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dale campbell: less is more

Of the two categories of kiwi preachers contributing to this blog (see the ‘contributors’ page), I am one of the younger ones with an ‘embryonic’ preaching ministry. And the embryo is growing. Here are two aspects of my preaching style which are perhaps changing the most.

No wordy slides

This is embarrassing, but I had got into a habit of effectively using my PowerPoint presentation as my preaching notes. (*hangs head in shame*) 🙂  If I was Reuben Munn and my notes consisted of only 4 key words, then that wouldn’t be so bad, but each slide was ‘pressed down, shaken together and running over’ with points, sub-point summaries… and the odd word-clue reminding me of something I wanted to say. Oh, but the funky pictures made it all OK. Yeah right!

This was all in the name of not reading from a manuscript and being able to ‘go walkabout’. But effectively I had traded reading off of a manuscript and hiding behind a pulpit for reading off and standing behind a computer screen!

PowerPoint is, of course, a very non-essential thing and if we use it we need to do so in a way that supports the Word rather than stifles it. I now use printed notes, and find my slides often just have 1 point and 1 picture that sit there keeping the main point clear while I give supporting detail.

No heady fortresses

Another less-than-wonderful tendency I used to have was to shroud each point in explanatory armour – warding off any and all possible misunderstandings or disagreement. The preaching task – communicating the truth through a personality – became lost in my self-appointed responsibility to ‘defend’ the truth (and probably myself as well!).

Oh I meant well. I would carefully outline the two extremes to avoid in each direction, and in the name of unity list the differing views that Christians could have and still have unity in Christ. And there may well be a time to do that, but not in every sermon!

My aim more recently is to swap my heady, explanation-protected points for hearty, story-supported ones. ‘Sure, do the ‘heady’ stuff through the week in your prep time, but give your heart on Sunday!’

That’s where I’m at. I hope it’s helpful. Perhaps some might want to share some embarrassing habits they’ve overcome in the comments below?

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Dale is married to Diane, father to Thomas, Associate Pastor for Youth at Northcote Baptist Church and a PL student pursuing a BAppTheol at Carey Baptist. He also blogs ( and plays/writes music.


  1. Paul Windsor says:

    These are frequent discussion areas, Dale and I find your comments helpful. Thanks

    I still haven’t heard anything to change my view on PPT. They still tend to be too busy and preachers still tend to place confidence in PPT to redeem the weaknesses of their sermon. My sense is that if a sermon cannot stand alone as effective without PPT slides, then it is not yet ready to be preached with PPT slides. “Go back and do some more prep!”

    It is not uncommon for rightly-convicted, rightly-intentioned embryonic biblical preachers to be too heavy-laden with explanation. Local churches can be hard on these ones with their critique. I am always encouraged by them. It is a great place to make a start. But you are right – there is a need to cut out some timber and add some windows!

    I know what you are saying about head and heart. I see it too – and feel the same tension in my own preaching. What I’d caution against is an approach that views our congregations needing less head, and more heart. My view would be that the best ‘heart’ comes from the best ‘head’ and that the two need to be kept together. I’d go further, much further. A focus of kiwi-made needs to be on ways to do this well. If you imagined what is happening in our NZ churches as a race between the head, the heart and the hand – the heart and the hand would be a close 1:2 – with the head a very distant third. This is changing. This must change. And you are part of that change, my friend!

    Good stuff – you got me going which is the idea!


  2. Thanks Paul,
    Good advice as always 🙂 Only time for a quick comment, Dad must give Thomas his bottle 🙂

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