Please Only PowerPoint on Purpose

For some people, whether or not to use powerpoint is not even a question.  It is assumed.  I don’t assume I should use it.  My default is no powerpoint, then if I use it, I use it on purpose.

I think it may be worth using if there is an image that will really help, such as a biblical map, image or a contemporary scene of significance (the person to go with the quote, etc.), or if there is a series of verses away from your preaching text that you want people to see quickly (have good reason for sharing multiple other verses), or if there is a movie clip that will reinforce and help (but not overwhelm) the message.  I only think it may be worth using if either you or another person can design it and control it perfectly (clear and consistent fonts of the right size, very limited use of words, transitions that work to the millisecond both coming on and going off, etc.)  Sadly, often even appropriate powerpoint material is sabotaged by very amateurish use.

I don’t think it is worth using in order to show your outline (that’s for you, not them), or to show your preaching text (they need the practice reading their own Bibles).  I don’t think it’s worth using if it means sacrificing preparation time for formatting time.  I certainly don’t think it’s worth using just because you have a projector and a laptop.  I don’t think we should use it just because it is used in the business world (please note many in the business world are lousy speakers, and many of the good ones left compulsive powerpoint use behind years ago!)  I’d rather have listeners engaged with me and with the Bible in their laps than with a screen.

Haddon Robinson has said that, “A picture is not worth a thousand words (the people who make pictures came out with that!)  Some words will never be captured in a picture.”

Powerpoint may be helpful.  Steve Mathewson has written that he periodically has a powerpoint enhanced sermon, but he never has a powerpoint driven sermon – amen!  If you use it, please be professional, be subtle, don’t turn to look at it yourself or even refer to it unnecessarily, don’t overload the screen and don’t lose sight of the fact that it is you who is called to be the preacher, not the screen.

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8 thoughts on “Please Only PowerPoint on Purpose

  1. Great post, Peter! PowerPoint can be a real distraction if not used properly, and this post did a great job explaining the dangers.

    I should add, however, that I believe the Scripture text is worth having on the screen every week. The benefits of doing so far outweigh any disadvantages.

    Thanks for the encouragement to be selective and creative in our projection ministry!

  2. Peter, I couldn’t agree more. Preachers who always have tons of verses on the Powerpoint simply give the person in the pew an excuse to not bring their Bible. If a map is needed or something like that, by all means, make it visible. However, powerpoint has replaced passion in the pulpit and has produced lecturers and teachers, not preachers who proclaim.

  3. I find that PowerPoint when used properly is good. However so many times PowerPoint is overused or used incorrectly. Many times I find PowerPoint distracting because of my computer background. If there are formatting mistakes on PowerPoint I find myself focusing on that.

  4. I have a more positive view of the use of PowerPoint. That being said, it is just a communicative tool. The improper use of any tool is inadvisable.

    You should have the freedom to not use the tool but I sense that you might be protesting a bit much in your third paragraph. For example, I am not sure that many if any of the readers of your blog would use PowerPoint “just because they have a projector and a laptop.”

    There is also an irony here, the “Bible in the lap” that you allude to would not have been a reality for about the first 1500 years of Christian preaching. While I encourage people to bring their Bibles, there is nary a Scripture that commands it. There is an advantage in having both a Bible in the lap and the Bible on a screen, particularly now with the proliferation of English translations and the technology that makes it possible.

    Similarly, while I appreciate the Haddon Robinson quote: “A picture is not worth a thousand words (the people who make pictures came out with that!) Some words will never be captured in a picture,” I think an equally valid case could be made that some pictures cannot be captured in mere words.

    I have some additional thoughts if you are interested on my blog: http://www.bibleexposition.net/2008/06/visual-media-in-preaching-and-teaching.html

  5. Nice post.

    I am a firm proponent of using PowerPoint in preaching. I’ve dedicated a blog to the topic. But I completely agree that PowerPoint needs to be used intentionally. Just projecting stuff for the sake of projecting stuff is terrible. That would be like just praying for the sake of praying instead of actually spending time speaking to God.

    I wouldn’t go so far as to default to no PowerPoint, but that’s my preference. I would encourage people to not use it instead of using it poorly. I think one thing that would help tremendously is the use of the blank screen. There doesn’t always need to be an image or scripture up. Let the preacher preach and only project something that is salient to the sermon at the time that it is needed.

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