Friday, April 27, 2007

"Power corrupts. PowerPoint corrupts absolutely" -- Edward Tufte.

This coming month, let's all try preaching without PowerPoint.

That's right: turn off the computer. Turn off the video projector. And see what we can do with just a Bible (and maybe some notes).

Why would I suggest something like that?

1. The jolly thing doesn't work!
As Debra Murphy noted in The Christian Century, it's a rare presentation in Powerpoint that doesn't jam, freeze, crash, or just sit there blinking at us. As a result, our church members either:
a) get to watch us reboot our computer in the middle of our sermon.
b) spend the entire sermon tensed-up and waiting for something to go wrong.
Neither option is really what I'd call "worship."

2. We don't know anything about graphics.
I'm sorry, but somebody has to say it: there is an incredible amount of religious art out there that is really dreadful -- and most of it seems to find its way into PowerPoint sermons. And even when we skip the pictures and slap a bunch of words onto the screen, the result are rarely attractive (and sometimes just plain illegible).

3. We don't have time to get it right.
It takes me roughly ten hours to write a sermon -- and I have to squeeze every minute of that out of a schedule that is already way too busy. Now add the time needed to prepare a PowerPoint presentation, and instead of a pretty-good sermon (and no PowerPoint), I will have:
a) a weaker sermon,
b) and a PowerPoint presentation that is riddled with mistakes.
Excuse me, but I don't think that's progress.

4. A good sermon doesn't need it.
What makes a good sermon?
a) an introduction that captures the attention of our audience,
b) a message that is based on Scripture,
c) an application that speaks to our needs,
d) and a conclusion that calls for committment.
Add some interesting illustrations, and the result is a sermon that might be even better with PowerPoint -- but it will still be pretty good without it. Then again, if a sermon lacks any one of these elements, then no amount of computer graphics will be able to save it.

So there you have it -- four reasons why I think every pastor should give up PowerPoint for the month of May. And no, I'm not asking us to give it up for the rest of our lives.

But if pastors were able to preach the Word of God for nearly 2,000-years without PowerPoint . . .

Then maybe we could try giving it up for a month?

(And if you'd like to read Edward Tufte's views on PowerPoint, then click on the title of this post.)

PS For some reason, the "comments" section has been turned off for this particular post -- and I can't figure out how to turn it back on! If you'd like to leave a comment, go ahead and do so on the post just above this one (i.e. the one about advice for pastors in graduate school).