When I first began preparing sermons, I usually started with a doctrine, a question or a topic and looked up all the scriptures I could find to prove the point I was trying to make. The more scriptures, the better the “authority” of the message. A good sermon had at least 15-20 scriptural references. Of course, my sermons lasted more than an hour back then, so there was plenty of time.
After a while, I started providing handouts so the members could take notes around the scriptures I quoted. That way, they wouldn’t miss the important points I was making. Providing handouts, as my thoughts went, would allow listeners to pay closer attention and not worry about taking so many notes. This would benefit them greatly and they would get more out of my important messages. (Notice the humility here.)
|Technology isn’t the answer: God’s story is. Whether you read it on paper or online, it is still Good News.|
After handouts, I moved on to PowerPoint. Now I could have the scriptures on the big screen along with pertinent information that they could copy. What a time-saver for them! Rather than trying to determine the important points of the message, the PowerPoint slides made it clear what I wanted them to learn.
Over time PowerPoint became fancier with colorful backgrounds, inserted music and video clips. The sermon turned into a professional presentation. Wow! The members must be impressed with all this amazing technology that obviously helped them in their understanding of God, theology, salvation and—let’s not forget—sin.
Eventually I realized I was spending more time on preparing the production, than I was on the message itself. You can get by without a lot of substance if the show is flashy and entertaining. Now, when I look back at some of my “best” productions, I’m a bit embarrassed at the actual content of the messages.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with PowerPoint, video clips, music clips and sound bites. There’s nothing wrong with catchy backgrounds, colored text and flashing sentences. But if the message isn’t good, you simply have a production, an audio-visual extravaganza, not a sharing of the gospel.
What I’ve learned over my years as a pastor is I don’t need all the latest and greatest gimmicks to give a sermon; what I need is to keep telling the story. In fact, story-telling is still the most effective means of getting a point across to a group of people. And isn’t that what the Bible is, God telling us his story and how we are part of that story? Absolutely.
Technology isn’t the answer: God’s story—the gospel—is the answer. Whether you read it on paper or online, it is still Good News.
This is the last issue of Christian Odyssey on paper, but I assure you, we will continue to tell the story. See you online.