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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Would Jesus Use PowerPoint?

Jesus preached a lot, but he didn't use any technology. So, we don't know if Jesus would approve or disapprove of the use of PowerPoint based on his use of other technology. Jesus did use a boat so that he could preach out on a lake and have his voice carry to more people (shout across the water and see what happens). It's likely that the sermon on the mount was given with Jesus using increased elevation to make himself heard. So, we know that Jesus would use his surroundings to get his message across.

If he walked into your church today would he toss your IT guy a flash drive with his PowerPoint slides on it? I don't think he would need to use it as some sort of gimmick to get people to pay attention, but he was always using visual aids. He pointed to the temple or to the poor widow or to the farmer or the child on his lap. I think it is possible that Jesus would use pictures in a PowerPoint to the same effect. I don't think he would use bullet points or read from his slides. He would still tell stories and parables that engaged people's imaginations rather than lecturing and giving people the only answer.

What do you think? Would Jesus use PowerPoint?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Don't Just Say It, Show It

Over at they have put together a map using data from the IRS to show where people are moving, county by county. Below is the map for Multnomah County. The black lines show people moving to the county and the red lines show people moving away. You can see quickly that Multnomah County is drawing far more people than it loses. If you were to click on Detroit or Memphis you would see the opposite where most of the lines are red.

When preaching, it can be difficult to show abstract concepts in a way that is clear and concise. This map tool is one example of how data can be displayed in a dynamic, stimulating manner to enable people to grasp the meaning quickly.

You could use this tool in a sermon to show the numbers of people coming to and leaving your area as a call to work for your church. If people are leaving, then how can your church be a stabilizing factor in a city that is bleeding people? If people are streaming in, then how can your church be a welcoming home for new arrivals?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Validation for Preaching

Seth Godin blogged yesterday about how Validation is Overrated. His basic point is that if you wait for someone else to validate your work, then you are going to spend most of your time waiting instead of doing good work.

I needed to hear this. A lot of my work and especially my preaching is based on a desire to be approved by others. I want to hear that I did a good job. I want to receive praise for my sermon. Now, I'm not always consciously working that way, but I see that side of myself. I have to constantly fight against the need for validation by others. I don't think I'm the only preacher who feels this way either.

Seth ends by saying: "If you have a book to write, write it. If you want to record an album, record it. No need to wait for someone in a cubicle halfway across the country to decide if you're worthy."

Preach what you need to preach and don't wait for someone else to tell you it's ok.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Airport Effect

Have you noticed how things at the airport inevitably cost more? Because you are captive in their realm, you must pay more for your coffee or your burger. It's true of movie theaters and state fairs too - once they have you, they want to take as much money from you as possible.

Do we do this in church? I know most churches don't have a food court, but often church related items cost more than they should. Books, music, and software for Christians can be quite a bit more expensive than is really necessary.

Do you think it's fair to charge more for Christian media?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The iPad and Preaching

I recently mentioned Apple's iPad in a blog post, and that was one of the most popular search results for my blog. It dawned on me that people are wanting to figure out how to use the iPad for preaching (or how to convince their church to buy them an iPad by claiming it's for preaching). So I started doing some research to check out the possibilities (inquiring minds want to know).

It looks like there are some cool applications for the iPad and preaching. It offers dual screen support, so with the right cables you should be able to run a presentation from the iPad to a projector. The App Advice blog points out that there is a fake laser pointer function within the iPad feature set. So you could use the touch interface on your iPad to highlight something on the screen.

For preaching I would like to see a way to dynamically jump between slides in a presentation with a touch. The mouse interface is too clunky and slow to be effective during a sermon. I would also want to see my notes and cues so that I could have the slides and the notes in one convenient location. Unfortunately, what I'm seeing is that the iPad doesn't support such functionality. And what I'm seeing about the iDisplay app is not encouraging.

For this moment, it looks like the iPad is not quite ready for prime time. All the pieces are there, but the functionality is lacking. In a perfect world you would have half the screen showing your current slide and notes for that slide and the other half of the screen showing thumbnails of your other slides. You could quickly switch to any of the other slides or point out things on your current slide. Usually Apple comes out with more features later, maybe this will happen with a future software update.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Embrace the Wrong

The Boston Globe ran an article about the power of embracing our wrongness. It explores the idea that we perceive being wrong as some great offense, but in reality it is what has enabled us to achieve so much.

"What’s called for is a new way of thinking about wrongness, one that recognizes that our fallibility is part and parcel of our brilliance. If we can achieve that, we will be better able to avoid our costliest mistakes, own up to those we make, and reduce the conflict in our lives by dealing more openly and generously with both other people’s errors and our own."

If we aren't willing to be wrong, we can never improve. The defense of being right has led to so much pain in this world. What if we begin to defend the rights of people to be wrong?

What have you been wrong about?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

How to Deal with a Technology Glitch, ala Steve Jobs

Lifehacker highlighted the presentation prowess of Steve Jobs. At the iPhone 4 launch he hit a little snag when the phone wouldn't connect to the wi-fi network. But instead of ruining his presentation, he took it in stride and just kept going. He used humor and his relationship with the audience to defuse the situation and things went on.

I have had mixed results at this in my experience. Sometimes I get distracted by trying to fix the problem or I talk about the problem and end up drawing attention to it when most people wouldn't have noticed. I need to develop in this area.

There are a few things that Jobs does that help him. First, he practices his presentations until he knows them flawlessly. These are meticulously scripted events that he appears to be delivering impromptu. Next, move on if possible. There are several occasions where Jobs has just skipped the glitchy part and moved on and the audience barely noticed. If you need to make this point, take a second to collect yourself. If you are silent for a short time while you look into the issue, that will work far better than stammering as you fiddle with your laptop. Finally, remember that you are the presenter. It's not your technology or your PowerPoint (er . . . Keynote) or your video clip. A good presentation is only possible with a good presenter.

How do you deal with tech problems when you preach?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Time Orientation

RSA Animate shares this neat whiteboard video illustrating an idea from TEDTalks star Philip Zimbardo: How our individual concepts of time influence us.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Street Performers and the Gospel

On Saturday we went to see the Street Performance World Championship in Cork, Ireland. The gentlemen pictured are Les Vitamines from Quebec. I think they were the best we saw (and I hope they win). While watching the street performers I was reflecting on preaching (because that's how my brain works).

They had to grab our attention immediately (one performer didn't so we left to get some food). They had to hold our attention through their show, and they had to give us clear instructions for our response after the show. If we didn't give them money, they didn't get paid. They were gracious, often saying: "If you don't have the money, the show is on us and we hope you can improve your situation soon."

In preaching, how can we grab attention, hold attention, and graciously ask people to do something that they normally wouldn't do?

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I learned a few things about strawberries. First, they are hearty plants. We found these plants nearly covered by weeds, yet most of the strawberry plants are bearing fruit.

I learned that strawberries got their name because people would place straw underneath the plants so the berries would not rest on the ground and go bad while they ripened.

I also learned that hay and straw are different things - hay being dried grass and food for animals, straw being dried chaff from grains and bedding for animals. The major difference for the berries is that straw will not absorb water and decompose whereas hay will.

What lessons can you find for following Christ from a strawberry plant?

Even in the worst of conditions we can still bear fruit. Our fruit may be of little use, though, if we don't improve the conditions soon. Just because it looks right, it may not be right; check that what you are doing will actually help and not hurt your situation.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Proverbs 24
"30 I went past the field of the sluggard, 
       past the vineyard of the man who lacks judgment;
 31 thorns had come up everywhere,
       the ground was covered with weeds,
       and the stone wall was in ruins.
 32 I applied my heart to what I observed
       and learned a lesson from what I saw:
 33 A little sleep, a little slumber,
       a little folding of the hands to rest-
 34 and poverty will come on you like a bandit 
       and scarcity like an armed man."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Irish Fields

This is the view from where we are staying this summer. We are working on an organic farm for the summer in Ireland.

As I've been out and working I can't help but think of all the farming metaphors that occur throughout Scripture. I wonder, though, if those vivid images have lost some of their potency for people who get their fruit from the grocery store (like me).

How could we communicate the powerful parables of Jesus to an urban community?

Monday, June 14, 2010

"Up and At Them"

In the Simpsons TV show they decided to do a movie based on the comic book "Radioactive Man" in which the hero's catch phrase is "Up and atom." Unfortunately, the actor hired to portray the hero cannot understand the pun and so continues to say: "Up and at them!" Even work with a vocal coach does little to solve the issue.

Sometimes we get into ruts. Sometimes we can't see the forest for the trees. Sometimes it's useful to get some perspective. This summer my wife and I are volunteering on an organic farm in Ireland. We are pretty much completely outside our normal life. I may post less often over the summer, and my posts may be a bit more tangential, but trust that this is all for the purpose of being a better preacher. Sometimes distance is a catalyst for change.

What helps you get distance from your ruts? How do you foment change?