The “Lex Orandi Lex Credendi” post from last week was prompted by a conversation I’d had with one of our elders here at Legacy. He had read an article from another blog by another minister within our Church of Christ stream questioning our worship practices and how they do or do not match up with what we profess to believe. Our conversation centered on this man’s observation that PowerPoint probably does more harm than good in our worship assemblies. He names PowerPoint as something that, while introduced and used with noble intentions, “might form us in unhealthy or even ugly ways.”
I’ve had the chance to read the article now, and I recommend it to you. The young man’s name is Brad East. His blog is called “Resident Theology.” Here’s the link to that particularly provocative post.
It’s long been my contention that using PowerPoint in our worship assemblies actually works to destroy what our assemblies are intended by God and our Scriptures and our church leaders to do. The constantly changing slides projected on to the huge screens demand our undivided attention. We’ve stopped looking at each other. Instead, we stare at the slides.
If a congregation of a thousand were singing “Jesus Loves Me” and the words were up on the screen, we’d all — every one of us — be staring at the screen. Not because we don’t know the words to “Jesus Loves Me.” Of course we do! But because when a screen is on, we look at it. That’s what we do. We’re conditioned by our culture to look at screens. In our homes, at work, in line at Wal-Mart, driving down the road in our cars, we stare at screens. If there’s a TV up in the corner in a restaurant, you and I won’t be looking at each other. We’ll be looking at the screen. Even if we can’t hear the sound. Even if it’s an infomercial. It’s what we do.
As a preacher, I’ve noticed that I can’t make eye contact with anybody during an invitation song. Forget it. Smile at someone? Wink at somebody? Encourage someone? Acknowledge a tough time somebody may be experiencing? Impossible! No chance! Everybody’s looking at the screen!
One of the reasons (among many, I know) that nobody comes forward anymore for confession or prayer is that we’re all too busy looking at the screens. As long as the screens are on, we’re tuned out to anything that’s really happening around us. Or within us. The screens come on and our minds and bodies go into neutral. Just like they do on the couch in front of a ballgame, in a theater in front of a movie, or in line for a ride at Six Flags. Do we honestly expect anything different just because the projected words and images happen to be sacred?
But to question the use of technology and PowerPoint in our worship assemblies is taboo. To suggest a day or a month when we don’t use the screens would be heresy. Unfortunately, our churches are spending so much money on the leading technology, the constant cry is to use it more. So, with seemingly no thought to the obvious messages it sends or the ways it shapes us as a church family, we use it more.
When’s the last time you held the song book for your wife? We don’t do that anymore. When’s the last time you handed your book to a late-arriving brother or sister in front of you? There’s no need. When’s the last time you helped a young child, maybe your young child, find the number in the book? There’s a chance you’ve never done that.
I’m not saying that going back to song books is the answer. I’m not advocating that we rip all the screens out of the walls and pawn off all the projectors. I’m not saying there are not some advantages to using PowerPoint in our assemblies (I can think of one). What I beg of our preachers and worship leaders and elders is that we consider carefully why we do what we do and that we think through the long term effects of those things.
The most encouraging part of Brad’s post is that, by the looks of his picture, he’s probably not even 30-years-old. He’s young. Wow, very young! But he recognizes that something’s wrong, something’s inconsistent and disconnected between our gospel and our technology. At least he’s thinking. Not reacting. Not mindlessly following. He’s thinking.
We sent Corey and Emily Mullins off with a prayer breakfast here Monday morning. The Mullins are spending the holidays with family in East Texas and Tennessee, and then heading out to Australia as part of the first Church of Christ missionary team to go down under in 25 years. Their commitment is to preach the gospel in Australia for at least five years. They’ve only been with us here at Legacy for about six months. But we’ve all come to love them as our own. And Monday’s “goodbye” was pretty neat.
We all told them how much we love them. We charged them with being strong and faithful. We reminded them that they are joining what our Father is already doing there in Wollengong, redeeming his creation, his people, back to him. And we recognized that we are joining them, too. We circled close around them, put our hands on them and our arms around them and each other and lifted them up to our Lord. We prayed for courage and faith and protection. And we committed them and their work to him. Our hearts and our prayers go with Corey and Emily as they head to Australia.
You can keep up with the Mullins by reading their blog here. I’ll also keep the link active on the right hand side of this page.
Got this picture from Mark Richardson this week.
Thanks, brother. I’ll see you down front Sunday!