Friday, 25 July 2008

Preaching or Powerpoint?

Preparing to speak two sundays in a row it struck me how I now approach preparing a sermon - using powerpoint slides and the notes pages to write the bullet points I will then preach from.

That is a long way from writing everything out in full like I used to do.

People say that I sound more natural and relaxed these days, and I think that can be traced partly to less reading from the script and more talking from a reminder point. Then it is words how I say them not how I write them.

But what of powerpoint? Some love it, some hate it, both in the pew and in the pulpit (not that my church has either, but you get the drift), we really can't decide.

This is where I have got to:

In the "yay - Powerpoint was given by Jesus for the empowerment of his people" camp I can think of the following:

1) Powerpoint is excellent for displaying bible passages and quotes, which allows people to focus and really helps new people who can't find their way around a bible too quickly. Never underestimate how utterly daunting it is for Mrs Smith from across the road, at her first time in Church, to hear the words "Please turn with me to 1 John 2 from verse 6".

2) Different slides lead to different points being made and having a set of slides helps to show if you have gone on about one subject for too long!

3) Pictures that help to illustrate a talk can be used easily

4) Moving from slide to slide gives a talk a "flow" that is clear for the preacher to follow and clear for the hearers to follow. They can see when they have moved on onto something new.

5) It also helps for note-takers, to see references and ideas

In the "boo, Powerpoint should be banished from our churches along with wearing sandals with white socks" camp I can suggest:

1) Powerpoint can suck the life out of the oratory required for really great preaching. It can become too systemised, too presented, too a,b,c,d,e and not grasp the attention of one's mind and move the direction of one's heart

2) Powerpoint graphics and animations are rubbish. Words winging around a page or coming in line by line detract from the presentation. So does the preacher having to ask for the next point all the time or run across the stage to click another button

3) Powerpoint slides cannot be changed instantly following further illumination or inspiration of the Holy Spirit

4) People seem obsessed with every point starting with the same letter or word. No-one cares - just preach the word. You know what I mean? Jesus has "Compassion", Jesus had a "Commission", Jesus looked for "Conversion" and Jesus is "Coming Back again". "Coming back again" does not count! It is three words, it is cheating! If you want to see some great examples of this read the Alpha course manual.

So overall - I find it a tool that helps me, but it is just that, an aid. When it becomes the focus we all lose out, but as long as its my servant I think it's a positive thing.


dave bish said...

I went through a pro-PPT phase but now I'd rather just preach the word and I've become decreasingly bothered about structure... I just want to burn and show people Jesus.

I like Piper's distintion of using PPT for Teaching type stuff when it's more in the lecture mode, but on Sunday's all you get to see is the word and the preacher.

dave bish said...

Guy Davies on Powerpoint and the Death of Preaching

Blue, with a hint of amber said...

I agree about burning and showing Jesus - but I would put in a request on behalf of those who:

1) Are hard of hearing
2) Have a visual learning style
3) Cannot write quickly
4) Are non english first language speakers
5) Have some level of attention deficit

That widening the style a bit more than "bloke with a bible" can serve people well.

dave bish said...

I'd agree some note should be take for each of these though I'm dubious of the widespread attributing of visual-learning and short-attenttion span. I've seen people complain one week about the length of a Brit doing a 20min talk only to be entranced for 90mins by the African who spoke the week after.

Provision for the hard of hearing is fair enough. Likewise for those whose first language isn't English - increasingly an issue for the UK.

I've become less of a note-taker too in recent years. I guess probably as I've come to think that it's sight of Jesus in the that matters rather than whether I can remember structure or points.

Jongudmund said...

As someone who rarely uses PowerPoint himself, I'd say defintiely use it - especially for the hard of hearing, the poeple at the back and those whose minds wander during lengthy (tedious?) theology. And for the note takers.

I also like seeing the bible passage up there because then everyone is reading from the same version. The differences between the NKJV and The New Living Transaltion or New Century Version are often so great it's not worth getting people to opent heir Bibles and read along with oyu.

Of course one solution would be to reintroduce 'Pew Bibles'...

Andy said...

Phil said...

My experience has been that that the more I used powerpoint the more natural I spoke, as I used less notes. Secondly, a high proportion of the church were glad because it helped them follow and retain information while not making it seem like a lecture or limiting other illustrations or good use of language.

The dangers amongst others that I found are that we can become lazy with it, become too basic and simple because we're nothing but bullet points.