Sunday, May 27, 2007


This week William Willimon made the statement, "Technique is the attempt we make to work without God." That is one of those statements that at first I just nodded approvingly, wrote down and moved on. But upon reflection I still need to chew on it. Today after church Loretta and I were talking. I accidentally saved the Powerpoint presentation of my sermon to my laptop c: drive instead of to the thumbdrive. When I got to PPT! I called her and asked her to bring my laptop to church, but she wouldn't be there until second service. And so I had Ron (the terrific video guy) just raise the screen first service and I went "naked." (sans PPT) Second service, I used the powerpoint. In both services, I had a chalice of grape juice and a broken loaf of bread with me on the platform as a visual illustration of my sermon on communion (my text was I Cor 10:16)

So...Loretta and I were talking after service about the difference between the two...there seemed to be none in terms of effectiveness. (If I can realistically guage that on Sunday afternon) Very little reaction to today's sermon (more later on that!) But I mentioned that at the Festival of Homiletics this week no one had used PPT or any props or any kind of visual aid. (The one exception was Brian McLaren.)

I had already raved to my wife about how powerful the preaching was this past week at the FOH. When she asked about the lack of PPT I said that there was nothing to distract your attention from the spoken word. In fact, the speakers had kind of poo-pooed the use of PPT. She was obviously uncomfortable with that. And I commented on Will Willimon's statement. "Technique is the attempt we make to work without God." Is that true? Is the use of some visual aid a step away from allowing the Holy Spirit to work? Or is it recognizing learning styles & the visual culture in which we live and using that to "aid the HS." (Oops...there is a clue. The HS doesn't need assisting!!)

That being said, I don't think I am ready to go solo anytime soon. I think that the PPT and the presence of the bread & the wine were still good aids. The all or nothing statement by Willimon is maybe a clue to it's lack of accuracy. It presumes that technique ALWAYS has as its motivation to take all the responsibility for communicating the message onto ourselves. I think that technique can be that human part of preaching. Preaching is NOT only a divine exercise. It is also a human exercise. That is the nature of incarnation. And preaching is a VERY incarnational activity. There is the divine aspect to it. But there is also the human aspect to it that involves paying attention to how culture affects our ability to understand and our learning styles, etc. Although they were verbal, I think that is what Jesus did when he told parables. That is what he did when he used the example of the boy & his lunch at the feeding of teh 5,000.

Any thoughts on this?


gavin richardson said...

seeing that i was the guy standing behind the altar running the only visual of the whole FOH i knew i'd be distracting to some, but for many the images were powerful. young or old, we live in a world where images are important, look at the news, look at commercials... and youth are not the only ones moved by images.

image is like a parable in that it has multiple meaning versus a linear path (read "the hidden power of electronic culture" a great easy read).

i think for the FOH you find friends who affirm not using a visual medium, but look at the average age of the event. not that my last statement is everything, it is just one thing in reflection of that context

i will say, if you can only do junky preaching and visuals... focus on one and make that fabulous

Cal Habig said...

Thanks Gavin. I finally figured out that you were one of the guys behind the communion table/alter. What you presented was TERRIFIC. Your presence at the communion table was quite unfortunate because it drew attention to the two of you and away from what was being presented on the screen. I presumed then (and now) that your being so front and center was just a limitation of the facilities that you had to work with. It doesn't look like there are lots of video clips and PPT presentations used in that sanctuary!!

Thanks for you comment.

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