From the invention of cassette tapes to the digital teaching revolution, R.C. Sproul was always at the edge of the tech wedge. R.C. Sproul was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As a young man, God saved him and helped him to understand the truths revealed in scripture. By the time he turned 30, he was a successful seminary professor, but it was when he started teaching Sunday school in his local church that he found his true calling. It wasn’t the seminary student, but the everyday man and woman, hungry for the meat of God’s Word, that Sproul was called to teach. In 1971, Dora Hillman, the widow of a Pittsburgh industrialist, invested in this ministry. She bought a 52 acre property near her home in the Ligonier Valley, an hour east of Pittsburgh. She had a home built for R.C. and his wife Vesta, and that home became the Ligonier Valley Study Center. Sproul prepared and gave talks on various theological topics and hosted “Gabfests” every Monday evening — open Q&A sessions. People hungry for biblical teaching drove from near and far to learn from this gifted teacher.
Digital Teaching Revolution – Ligonier Ministries
Even before the digital teaching revolution, Ligonier began using new technologies to expand the richness and reach of its teaching. The cassette tape had been invented in 1963, and in 1968 cassette tape players started being installed in cars. The Ligonier Valley Study Center recorded all the talks and Gabfests and started mailing them to students of the Word across the country and around the world.
Although home video cassette players wouldn’t start to become mainstream until the late 1970s, Ligonier started video taping Sproul’s teaching in 1975. The ministry’s website describes it this way: “Wearing his aviator sunglasses and a distinctly 1970s outfit, R.C. recorded The Holiness of God. There was nothing like it at the time. He had a chalkboard, a lectern, a passion, a message, and an audience.” Between 1971 and 1984, tens of thousands travelled the backroads through the Allegheny Mountains to sit at Sproul’s feet, while many more learned from God’s Word through his teaching via video, often played in adult Sunday School classes across the country.
From those early beginnings, Ligonier has continued to be a leader in using technology in achieving its mission of “proclaiming, teaching, and defending the holiness of God in all its fullness to as many people as possible.”
Wave 1: The PC/Microprocessor Revolution
The first wave of the Digital Revolution is often called the PC Revolution, but the real impact of these technology advances was the digitization of all kinds of information. Paper record systems became computer databases, and audio and video content became digital audio and video files that could easily be edited, duplicated, and distributed in a growing number of ways.
In 1984, the ministry moved to Orlando, Florida and was renamed to Ligonier Ministries. The new headquarters was designed specifically as a place from which teaching could be sent out. It included facilities for live teaching that could easily be recorded and sent out as audio and video, as well as publishing support for written materials. As new digital formats of CDs and DVDs were invented and gained in popularity, the ministry switched from mailing out analog tapes to sending digital disks.
Sproul had been writing and publishing books since 1973, and in 1977 the ministry had started producing a monthly newsletter called Tabletalk. In 1989, Tabletalk was restructured as a monthly publication focused on daily Bible studies. Today, Tabletalk has more than 260,000 readers in more than 75 countries worldwide. Today, subscribers can also access more than 15,000 articles and Bible studies at TabletalkMagazine.com.