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geoff new – the rising cost of electricity

I wonder how many sermons could still be preached this week if the national power grid failed early Sunday morning. I wonder how many preachers would be wailing and gnashing their teeth because their sermon depended upon PowerPoint, YouTube or that must-see-movie-clip? But now there is no data-projector which means there is no multi-media which means there is no way the sermon can be preached. Not really.

I wonder about the anxiety-driven arguments (or are they urban myths?) which has led to an overuse of multimedia in preaching and an utter dependence upon it. Arguments (or urban myths) such as “but young people these days only relate to screens”; “but people’s attention span today is only [7/8/10] minutes”; “people have different learning styles” and the big-daddy of them all – “we need to stay relevant.”

Relevance. If staying relevant means losing the distinctiveness of the Christian heritage and faith; count me out. I wonder if the over-reliance upon multi-media when preaching the Scriptures is exacting a terrible cost. I suppose we could say that it is the terrible and hidden cost of electricity! That cost includes preachers losing their skill in being able to communicate with their people with nothing other than Bible in hand and a heart burning from loitering on the Road to Emmaus during their preparation. And now they stand before their people and, in concert with the Spirit, lead their people to an encounter with the Risen Christ. However, I wonder if fewer and fewer Kiwi preachers are able to do that. Yet I wonder if there is an even more horrendous cost than just a loss of skill: there is a loss of confidence in the Word.

I wonder if we have become so enamoured by the use of multi-media and image-driven preaching that we have lost our trust and confidence that the Word can be proclaimed  and received aurally and for the Word to achieve the purpose for which it was sent (Isa 55:11). As Eugene Peterson says, when we approach the Word of God the first human organ to be utilised ought to be the ear, not the eye. I wonder if the overuse of multi-media is causing a famine of the Word among the people of God.

I realise that throughout church history every age has had its version of multi-media – stained glass windows, icons and artwork. However I think the difference is that they did not displace the preaching of the Scriptures or lose their Biblical distinctiveness.  I wonder if Christ was to level a criticism at preaching (if not, worship) today, whether it might be in the tradition of His message to the Seven Churches (Rev 2-3). Specifically that the church has taken on so much of the surrounding culture (spirit-of-the-age) in this regard, that it is difficult to distinguish who is who.

If you do not think that your use of multi-media when preaching is an issue, go cold-turkey and preach without it for the next month. Then gauge whether you and your people need a fix of multi-media or whether the Spirit has enjoyed more space to move.

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  1. steve says:

    of course, with no power, there would also be no microphone, or heating, or coffee!

    what! no coffee 🙂 can’t image preaching without that 🙂


  2. Mark Maffey says:

    Wouldn’t be any singing unless guitarists are able to play unplugged, or someone can remember what the piano can do, may need to dig scripture in song word books out of the archive. Might not be a bad thing! From a preaching perspective, delivery skills would come into play, the ability to paint a word picture, engaging in story-telling sermons is worth re-engaging.

    Perhaps we should have a national unplugged weekend in Support of Christchurch.

  3. John Phillips says:

    Hi Geoff,

    Ironic that we are having this conversation online. I’ve been reading John Owen and have been surprised to see him equate preaching 1 to 1 with Holy Spirit inspired prophecy – some of these variations in practice flow from differences in theology of preaching. To what degree would you agree with Owen, and what difference does it make to your preaching practice?


    1. Geoff New says:

      Hi John
      Can you expand a bit more on what you mean re “some of these variations in practice flow from differences in theology of preaching.” By variations are you referring to the use of multi-media? I just want to be sure I understand your question before I respond.

  4. Pat says:

    As the techie at our church – I sometimes pray for a power cut – some powerpoints are truly appalling!! (both in content and in design). The links between some movie clips and ‘the message’ are so tenuous. Heaven, please help us, but one of our pastors has just ‘found’ Prezi. I’m thinking we’ll need to add barf bags to our consumables list as we are all suffering severe nausea. I’ve tried to pitch the need for regular unplugged Sundays as a risk management strategy – so we could ‘do church’ in the event of no power – but no, that is not an option – not now that we’ve finally caught up with the 90’s!
    All gripes aside, I to long for more space for the Spirit to speak well through our preachers.

  5. Calvyn Jonker says:

    Geoff – you’re a lone voice in the wilderness! Great to hear that voice! You’ve stated very eloquently what I have long suspected. Less and less preachers are confident that the Word of God – through the enablement of the Spirit – will reach the hearts of those it was meant to reach! And so they fall back increasingly on “aids” to “supplement” the message.
    Our people very quickly get conditioned to needing to see a powerpoint and we have to keep their ears “fit” for ‘expository listening’ (A great book, BTW, “Expository Listening” Ken Ramey)
    Preach on, brother! There are others of us who still believe in the power of God’s Word ‘preached’ – not ‘powerpointed’

    Calvyn, Wanganui

  6. Viv Whimster says:

    Two years down the track from this blog, it is interesting to note that our young people led a service recently with a focus on sustainability. There was a huge effort to get the service liturgy onto A5 instead of A4, and in the course of the service, rows of lights were turned off, the organist moved from the organ to the piano, and the power point was stopped. Instead of a sermon (!), the readings spoke about God’s creation being good and the young people presented facts on sustainability (or lack of it) in the form of a multi-choice quiz; members of the congregation were invited to write on small cut-out worlds one way they could live more sustainably in the next week. I hope the Spirit will continue to encounter this congregation as they turn off unnecessary lights, recycle and respond in gratitude for a beautiful world. How much more would they have remembered a sermon?

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