Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Hymnals & Pew Bibles, Part 2

Very busy day today. . . . Just finished doing dishes after getting the kids to AWANA and dropping in on the Missions Committee meeting. . . . but my commitment is a post a day during the week. No guarantees on the weekend. So lets see if I've got anything left in the tank . . .

Very niiice response and discussion going on yesterday's Hymnals & Pew Bibles post. Some closet readers coming out of the wood work. Thanks for logging in! I sense some passion and conviction on these matters, which is very encouraging to me!

Let's start with this one:

Should we not purchase new pew Bibles and move toward printing or projecting all Scripture we reference in our services? (This seems to be the trend in most churches these days.) Just because we can, should we? What's at stake here?

I was just asked this question about projecting Scriptures by one of our elders. Its clear that he does not know what's at stake. Just because we can print or project all Scriptures referenced in our services doesn't mean we should! "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable" (I Cor. 6:12). I believe that what's at stake here is folk's basic knowledge and ability to use the Bible. I so want my kids to know where Isaiah 61 is and how to turn there. I want the people of Grace to have their eyes down on their open Bibles in their laps as I am preaching. I want them to look for the words and phrases and the verses I reference. I attempt to preach in such a way that folks are driven back toward the text. I want fathers in our services to point to verses as their sons and daughters sit beside them and look on. As a couple of comments mentioned, I too want folks marking up their very own Bibles, so they can come back to the text in their devotions or with their Growth Group. If we don't open and use the Bible in church, do we really think that folks are going to open and use the Bible at home?

It's not that the technology of PowerPoint projection is bad. After all, we use it for our calls to worship/responsive readings, for song lyrics and for ministry updates. There is nothing at all wrong with the technology. But in this case, what is lost in using the technology (knowledge and ability to use the Bible) is greater than what is gained (convenience, user friendliness, ease of use). Sometimes less is more.

Also, from my perspective, while there is nothing magical about the printed page, there is something a bit more artificial about the projected slide. I don't want church to feel like the board room or the movie theatre. Preaching is not entertainment.

While I'm on the topic, why don't I use PowerPoint in other ways when I preach (fill-in-the-blank outlines, quotes, cartoons, movie clips, other fun stuff)? Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing, its just not my thing. (I want to be very careful to not be critical of those who choose to use these visual tools. After all, I am the odd man out here.)

I believe that preaching is fundamentally an oral medium, not a visual medium. To "preach" means "to herald." "Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17). Hearing, not seeing. "How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard?" (Rom. 10:14) I believe that when God's Word is really preached then Christ's voice is really heard. This is the great mystery of preaching. Christ speaking by His Spirit through the preached Word. I believe that PowerPoint almost always alters/tweaks/detracts from the true and biblical oral nature of preaching. ("Why provide a printed outline?", you may ask. Answer: Because I am not a very good preacher. But I am working at it!)

I preach not because its the best means of communication for today's audience. It may not be. PowerPoint may be a more effective means of communication to today's visual learners. No, I don't preach because its the best means of communication, I preach because its the God-ordained means of communication. "I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: PREACH THE WORD; be ready in season and out of season. . . "(2 Tim. 4:1-2) The message and the medium of the Gospel is foolishness in the eyes of the world!

Sorry, those last three paragraphs are really off the point at hand. It's late.

All that to say. . . .at Grace Church, SLO, for now, we will continue to encourage folks to bring and open their Bibles. If they don't bring one, then we will urge them to grab one of the pew Bibles and follow along as we study God's Word together. To encourage and teach folks how to use their Bibles, we will not regularly (I didn't say ever) project Scripture using PowerPoint, even though it seems like an easy, convenient and hip thing to do.

So, I guess we need to purchase those pew Bibles. But what version?

I am so "old school", aren't I?


Brian Wong said...

Is the question about Bible version rhetorical, or is the purpose to spark a response on this particular post? If it is not rhetorical, I'd suggest that you use whatever version you plan to preach from the most. My pastor back home uses ESV, but use whatever you're most comfortable using, following the lead of the Spirit of course.

Pastor Tim Theule said...

That's a teaser question, for another post, Brian! Just prolonging the suspense. . . .

Steve Bowen said...

Hear, hear! Maybe I'm just "old school" too, but one of the first churches we visited in our new home, I rejected despite it being welcoming and comfortable, because during the sermon they not only projected the passages, but turned down the lights low enough so it wasn't possible to read around the text in my own Bible. I really think we should be encouraging people to follow the text, double check what's being taught and not take it all at face value.

Robbin said...

I may be late on this, but I have two things to say. Powerpoint is nice, but for everything would be too much, especially if you sit in the front (neck ache) or at the back (too far for some people - blurry). And more work for me? And it would be too easy to have mistakes. I've seen it on more than one occasion. Actually, I like the written word better. I taught a friend of mine to read the Bible in church when he had just become a Christian. He still talks about that as something so special because he was able to teach his kids how to read it, too. And we were in high school. Something as simple as that cannot be taken for granted because it does have eternal value. What a joy to see the smile on those faces when they know how to find a verse.