Presentation Suggestion #2: Think big!

03projector600When preparing a presentation for use in an auditorium, think big. In some places the light isn’t good, in others the equipment isn’t what it should be. Even when conditions are ideal, you’re dealing with different people who are looking from varying angles, distances, etc.

The best thing to do is think big. Big fonts. (Legible fonts more than artistic ones) Big graphics. Go for contrast; don’t try blue on black or grey on white. Big, bold, contrasting. Fewer words in a bigger size.

No matter what you have on the screen, if people are having to strain to make it out, it will be a distraction. Big. Clear. Legible. You won’t regret it, and you’re audience won’t either.

Presentation Suggestion #1: Illustration not sermon

home_slideAs I commented to someone following the last post, I sometimes get requests for my “PowerPoint” after I present somewhere. (Especially true when I did a seminar at a preacher training school last year) I always cheerfully comply, but I warn them that unless they took good notes on my presentation, the slides won’t do them any good. Even I look back at old presentations without being sure what each slide was about.

That’s because I don’t want my whole sermon up on the screen. Presentations are visual aids and are meant to be such. When the inventors of PowerPoint first presented the idea of PowerPoint, they accompanied the presentation with a 53-page handout. 53 pages! They obviously didn’t put all the information on the slides. That’s not the best way to communicate.

Put Bible references up, not the full text. Put main words up, not slide after slide of bullet points. Use pictures that evoke an emotional response. Maps and pictures of Bible lands can aid understanding. Just remember… it’s an illustration, not a sermon. Just as you can’t build a good sermon around nothing but jokes and stories, you can’t build a sermon around a presentation. But you can reinforce the sermon, especially for people that are visual learners. Presentations make great illustrations and lousy sermons.

[Oh, and don’t use slides that look like that one up at the top of the post!]

Should preachers use PowerPoint?

slideshowOK, I admit it. I’m biased. I cringe when people call a presentation “PowerPoint”? I know, it’s that anti-Microsoft bone in my body. But if it helps you understand, I’ll use the term. I don’t use PowerPoint, but I do use software that creates the same sort of presentation. (Being a Mac user, I use the Keynote program)

With that out of the way, let’s get to the thought question of the day: do projected slides have a place in sermons? In a recent issue of Christian Chronicle, David Fleer says no. (I haven’t been able to find that article on their website; I guess they don’t put all of the articles there) Many others, from education circles to business environments, have decried the use of PowerPoint. Even the creators of PowerPoint don’t like many of the ways it’s being used.

Visual aids are hardly new; preachers of old would take bedsheets and fill them with diagrams that they would carry from place to place. I remember, back in the 1960s (yes, I’m that old), a preacher that would draw images on a chalkboard while he preached. Overhead projectors were used for years. So the concept isn’t that new.

But I dare say the use of visuals was never as prevalent as it is today. And, in some places, churches are beginning to back off from this trend. They like the “novelty” of a man preaching with no visuals behind him.

Personally, I think that most of the criticism of presentations comes from the vast number of really bad presentations that are out there (you can see a good illustration of bad presentations vs. good over at Presentation Zen; a more entertaining post contrasts Darth Vader’s style with Yoda’s). I think that, used well, presentations can help visual learners understand more quickly and more in depth. I use presentations when possible. [Once when the projector was out at the church in Stockdale, I drew a couple of slides on poster board]

But, believe it or not, I can be wrong sometimes. That’s why I’m asking my always wise readers: should preachers use PowerPoint? In what way? How does it help, how does it hurt? I’m interested in hearing your views.

A framework for understanding New Testament miracles: Conclusions

337522537_ebc4a82409Let me try to summarize:

At three separate times in biblical history, God used miracles to confirm a new revelation of his will: during the days of Moses, during the days of Elijah and Elisha, and during the first years of the New Testament era.

I believe that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost, and that there was no indwelling Spirit before this time. From our point of view, we were immersed by this outpouring, baptized with the Spirit as the text says. Before this time, men could have the Spirit come upon them, enabling them to do miracles, and they could be filled with the Spirit, filling their lives with spiritual power, though not necessarily miraculous power.

The power to do miracles is separate from the indwelling Spirit (in Acts 8, we see people who have the indwelling Spirit, but not the outward manifestation; in Acts 10, we see people receive the outward manifestation before receiving the indwelling Spirit). The apostles received the power to do miracles and could pass this on to others, but these “secondary recipients” could not pass on the outward gifts. The miraculous gifts were never meant to be permanent; Paul said they would cease when maturity was reached. Hebrews 2:4 speaks of miracles in the past tense, as do the early Christian writers, those who wrote from the second century onward.

Miracles were a sign of apostolic authority; those possessing miraculous gifts had been with the apostles and therefore could be considered as bearing their teaching. Miracles confirmed the validity of what was taught. Eventually the doctrine was established in such a way that this was no longer necessary.

Again, there is speculation and inference in much of this. I do not and will not draw lines of fellowship based on these teachings. But this framework helps me understand what I see in the New Testament regarding miracles. I hope it helps you as well.

A framework for understanding New Testament miracles: The coming of “the perfect”

337522537_ebc4a82409Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. (1 Corinthians 13:8-11)

Here’s another important passage that needs to be considered. 1 Corinthians 12-14 is the most extensive discussion of miraculous gifts that we have. In fact, 1 Corinthians is the only epistle that addresses the topic at length; most of the letters don’t even mention miraculous gifts.

This passage talks about a time when miracles would cease (or will cease, depending on your view). This is connected with the coming of “the perfect.” Some connect this with the Second Coming of Christ, arguing that we will have miracles among us until then. That’s not an impossible view, especially in light of the verse that follows the section I quoted, which talks about “then we shall see face to face.” Some object on grammatical grounds, while others point out that the Second Coming is nowhere else described as “the perfect” or “perfection.”

It’s been popular in our brotherhood to connect “the perfect” with “the perfect revelation,” the completion of the New Testament. The fact that the verse that talks about perfection also mentions “knowledge” and “prophecy,” two things that can be connected with the inspiration necessary to write Scripture. However, the Corinthians would have had no idea that a New Testament was being written, so this view makes the passage pretty meaningless to them.

It seems better to me to look for the answer within Corinthians itself. Consider this verse: “We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. (1 Corinthians 2:6) This verse is interesting because the word “mature” is the same word translated “perfect” or “perfection” in 1 Corinthians 13. That should be an important consideration, because it’s the only other use of this word in Corinthians. If we read the whole of the letter (always a good idea when studying a passage), we’ll see that the Corinthians had a big problem with maturity. Paul tells them: “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. (1 Corinthians 3:1-2) So it’s not surprising that he tells them that they will have these gifts until they reach maturity. That would also explain why none of the other churches seems to be as fascinated with these gifts, why none of the other letters has a similar discussion. The immature church was focused on the gifts that were meant to be in place at the beginning, not throughout the lifetime of the congregation.

The writings of the Early Church Fathers, the Christians from the first few centuries, speak of miracles in the past tense. This supports the view that the “cessation” came sometime early in the life of the church. If, as we saw last post, the external gifts of the Spirit were only given through the laying on of apostolic hands, it makes sense that the gifts would have died out, would have ceased as Paul says here.

My view is that Paul is saying that, when the church reached maturity, the gifts were no longer necessary.