Should Bible Text Be Projected?

This is the kind of question that can easily become a strongly held conviction.  But should it?

Well, people do benefit from seeing the text, and seeing it in the same translation as the speaker, and without the hassles, distraction, or potential embarressment of having to look it up in their own Bible, which of course, they may not have.

On the other hand, people who don’t need to bring their Bibles to church, won’t bring their Bibles to church, and won’t develop the ability to look up references, nor to see passages in their contexts – instead getting used to the idea that verses stand alone in picturesque vacuums.

Some will offer a compromise.  The main text will not be projected, but the cross-references will be projected so folks can keep their finger on the main preaching text and not get caught up or discouraged in a melee of sword drills throughout the message (which, as a passing comment, I would suggest is not that helpful most of the time, even if folks can keep up).

So what to do?  My suggestion is to be a bit situational.  What kind of church is it?  What kind of service?  In an evangelistic service perhaps it is worth it to avoid any embarressment or discomfort, but in a Bible study for believers surely they would benefit from having a finger on the text in its context?  What kind of sermon?  Perhaps a special event is not conducive to people carrying Bibles.

Some have a tendency to make every matter one of strong conviction.  This tends to dilute the effectiveness of such convictions.  Don’t allow the deity of Christ, the relationality of our Triune God, the inspired nature and centrality of Scripture, the exclusivity of faith (not faith-plus), the importance of an expository philosophical commitment in preaching, etc. . . . don’t allow important convictions like these to get lost in a sea of passionate commitments to which version of the Bible people should use, or what people should wear to church, or to preach, or whether the south Galatia view trumps the north Galatia view, or whether believers should drink alcohol, or how long a sermon should last, or whether the Bible text should or shouldn’t be projected.

As preachers, even as believers, we have to form opinions about many things.  But let’s reserve the passion of convictions for that which really counts.  Should Bible texts be projected?  Maybe.  Sometimes.


6 thoughts on “Should Bible Text Be Projected?

  1. I don’t think the Scriptures should be projected, except possibly in limited and special occassions that you mentioned. I think it is true, if people don’t need their bibles they won’t bring them, they won’t use them.

    I don’t like the songs projected either. We have stopped singing parts, harmony, ect. I have never seen any evidence that worship is enhanced or enabled by not holding a hymn book or chorus book. I have never heard of an occassion where God was offended becasue someone announced a page number between songs.

    Are we as pastors and “worship” leaders treating our people like we treated our young children? We use to do everything for them from tying their shoes, to helping them dress, etc. I feel like we are doing everything for people sometimes in a service. Maybe we think we are helping when we may be retarding.

  2. I project Scripture for my congregation of 800. However, I have trained them to bring their Bibles (and follow along with them as well) using a very simple tactic.
    Every once in a while I don’t use projection.
    I randomly choose Sundays that will be projection-free Sundays. People only have to sit through one or two of those Sundays before they begin bringing their Bibles every week.
    And I agree with the main thrust of your post as well. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
    Keep up the great work.

  3. I usually project the text, but not always. I really don’t care much if people bring their Bibles. I don’t even use my own Bible in the pulpit. I read from a manuscript, and all the texts are in the manuscript.

    I do think it’s important for people to have pen and paper in hand, so that they can write down questions, references, for looking up and researching later. And it’s definitely important to have a Bible at home, which is consulted often. The sermon time is not the time for researching and validating. There’s just not enough time for it, and I don’t take questions during the sermon. Make a note and look it up later.

    I’m happy if people do bring their Bibles. Many do, but I don’t really pay attention either way. If someone has a question later, we can consult the Bible, which is the real reason I make sure to have mine with me on Sunday mornings. But I don’t need it in the pulpit.

  4. i really can’t see why anyone would not want to project the text. i understand wanting people to bring their own bibles but i really don’t see that a reason to not use such a powerful resource. having the text behind you while you preach is helpful for a few reasons.

    1 – no everyone uses the same version. it allows people to see what you are reading.

    2 – as you explain the text, people can follow along but you can control what they read. for example – in some stories, you may not want people to read ahead, until later in the sermon. with the text projected, you can control what people see.

    3 – people under 30’s brains (including mine) pretty much revolve around the TV and the internet. using the projectors as much as possible keeps us interested. when we have something to look at, we will pay more attention.

    4 – expecting people to bring their bibles implies 2 things – that everyone has their own bible and that they know where to find books in the bible. for any new church goer, this may not be the case. simply using powerpoint saves them the embarrassment of asking where a book is.

    5 – non believers do come to church sometimes. maybe a friend invited them, maybe it’s easter or whatever but they do show up. they are not going to be interested in the text and certainly won’t look it up in a pew bible. but – ppt forces them to read along and follow the flow of the sermon.

    6 – this is the dumbest reason but i think it’s worth saying. powerpoint allows the preacher to look prepared. i have seen so many preachers get up to the pulpit and seem unprepared (whether or not they actually were). but the fact is that powerpoint takes time to put together and simply seeing powerpoint behind a preacher will make any church goer realize that this sermon wasn’t thrown together on saturday night. it ads to the credibility of the preacher, even if only a minor amount.

    basically, i agree with with Peter that it’s not a salvation issue here. it’s a preference. but, i also think that church needs to adapt as to changes in culture as best we can (without compromising the message). i think that ppt in sermons is a great way to do that. it doesn’t hurt anyone and i believe it really helps my younger generation (im a 26 year old pastor in the highly unchurched city of san francisco).

    ideally, it would be nice if everyone always paid attention and always brought the same version of a bible. but lets face it – that just won’t happen. so i think that as long as we encourage people to take notes and bring their own bibles, ppt can be a very powerful tool.

  5. I have been suspicious of PPT messages ever since I sat under one on Hebrews 6 that (a) avoided hebrews 6, (b) spent most of the time on John 10:28 and (c) had an animated sheep jogging across the screen for most of the message.

    I don’t like using projection when I am preaching an expository message, but I do like it for …

  6. The discipline of the Christian life involves many things. One of them should be to bring your own Bible to church. Projecting the passage is helpful but what pastor does not relish the sound of a congregstion leafing through their Bibles to get to a passage?

    Honestly, if you are seeking to minimize someone’s Bible verse “look up” discomfort, you are enabling their laziness. Set the participation bar high enough for them to get into the flow.

    However, I also believe a PPT display can be useful. We need to engage the culture at its level without abandoning appropriate behavior at our level.

    Which is why I strongly advocate an eclectic mix of both solid traditional and well written contemporary praise music. Elevate everyone.

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