Thursday, May 2, 2019

The Reformation Experience - Our 500th Anniversary Celebration

Most Protestants honor the Reformation and, in theory at least, they honor the 95 Theses that helped start the Reformation.  Our modern society is in many ways in need of additional reforms.  So, I decided that the best way to honor the 500th anniversary of the Reformation was to provide to leading Protestant organizations a similar "reformation experience" to what the reformers gave to the Catholic church in the 1500s.

In the fall of 2017 we printed and laminated 500 copies of the new 95 Theses (double sided on 8 1/2" x 14" parchment paper).  On the October 31st anniversary we posted around 200 of them, using removable glue dots instead of nails, to the doors of almost every church in Midland Texas.  We attached post-it notes saying it was in honor of the 500th anniversary and signed it to be from Andreas Karlstat, the reformation leader who trained Luther and who wanted additional reforms but was maligned and misrepresented for doing so.  It took from before sun up to late at night to post them all.  The GPS has a function that allowed us to download the locations and optimize the driving route.  We skipped the two churches where we had attended, as well as two or three where people were congregated around the door.  It was on a Tuesday so most were empty.

A week or two earlier we had mailed the other 300 to leading Protestant institutions, including the largest churches, para-church organizations, and to the chaplains at Christian schools.  We estimated mail delivery times and sent the international mailings earlier to try to time the arrival around the October 31st anniversary.  We attached stick up dots to the four corners and a post it note asking them to post it to their door (to provide the desired effect), though there was no expectation they would actually post it to their doors.  We bought sheets of "Luther" stamps from the 1980s and we also created a custom stamp using a stamp customization service to mail the envelopes.

We used a service to translate the new 95 Theses into Spanish and Korean to send to the large Spanish speaking churches, the large churches in South Korea and the two Protestant churches in North Korea.  We were going to translate into more languages but decided not to in order to reduce costs.

As a test of the various marketing channels we robocalled 95 recipients saying happy 500th anniversary of the Reformation (assuring them in the message that there would be no additional calls), we sent 95 automated FAXs, and advertised a small amount on Facebook and YouTube.  We set up a web site and a Facebook Page.  We priced using an electronic billboard on one of the roads, but it was too expensive.

For the fun of it we printed pictures on each of the printed 95 Theses using invisible UV ink.  The pictures can only be seen using a UV light.  The best UV printing was the Korean versions where on one side we used the Korean letters for "True Christianity" and the other side the Korean letters for "True Self Reliance" (Juche, the philosophy of North Korea), with the idea that true Christianity is not just social but also true empowerment of the individual.

To top it all off, we used an email marketing firm and bought two mailing lists to email the new 95 theses to 95,000 Protestant churches in USA and England.  We tried to avoid sending to Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches since they don't have the same relationship to the Reformation as the Protestant churches.  A significant percentage didn't make it through but tens of thousands did.

We remained anonymous to allow the propositions to stand on their own and to not be seen as just another Christian group's marketing effort.  While some of the theses are controversial, and some may be thought to be heretical, at very least they should open interesting discussion and debate.

So, that is how we honored the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation of the 1500s.  I can only hope that some of these 95 propositions will help bring needed reform to our information-based society of today.