I have nothing against PowerPoint presentations when it comes to missionary spots, illustrated talks or lectures etc. But I take issue with the use of Power Point in the pulpit. A preacher told me recently that a church he was due to visit asked him not only for his hymns and Bible readings, but his sermon headings for PowerPoint. Whatever is the world coming to?
.My objections to the use of PowerPoint in preaching are two-fold:
.PowerPoint done badly is depressingly awful. If people are going to use this medium for anything other than their private enjoyment (how sad is that?), they should really take the time to attain some level of competence at this kind of thing. I have witnessed a PowerPoint presentation that would not project onto a screen, so people had to huddle around a Lap Top PC. That was OK until the screen saver activated and the poor presenter did not know what to do about it. What of PowerPoints where the specially arranged sermon headings announced by the preacher are out of sync with what is projected onto the screen? That really helps people to follow the message!
.When PowerPoint is done well the presentation looks really professional. I even like it in certain contexts. But preaching is not meant to look professional is it? John Piper should have had a chapter on Brothers, Take Pleasure in Preaching without PowerPoint in his Brothers, We are not Professionals (see review here).
.I am no Luddite with a fear and loathing of new technology. This blog is not written on parchment with crushed up blackberries for ink and a quill pen! But when it comes to PowerPoint preaching, I say "No!"
.Preaching, by definition is a speech act. One man speaks to a congregation of people concerning the message of the Bible. He engages them, looks them in the eye. They (hopefully) look back at him. The preacher tries to hold the people's attention by the Truth that he is speaking and by the manner in which he speaks the Truth. Authentic preaching involves interaction and spontaneity. Yes, the preacher will have done his preparation. He takes care to present his message in a coherent and logical way. But we preachers never really know how people will react to our carefully prepared sermons until we begin to preach them. Someone looks encouraged. The message seems to speak directly to their situation - so we expand on it a little to be of help to them. Another looks confused. We need to clarify and illustrate. Someone else seems to be troubled or challenged. Do they need to be healed and soothed or does the point need to be brought home with greater power and conviction? A decision will have to be made. All this involves communication between preacher and people. Along the way, sermon headings may be modified. A point may be dropped because another needed greater emphasis. There should be an element of unpredictability about preaching because it is an act of personal communication. The ordered professionalism of PowerPoint has no place here. Preachers should use as few notes as possible in the pulpit for the same reasons.
.Preaching, according to Martyn Lloyd-Jones is meant to be "logic on fire", Theology presented through a man who is on fire for the truth. But that "fire" must not be man-made or manufactured emotionalism. We need what used to be called "unction", where the Holy Spirit empowers the preacher and gives him great liberty and power in preaching. When that happens, the last thing on the preacher's mind should be, "what about my PowerPoint headings?" The use of PowerPoint suggests that the preacher expects his sermon to go as planned with no breaking in of the Spirit to disrupt his carefully crafted message. He may have accurate exposition, telling illustration, nicely alliterated headings and thoughtful application. But where is the "demonstration of the Spirit and power"? That is what we preachers should long for above all else.