PowerPoint Peeves

Written by Drew on August 10th, 2006

Just about every preacher I know uses PowerPoint for his sermons. It’s the craze these days. Even older preachers, who are usually not as interested in technology, are raving about how PowerPoint is today what “sheet sermons” were to the pioneer preachers of yesteryear.

Several years ago my elders told me they were investing in projection equipment so that I could use PowerPoint to enhance my lessons. They expected me to be thrilled, but I wasn’t. For years I had been honing my preaching style–learning to get away from my notes, addressing the audience directly and giving my lessons an extemporaneous feel. I wanted to learn to preach, as Gus Nichols used to say, from the “overflow.” I liked the idea of Baxter’s dying man preaching to dying men. To me, PowerPoint was a threat to all of these things. It created the necessity of copious notes and wedged a barrier between myself and the audience. I voiced my concerns to my elders; they listened but decided to get the projectors anyway.

After the first Sunday I had to concede that PowerPoint did have its benefits. Folks came up to me after services and said they were able to follow along better than ever. They took better notes. The sermon held their interest longer (and I thought they were already on the edge of their seats!). I decided that, even though it wasn’t my preference, I would design a PowerPoint presentation for every lesson I preach and every Bible study I present. With few exceptions, I’ve kept it up…and I hate it.

Edward Tufte wrote a column for Wired Magazine entitled “PowerPoint Is Evil.” Basically the piece questions the wisdom of boiling information down to bulleted lists on a series of slides. One point that he makes is especially important to all preachers and Bible class teachers.

Presentations largely stand or fall on the quality, relevance, and integrity of the content. If your numbers are boring, then you’ve got the wrong numbers. If your words or images are not on point, making them dance in color won’t make them relevant. Audience boredom is usually a content failure, not a decoration failure. At a minimum, a presentation format should do no harm. Yet the PowerPoint style routinely disrupts, dominates, and trivializes content. Thus PowerPoint presentations too often resemble a school play -very loud, very slow, and very simple.

I’ve talked to preachers who tell me they have quit writing outlines, designing their lessons in PowerPoint instead. Instead of having their thoughts firmly planted in their mind before speaking, they just click their remote mouse and see what the next slide will say. In my opinion, this leads to shallow sermons that have little to offer. We could almost eliminate the preacher altogether–just dim the lights and run the slide show!

Because I want the message of the gospel to overpower everything else–the custom animation, animated clip art and exciting backgrounds–I take a minimalist approach to my PowerPoint slides. After spending hours carefully crafting the sermon and writing it in outline form, I spend about 15 minutes putting together a PowerPoint presentation, usually on Saturday night in front of the television set. I just don’t think a preacher ought to rely on colorful slides to make his point. PowerPoint should be a supplement, not a substitute.

 

14 Comments so far ↓

  1. Ike says:

    Many US Military commanders have placed an outright ban on Powerpoint — the reporting subordinates would skate by on presentation, without doing a lick of critical thinking about the real core of the message.

  2. Wes says:

    I have found powerpoint to be a great benefit when it is used right. When teaching the more senses that you can impact the better. Traditional sermons reach people through hearing words. A visual aid adds the sense of sight to the effect you are having on people. Obviously, a good thing can become a bad thing if we are not careful with it. We must make sure that we are impressing people with the Word and not the power point. I used to write out all my scriptures on powerpoint, but found that people were never opening their Bibles. Now I try to pick out several key passages that I ask people to turn to. Preparing powerpoint lessons can also take up an incredible amount of time in an already busy schedule. One thing that has helped me with this is a new company out of Texas who will design a professional powerpoint background for each of your sermons and give you access to hundreds of background they have already produced for only $200 per year. It has really helped me and I have been thrilled with the results. If you are interested the address is: http://www.powerpointsermons.com
    May be continue to search for things to draw man’s attention to God’s Will.

  3. James Jones says:

    Drew, after reading this, you have become my hero ;^>
    Seriously, I know anything can be overdone, and abused. Sadly, people’s reading comprehension is getting worse. People are having trouble paying attention because of heavy reliance on visuals to remain entertained. Yet, our absolute love for God’s word can keep us focused (Ps. 1:1-3). Our hunger will help us despite lack of visuals (1 Pt. 2:2). It is interesting to me that many professors still lecture — for more than twenty minutes. Why not encourage members to bring little notebooks and take notes? That will keep you awake and focused. Anyway, just my rambling.

  4. Paul says:

    I think that powerpoint is a great resource we can use in worship. I’ve seen used extremely well at my congregation. I have found that I can follow the sermons so much easier.

    However, it definately can be abused too. At one congregation I visited, I noticed that words were highlighted as the preacher read from God’s word. It was kind of like we were “following the bouncing ball.” That was very awkward. Also, I’ve seen it be way to visual with clipart and animations. It should be kept simple and relevant and not over power the sermon itself.

    We also use something like “The Paperless Hymnal.” What an outstanding resource.

  5. The Berean Examiner says:

    “Truth and Repose follows the honored tradition of the struggle for truth through open discourse.”

    “This post has been removed by a blog administrator.”

    Hypocrite!

  6. Drew Kizer says:

    Sigh…

    The Thessalonian Examiner is really getting annoying. Instead of being grateful to me for allowing him a voice in this forum, he abuses his privileges, using them for hatred and faction.

    Thessalonian Examiner, let me take you to school on a number of points about commenting on someone else’s blog:

    1. You only quoted part of my statement on comments, which is posted on the sidebar of the blog. It plainly states: “As long as they remain brief and are given in the disposition prescribed by the apostle Peter: “meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).” Your comments have been deleted because they do not meet these requisites.

    2. Your comments are irrelevant. The present post is a great example. It’s about PowerPoint, not “sectarianism.”

    3. This is not the place to paste Al Maxey’s material. He has a website. People can go there for his information.

    4. Part of my responsibility as a blog administrator is to keep the discussion on track. Because you rarely read the articles posted here, your comments are hardly ever relevant. That is why they are erased.

    5. I put a lot of hard work into this web site. You should respect that. Making comments is not a right; it is a privilege. When you call me names, you are telling me you do not appreciate that privilege.

    Just thought I’d make a few points. Don’t expect me to dignify your rudeness with a response ever again.

  7. Dale's Spot says:

    Drew – I visit your site every month or two and catch up on what you’ve posted. I enjoy it a great deal. Thanks for your abilities and the use thereof. You make some excellent points on PowerPoint and its use and abuse. A good friend who is in the business of designing presentations for larger companies here in Nashville called me aside a few months ago and kindly asked permission to take a few of my sermons and put them to PowerPoint (I’d been using it about a year). I said, “sure”. What he produced was pretty spectacular. He make the point that every preacher he has ever seen use it (he said about 25) thinks PowerPoint is about words and it is not. We already have words and use them. It is about images and pictures. He has since taken my lessons and done the PowerPoint presentations and the effect has been dramatic in the response to them.

    Also, I, like you, have seen that the use of PowerPoint sometimes seems to “push” the sermon. We become dependant on it. Not yet sure how to handle that…

    Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

    Thanks.

    In His Care,
    Dale Jenkins

  8. The Berean Examiner says:

    Drew said this. “. . . and are given in the disposition prescribed by the apostle Peter: “meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).” Drew said that God said this “”meekness and fear”. God told us that all men shall speak as the oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11) and not to add to his word (Deuteronomy 4:2, Psalms 30:6, Deuteronomy 12:32, Rev 22:18). God also tells us that his Word is truth and to rightly divide his Word.

    Let us have the Berean spirit and compare what Drew said to what God said in 1 Peter 3:15. It is amazing what you find out if you have the Berean spirit.

    Holman Christian Standard:
    But set apart the Messiah as Lord in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.

    New Living Translation:
    Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if you are asked about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.

    English Standard Version:
    But in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;

    Contemporary English Version:
    Honor Christ and let him be the Lord of your life. Always be ready to give an answer when someone asks you about your hope.

    Good News Translation:
    But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you,

    New Century Version:
    But respect Christ as the holy Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to answer everyone who asks you to explain about the hope you have,

    Douay-Rheims Bible:
    But sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts, being ready always to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you.

    Easy-to-Read Version:
    But you should keep the Lord Christ holy in your hearts. Always be ready to answer every person who asks you to explain about the hope you have.

    Update Bible Version 1.9:
    But sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord: [being] ready always to give answer to every man that asks you a reason concerning the hope that is in you,

    The Bishop’s Bible (1568):
    But sanctifie the Lorde God in your heartes. Be redy alwayes to geue an aunswere to euery man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you,

    International Standard Version:
    Instead, exalt Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be prepared to give a defense to everyone who asks you to explain the hope you have.

    Weymouth’s New Testament:
    But in your hearts consecrate Christ as Lord, being always ready to make your defence to any one who asks from you a reason for the hope which you cherish.

    So, where does “meekness and fear” come in? Drew, what is going on here? Are you busted? This is not 2 or 3 different versions, but 12 different versions. Do I really need to go any farther then this? After all, we did read 12 different versions and besides, Drew wants us to keep our comments short on his blog. Is Drew being honest with us? Is Drew speaking as the oracles of God? Do we really need to read more than 12 versions? Is Drew rightly dividing the Word of truth? Do not answer this until you read 1 Peter 3:15.

    This post is about “Power Point”. So how does my above comments relate to our subject at hand? I will try to explain this latter. I have run out of time, besides, Drew really hates my long comments.

    Now go read 1 Peter 3:15 from your own Bible.

    The Berean Examiner
    Acts 17:11

  9. Drew Kizer says:

    Read the next verse. The NIV and KJV put “meekness and fear” in v. 15.

  10. The Berean Examiner says:

    1 Peter 3:16

    King James Version:
    “Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.”

    New International Version:
    keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

  11. The Berean Examiner says:

    1 Peter 3:15

    As Drew said, King James Version:
    “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:”

    As Drew said, New International Version:
    “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,”

    New King James Version, the version that legalistic patternistic Churches of Christ use.
    “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;”

    Fill in the blank Version (Maybe the version that you use):
    Blah, Blah, Blah . . . “meekness and fear”

    As Drew said, this is about Power Point. This is not about quoting 1 Peter 3:15 in a million different versions. So how do the above comments tie in to “Power Point”? That is a good question and it is the same question that I would ask if I were you. After studying this, I, personally, came up with more questions to ask about this

    I would go further but this a long enough comment at this time.

  12. The Berean Examiner says:

    I said all that above just to say this.

    I wished preachers would list the scriptures they use on power point. It would be a lot less confusion (easier to follow), it would show that the preacher is speaking as the oracles of God and the people can have the Berean Spirit at the same time.

    One question that I have is why is the term “meekness and fear” in one half of the versions that I’ve checked and it’s missing in the other half? Another question is are we suppose to “Make your stand” or do it in “meekness and fear”?

    I hope that I’ve made sense.

  13. The Berean Examiner says:

    News Flash. You cannot be bold in the faith and be in meekness and fear at the same time.

  14. the berean examiner says:

    You said “I put a lot of hard work into this web site.” and it shows. We do not see things eye to eye but I must admit that you are doing a good job with this and I found this to be very interesting.

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