. It's something we have discussed. I expect that in the future it will happen. Thanks!
Mark R. Harrington 12 days ago
Thanks so much for your response Brian! That would be tremendous if NPH decided to print a hard copy of the Gospel of John! Not only might it well serve the larger christian community for Evangelistic purposes, but it would also provide the non-lutheran readership an opportunity to see the link between the EHV and ELS/WELS Synods, and hopefully interest that readership to check out the biblically sound teachings presented in our Confessional Lutheran fellowship. Finally, it might also provide an avenue of revenue to finalize the completion and further the distribution of the EHV for wide-spread consumption by a wider spectrum of christian affiliations. Praying that the Lord would bless your efforts!
Brian Keller 7 days ago Author
Thanks, Mark! I appreciate the idea and the prayers!
Jason Jaspersen 26 days ago
I just mentioned the Bread For Beggars project "How Great Thou Art" over in the Visual Arts panel. There is some topical crossover between this "Media Ventures" panel and the "Visual Arts" panel. Are we really talking about the same thing? Do we imagine a boundary between types of visual communication based on the age of the medium?
Michael Duncan 25 days ago
Fascinating plan by Academia Cristo to multiply the number of teachers and learners.
Mike Hartman 24 days ago
Thanks for the encouragement. God has been blessing our efforts. Our videos and posts on Facebook reached an average of +600K people a day during Holy Week. +40K people visited academiacristo.com during Holy Week, and +13K movie and Bible Study videos were downloaded during that time. We'll see what God has in store for our phase two effort to train leaders.
Ernst Wendland 22 days ago
[- editors note = Missionary Ernst Wendland, in Lusaka, Zambia, wrote to the conference coordinators about an online project he maintains, a website containing a treasure-trove of scholarship especially involving translation, but also providing insights into culture. Since his internet connection is spotty, he authorized us to convey the information to you in his name. To view the website he describes, copy and paste this URL:
http://sun.academia.edu/EWENDLAND ]

I maintain a website of publications through Academia that I use as a potential mission/evangelistic outreach tool to hard-to-reach countries, like China, the Muslim world, and India. Non-Christians will access the site to have a look at certain subjects, especially in the field of translation studies, and then, Lord-willing, be attracted to read a biblical topic or two. The site provides a messaging service, whereby a person accessing the site can contact me. This happens most often if I post a paper title but not the PDF download (due to publishing restrictions). Inquiries have come from dozens of countries. Perhaps there are profs at Bethany, MLC, WLC, or WLSem who might consider trying out such an approach.
Jonathan Mayer 19 days ago
Dr. Becker, it has been noted that your new ministry, Your Time of Grace, has seen early success in reaching many viewers with the gospel. On the whole (with only a few exceptions), these have been very good, well-produced, and doctrinally sound. Given the quantity of new material being produced, and the frequency with which the material is released, how do you maintain a high standard of doctrine? Are there established channels of accountability? Do you see room for improvement?
Bruce Becker from Time of Grace 17 days ago
Jonathan, thank you for your questions.

First, let me address an issue that occurred last evening, April 7 at about 8:45 p.m. There was a comment posted, attributed to me, that was in response to your questions. I don't know if you saw it or not. It was removed at my request because I was not the author of that post. Someone was impersonating me.

Time of Grace has been blessed to reach many people with the Gospel over the last 14 years through our television, print, and social media platforms. Our new initiative, Your Time of Grace, as you mentioned, has been able to reach even more with the gospel of Christ. When the GOWM conference launched we had 3.5M views of the video devotionals. We are now over 4M. God be praised!

Now, to your questions. Time of Grace places the highest of priorities on content that is consistent with Holy Scripture. As a Christian ministry, we consider it our #1 value as a ministry organization. That's why we only invite speakers and authors who have demonstrated a faithfulness to biblical truth. Each of the messages is reviewed by the speaker before it is posted (in the first few weeks of messages this wasn't part of our review process which contributed to some unclarity as to what the speaker was intending to say). In addition, we have in place other review processes and a process to address scriptural questions raised on our social platforms. Finally, at Time of Grace, continuous improvement is one of our goals. There is always room for improvement in how we carry out our mission of sharing the good news of Jesus around the world.

Thanks again, Jonathan, for your questions.
Judy Kuster 10 days ago
Brian Keller - The English language (in fact all languages) is full of idioms that sometimes make understanding a challenge for readers (and I suspect translators). Even the text of your interesting post has idiomatic expressions an English reader today will certainly understand - "in the old days" and "get the word out" for example. Biblical idioms written in ancient Greek or Hebrew translated into modern English must create some interesting challenges. Are there any guidelines or principles that all of your translators share for translating idiomatic expressions in the original languages?
Brian Keller 7 days ago Author
Thanks for the question, Judy! You are right that it is very challenging. Perhaps the best way I can answer your question is to provide a link to our "Rubrics" page on our website. The paper/resource on that page explains more about our approach. Here's a link:

Also there are uniquely challenging questions. Sometimes these prompt frequently asked questions. We try to answer these questions on this page, linked here:

Dr. Martin Luther also realized that not everyone draws the same conclusions. I tried to explain his translation principles in the second paper on the page linked here:

I hope you find the information helpful.

Judith Kuster 7 days ago
Thank you for your reply, Brian, and all of the helpful URLs! I just spent some time going through the FAQs and got more insight into your many challenges!! (Away in a “feeding trough” certainly wouldn’t work! )