Using a Projector During Preaching
This is considered the height of being contemporary and ‘really communicating’ to modern man. We are being urged to interweave pictures and videos during our sermons. If a new preacher is tempted to use a projector, I would suggest that you do it just occasionally at first. Don’t think that you are obliged to do it for each sermon. It is a demanding, time-consuming task and the fruit and benefits that come from it are not commensurate with the ingenuity required. Someone told a friend that he spent three days preparing a sermon, one day getting the sermon prepared and then two days getting the pictures, headings, and verses prepared to go on the screen. Not a good use of time.
Concerning headings the challenge is to make them as memorable as you can, then you do not need for them to be written out on a screen. For example, someone preaching on the raising of Jairus’ daughter had two vivid headings Death was no respecter of persons — she was twelve years old — and Jesus was no respecter of death. Such headings are quite brilliant. They stick. They do not need to be written on a board. Do headings written really make them more unforgettable? Or again on Mary and Martha. Martha was concerned for what she could give Jesus Mary was concerned for what Jesus could give her. Same comment.
I think that the breaks in watching new pictures and headings coming up on the screen do two or three things. They dissolve the tension and the build up of the message. They remind us that we are listening to a sermon that someone has written and that is now being given to us. They thus make more of the form and structure of the sermon than is warrantable. We want to move beyond that to make the congregation aware that God is now dealing with us and he is dealing with our guilt and applying to us certain promises and we are realising again how marvellous the gospel is. The sermon is more than teaching and right exegesis. That is fundamental of course, but it is only a channel by which God himself comes to the listeners.
So what is essentially important in achieving that is you yourself, the appointed vessel and channel. You have to be credible, Godlike, humble, loving, righteous, trustworthy, interesting, caring. Nothing can replace the primary importance of grace in your own life. As I often say, no one is going to drink the purest spring water out of a rusty cup. Your own growth in Christlikeness is crucial and you must make every effort to go for that. If people are going to listen to you it is because you are like your Lord. You dare not placate your conscience by telling yourself how much time you are giving to prepare the sermon presentation.
You have to cultivate a sense of dependence on the Holy Spirit. Without him you can do nothing. You must be made aware of that, and pray with him in preparation and then before you preach and also especially while you are preaching. Send those arrows up to heaven and those ‘bombs’ onto the congregation. You must be crying out to the Spirit for his help, consciously and unconsciously. Blessed are the poor in spirit. We stand before men with the most extraordinary message claiming God has given us a vocation to serve him and to tell them that if they believe what we tell them they will be saved. If they reject our message they will go to hell. That requires an assurance, a gravitas, a tenderness, and perfection of life, and all so lacking in any self conscious awareness of it or hints as to ‘Do you know who I am?’ We are nothing! We are sinners doing the evil we would not do and not doing the good we ought. Our only help is the Spirit of God.
On top of those important things, one trivial point: machines always let you down and pictures don’t come up, or there is a fuse gone, or a power cut. There is always embarrassment with technological dependence.
You know that there are hot media of communication and cold. One hot medium is when you get down on a knee and take out the ring and say, ‘I love you. Will you marry me?’ You don’t need to have a whiteboard and felt tipped pen to write that out. Your love and the knowledge you have of one another is the power behind that invitation and in that communication. Cold communication is the whiteboard and what is written on it, or projected upon it. Every word carrying the same weight of pathos or lack of pathos. The readers have to supply that themselves.
So please, as a trainee preacher do not feel that you must use the screen and project pictures and headings and verses upon it whenever you are preaching. Do not get chained to that, it can cool down the fire and dilute the blood that are both the heart of our message. You can try it once a month in those early years and see for yourself if what I write is correct. Then you will know its uses and limitations, but get on with learning your trade preparing and preaching sermons and growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Christ.
Living in the World 6 November 2020
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When coming to consider plagues throughout history and some Christian responses, it is appropriate to begin with this extract from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer: O Almighty God, who in thy wrath did send a plague upon thine own people in the wilderness, for their obstinate rebellion against Moses and Aaron; and also, in […]