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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Digging up the Past

Recently I was Googling around and found an old article in the Christian Chronicle where David Fleer talked about using PowerPoint in preaching. I took notice because he is an experienced and studied preacher that is training other preachers.

I've heard him speak before and he is a master of his craft. Because of that I was disappointed to read his words:

PowerPoint is a great tool for the classroom. I welcome to my non-homiletic classrooms attractive and memorable PowerPoint presentations. (I have discovered, however, that a D student still creates D presentations, even with the snazziest PowerPoint bullets.)

PowerPoint can be an excellent teaching tool. But sermons are meant to do more than teach... PowerPoint works against us, underscoring the preacher’s technological savvy and limiting the experience to learning material (while leaving lives unchanged).

I might offer a different perspective from Dr. Fleer. PowerPoint presentations that rely on bullet points (no matter how snazzy), are not appropriate for preaching, true, but that is not the limit to the use of PowerPoint. Using images in a way that corresponds with the words being spoken can amplify the impact and do more to change lives. A good presentation is one that flows so seamlessly with the words that the savvy of the preacher is not noticed at all.

What do you think?


Mark said...

I had Dr. Fleer last spring for preaching, and he is definitely anti-Power Point, and is really not that interested in discussing it. My experience with him is that he genuinely doesn't need it. He is such a talented speaker, he can do with words and with his non-verbal communication as much as most need a lot of high quality pictures to try and accomplish.

I do think it is good to develop yourself to where you are able to speak either with or without the slides. I've noticed that the way I prepare and present sermons is very different, depending on the medium I use. It is also important to recognize that there are not many speakers of Dr. Fleer's calibur out there. Most of us could probably use the extra help.

James Wood said...

I guess it's good to know that he's not interested in discussing it - that will save me a lot of wasted effort.

I guess David Fleer saying that PowerPoint isn't necessary is like Shaun White saying that jumping higher isn't necessary - when you are already in a different league from the rest of the world.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Dr. Fleer if we are talking about a point by point, systematic presentation, use of power-point. I think such use creates too much of a box that defines the sermon form. However, I do use projection technology to show videos (e.g., Youtube) or images. However, such use normally does not run throughout my sermon but instead is a part of the sermon.

It should also be noted that Dr. Fleer approach to preaching, as I understand, is very narrative steeped in a post-liberal approach to scripture...which I happen to love. BUT, I also happen to be very familiar with scripture and Christian faith. One of the criticisms I have heard, which has some validity, regarding the narrative/post-liberal approach is that it assumes a certain familiarity with scripture and Christian faith and therefore may not be the best form/approach to preaching among non-Christians and/or new Christian (such as in a new church plant or young church). For those who are preaching to mostly non-Christians and new Christians, the sermon form best suitable may be a deductive or inductive sermon with the purpose of teaching. In such case, power-point may be an asset to the sermon.

Grace and peace,

K.Rex Butts

Mark said...

That's probably a good analogy. One student brought up the subject in class, and he proceeded to make a sort of straw man argument about a very talented speaker at Pepperdine who was always great, then tried to start using PPT, had technical problems, and whose presentations suffered a lot. As you know, pointing to the worst example of something does not necessarily prove the entire practice unfruitful.

I can honestly say there are some sermons where I would much rather just do without it. With the right pictures, it's great, but there have been a couple of times where I just couldn't find or create the image that did the trick.

I like your analogy though, because it's true...he is in a different league than most of us.

Rex, you are correct that he is very openly a "post-liberal" and he is all about narrative. It has its ups and downs. I think the approach fails sometimes to adequately answer some questions raised by the text. But as a general mode of operation, it holds a high view of Scripture, and produces some really fresh results.

John Wright said...

Fleer is an outstanding speaker. If I were David Fleer, I probably would want PowerPoint, either. My PowerPoint is mostly visual-image based. I started using it for two groups: 1. the large number of non-church-cultured attendees who were not used to sitting for 30 minutes, listening to a lecture. 2. For young adults and teens, who are cultured in a visually-intense world.

I found, however, that my senior adults like it, too. Their hearing deficit was somewhat overcome by being able listen with their eyes, as well.

Fleer's strong anti-PP bias reminds me of an old speech professor that I had a lifetime ago. He was adamant that the PA system had RUINED THE ART OF PUBLIC SPEAKING.

James Wood said...

There is definitely a sentiment that everything new is bad. It's especially tough when you've spent your life working on one craft and then find that technology is transforming it.

I hope to, one day, be in the same boat where I just can't understand why people would want to change things. But I also hope that I'm gracious enough to let them do it, because I had the freedom to experiment and change too.