Sources on Technology and Preaching

The site received a comment from Greg, who is in the DMin program at Talbot – preaching cohort. His thesis is allowing him to research “The Effects of Advanced Technology on Expository Preaching.” I’ve taken his questions and integrated them into this post, allowing us all to think about the issue, as well as offering help to Greg.

I suppose in thirty years’ time Greg’s grandchildren may be laughing at what he called “advanced technology” – remember the revolution caused by the Overhead Projector (the ones with transparent sheets on top)? Nevertheless, technology is changing rapidly and it is making a difference in the world of preaching. Now we think nothing of listeners reading along in their Bibles (depending on the church), but before the advanced technology of Gutenberg, that would have been unthinkable.

Here’s a quick comment from me on the issue (not for Greg’s sake, but so that this is actually a post rather than just a request). I think we shouldn’t resist technology as if our previous experience is somehow “the right way.” At the same time, we shouldn’t dive in with technology just because we have the option.  How many poor messages have you heard with powerpoint, just because it was “the new thing?” My mind goes back to some posts I did on powerpoint and preaching – powerpoint on purpose, as well as one of the very early posts on what you want them to remember, oh, and a couple on movie clips – here and here, and I really liked Boyd-MacMillan’s critique of the anti-monolog brigade here.

But Greg’s questions, can we help him out?

1. Any suggestions on recommended reading for this subject? Books or journal articles? (Currently reading or will read, Hipps – Flickering Pixels, Ong – Orality and Literacy, Blackwood – The Power of Multisensory Preaching and Teaching, Stott – Between Two Worlds, Hunt – The Vanishing Word, Levinson – Digital McCluhan)

2. Anyone regularly using technology in their preaching (PowerPoint, Media Shout, Pro Presenter, Video Clips, Multi-site, Video Venues, Texting, etc.) that has an opinion on how valuable you think your technology is to your preaching, I’d love to hear about your experiences

Greg gave his email address, but I wouldn’t want him getting hundreds of new spam emails as a result of this.  So please answer his questions on the site as a comment.  If you want to contact Greg direct, just mention this to me and I’ll send you his email address.  Let’s share thoughts for each other’s benefit, and answer these questions for Greg’s benefit, then hopefully in the long run his DMin can be for all our benefit!

Final words to Greg – Thanks all and blessing on your work in the pulpit!

8 thoughts on “Sources on Technology and Preaching

  1. The technology that I find to be most useful in expository preaching is that of computer Bible software. With the programs I have, Bibleworks, Logos/Libronix, and Esword (my most frequently used) amongst others, I find I have the information at my hands that would take me a lot longer to dig up with books. I get the same information, but faster, allowing me to focus more time on praying, thinking and preparing the message than when I did this with books.

  2. I create a PowerPoint file each week that is reworked by my A/V team for Pro Presenter and used during the message. I use it for quotes, notes, fill-in blanks, and the texts from which I’m teaching.

    I like it for a couple of reasons:

    1) As a visual learner, I understand the importance of both seeing and hearing at the same time.

    2) Since our people carry different versions of the Bible to church, having the version I use on the screen and in their notes allows them to compare to their own texts (thus strengthening the argument of credibility).

    When I teach classes where digital technology is not available, I insist on a white board or easel pad so I can write/draw in different colors, keeping the visual element.


  3. The key to remember is that the technology is to serve the preaching of the word, not the preaching of the word serving the technology. When you are talking more about your slides on powerpoint more than explaining the timeless truths of God’s word, you are in serious trouble. The technology should serve to enhance the perception and application of God’s word, not distract from it. I use media shout with my sermons to show the passage of Scripture for those who do not know or do not have Bibles and to put the Big Idea before them. I occasionally will use a video clip to either create tension or provide an illustration to the passage, but I am careful that it does not replace the passages Big Idea as to what people remember.

  4. I try to use technology as little as I can for several reasons:
    – I want to avoid the danger on being dependent on it and feel lost when I don’t have any equipment
    – I could use it too easily to make the sermon look better when there is actually no or little content
    – I would put more efforts trying to be visual with my words than with my images (powerpoints, videos…). When you use images, you make people spectators. When you use words, people are more actors and will remember more easily their own visual representations. I admit that it takes more efforts from the preacher as well to get people to be active listeners.
    – I think that a personal story, or at least told by someone people know and trust (the preacher) is usually more powerful than a video or any kind media that is more impersonal. To be honest, there are very very few videos that I watched that really impacted me. The sermons that impacted me the most are the ones illustrated by the preacher’s life.

    All that being said, I allow myself to use a good video or a powerpoint, from time to time when I believe it serves the word of God (and not the opposite as David reminded us), and when I know it is not just a easy way to go to work and pray less, thinking that it will do the job.

  5. Just an opinion … I use PowerPoint / KeyNote all day in work. I hate to see it on Sunday or mid week Bible study. I cannot escape the cursed thing. It is always there reminding me of work. I am not a preacher so may be talking out of my hat but surely it can only make you lazy with using words powerfully. It certainly makes me and my workmates (all intelligent with PhD’s) lazy.

  6. Thank you for this post. I find personally as one who enjoys being blessed with a good sermon that skilled teachers use it all to enhance or support an already developed point. They are articulate; they are emotional; they are transparent; they are whimsical; they possess an uncanny ability to connect with you because somehow you trust them. For the most part, they can bring the entire house down with a sermon regardless of tech/props used. On the other hand, I find the young or unskilled preacher feels dry/uninspiring without the props. The former uses it to explain a very well articulated point; the latter uses it because he or she can’t really define the point in a sermon without it.

  7. I have been using visual aids including Powerpoint and a variety of clips during my sermon presentation for over three years. I also include other activities in worship that engage the other senses as well (touch, smell and feel). The favorable response I have received is excellent and the ability of the congregation to retain the message of the sermon had been impressive. This all in what was a very traditoinal Presbyterian Church.

    Of course as a result of a majpr airport buyout, the church moved four years ago from a traditional looking sub-division neighborhood church to a former Circuit City Building with a destination church formula.

    It helps that the non-traditonal looking building sets the stage for a non-traditional style of Presbyterian Worship.

  8. I like Piper’s general attitude towards using medai in preaching.

    I also think that there are two really distinct discussions to have regarding technology. One of them is to do with using powerpoint/videos/etc. as visual (and I suppose extra audio) aids during preaching. I am still wholly undecided on that discussion, but in general I would avoid using that kind of media during a sermon for many of the reasons already stated.

    The second discussion I think is a more recent, and more complex one, and that is of using media to expand your target audience. Whether that be through video linked multi-site preaching, or simply sticking an MP3 on the internet.

    Technology has massively increased the reach of preaching in many ways, and I wonder what sort of impact that has had on your average Sunday morning preacher. What do you do with questions like “Will putting mp3s online discourage people from coming to Church?”, and “What do I do with members of this Church who are primarily being taught by John Piper and not the preachers here?”.

    And for those who are using multi-site technology and the like, “How can I really relate to my congregation when they aren’t even in the same room as me?”

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