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!

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.