The Use and Abuse of PowerPoint
Technology has always been a two-edged sword, some it protects and some it wounds.
When the radio was first introduced some thought Satan has taken over the church, seeing that he is the “prince of the power of the air.”
When the microphone was invented, which helped a million mousy-voiced preachers amplify their words, those with the naturally loud voices decried the newfangled piece of technology that was producing all kinds of spurious preachers across the land.
A new technology
Today PowerPoint is the new kid on the block and some of us haven’t quite figured him out yet.
Observing the preaching in my assembly over the last ten years, I have noted the use and abuse of PowerPoint in preaching. Like technological wizards, some use PowerPoint seamlessly with their audible words and the observer is enriched.
But there are some whose PowerPoint skills are so deficient that they actually take away from the message at hand. In a nutshell, those who know how to use technology well, should. Those who do not, shouldn’t.
The benefits of PowerPoint
There are many benefits that make PowerPoint worthwhile, especially depending on the context and audience of the message. Listed below are just a few…
1) Many sing the benefits of reaching both the ear and the eye through hearing and observing, claiming that two senses are better than one. PowerPoint can achieve this.
2) PowerPoint can assist in clarity. Your outline, should you display it, can be clearly seen and understood. Your passages can be listed in case someone didn’t hear you mention the passage, or you forgot to. Your points, applications and illustrations can also be displayed on the screen with visual aids, charts, graphs or pictures that greatly help the observer to understand.
3) Lastly, PowerPoint has the appearance of relevance and expertise, and that’s a plus. This generation is a technological one and have come to expect technological interaction in the way they consume information. It isn’t necessarily wrong. It’s just the way it is.
The young people and the average person walking into our churches learn through technology and we can make use of it to their advantage.
So if you can use PowerPoint well, then do it. It can only enhance your presentation of the truth and the person who heard you will walk away better informed, remembering more.
The abuse of PowerPoint
If you cannot use PowerPoint well, then you shouldn’t. You are actually detracting from the message, like a flickering light behind you or a disruptive child in the pews. What you should do instead, if you can’t use PowerPoint well, is concentrate and capitalize on the other skills of public speaking.
The list below shows what we give up when we rely on PowerPoint too much at the expense of other rhetorical assets:
1) We lose some of the “eyeball-to-eyeball” appeal when we rely too heavily on the screen. If people are watching the screen more than they are watching the preacher, then something is lost. There is no substitute for sincerity and conviction in the pulpit, and this is predominantly communicated through the speaker’s tone, facial expressions and eye contact.
When ascending the pulpit, it would be helpful to remember the Apostle Paul’s mantra on preaching: “my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom but in demonstration of the spirit and of power.”(1 Corinthians 2:4).
2) The overuse of slides will exacerbate the problem listed above. Because you have prepared a hundred slides, flicking from one slide to the next, the person in the pew simply has no time to look at you, or hear what you are saying. They are way too busy just keeping up. A good rule of thumb for PowerPoint is found in the old adage: less is more!
3) The same is true for slides that have too much on them. If your slide has an encyclopedia of facts and words on it, then the person observing it has to work too hard to read it. Again, if they are mesmerized by your slides, or working too hard to comprehend them, then they are probably not looking at you. Therefore, your eye contact, body posture, and hand gestures are in vain.
Making PowerPoint work for you
Instead of busy, your slides should be simple, like billboards on the side of the road, quick enough to see and understand but not detracting from the one driving the message. Again, there is no right or wrong way to preach, only ways that work and ways that don’t. It is up to us to discern what is needful and what works most effectively for our skillset, content and audience.
These things are important to think about and are worth figuring out for “it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” (1 Cor.1:21).
If we can in any way evaluate and improve our preaching, we should. The saving of souls depends on it.