On Powerpoint

Preparing for Sunday is more complicated than it used to be. Now, on top of the eight to twelve hours needed to prepare a serious biblical sermon, we have to add two or three more to prepare the PowerPoint presentation.
I was discussing this with a pastor recently who said that he tried to delegate the responsibility but was never satisfied with the result. “Nobody knows my sermon like I do,” he said. “When other people prepare the PowerPoint, I find I have to bend my sermon to fit what is appearing on the screen.” The question is that if pastors are spending time preparing computerized presentations every week, where does that time come from? “Generally, from the time I would have spent studying the text,” my pastor friend admitted.

A further problem is that PowerPoint presents a new expertise that pastors feel they have to learn. Most pastors are not readily adept at computer imaging and graphic design. This, on top of the prohibitive cost of the equipment, makes one wonder whether the technology is worth the bother. Yet many pastors believe that this is an area they have to master in order to stay current in a changing culture and to stay relevant in a competitive church marketplace.

Of course, PowerPoint is just another tool. While some believe in their heart that Bill Gates is antichrist, and everything produced by Microsoft is from the pit, the truth is that any piece of software is an implement that can be used for good or for ill in the service of God’s purposes. The challenge is to learn how to use the product so that it serves people’s access to God’s Word instead of creating another complicating impediment.

Communications studies have long shown that people retain material better if they can see it as well as hear it. That right there ought to credit the addition of a visual tool in our preaching. It is, of course, a matter of learning how to use it well. Perhaps we will have to train people how to use the software in ways that enhance our sermons. This kind of teamwork could even stimulate better preaching and more powerful points.