Worship Thoughts part 1: PowerPoint

When you walk into a church and join in a service of worship, there are three main ways the “order of service” is communicated: moment-by-moment (such as by PowerPoint), single-service (such as by a bulletin), and full-liturgy (such as by a prayerbook).  Although the intention of the worship planners may vary, each of these three methods communicate something very different about Christian spirituality and point to three different theologies of worship.

First of all is the PowerPoint worship experience.  In this version you have nothing in your hands to look through at the coming songs, readings, and whatnot; it’s all up on the projector screen or wall or announced by a worship leader or team.  Let’s say worship is like a meal: there are different food groups which must be balanced to some reasonable extent in order to maintain a healthy diet.  In the PowerPoint approach, it’s like different ingredients are being added in one at a time.  There may be a recipe in the mind of the worship leader(s), but it’s hidden from the congregation.  Thus, even if there is an overall plan or direction to the worship service, it’s harder for the congregation to see it.  PowerPoint slides are a series of moments, and when that is the medium for communicating the flow of worship, then worship becomes a series of moments, too, rather than an organic expression of revelation, response, and relationship.

This moment-based style reflects and promotes a spirituality of spontaneity.  This has come to be the religion (or spirituality) of most charismatic Christians as well as many modern evangelicals.  They assert that Spirit-led worship cannot be planned too meticulously, and therefore they value an ingredient-by-ingredient approach to worship services.  This way, if “the spirit moves them,” they can skip a few slides to a different song or topic or whatever.  Nothing is too fixed.

Part 2 coming tomorrow!

About Fr. Brench

I'm an Anglican Priest and a sci-fi geek. Therefore, I write about liturgy & spiritual formation, theology & biblical studies, and Doctor Who. But I keep those blogs separate so I don't confuse too many people!
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2 Responses to Worship Thoughts part 1: PowerPoint

  1. John says:

    Don’t normally stop by – but was intrigued when I did.

    I am not sure how you will balance this “order” with the others on your list. But thinking about your statement, I can see that it CAN have that effect. You know that where I currently go to church, the ppt format is used in one service for (1)singing (which makes a lot of sense in keeping people together, and is not really much different than having a hymnal open to a page, except that it has less information on it (what, no harmony!), and is good for those who can’t read the small print in the hymnal), for (2) litergy (again, to keep us together)and (3), as a sermon help.

    Certainly, it can be debated that that third use can be both a help and a hindrance:

    -If I am the only one who gets distracted and drifts during a sermon – it can be a real help to remember where I went off the rails.
    -It can organize a difficult concept (good) or force me into a specific pigeonhole (maybe not so good)
    -But if used well, it can be a combination of the above two in that it gives a reference point as a starting place to personal application. In an instantaneous world of communication, with data at our fingertips, we spend too much time jumping from thought to thought, not deeply thinking about anything. A simple ppt slide with either a Scripture verse on it or a principle, can allow us to reflect about how God wants us to see our personal/corporate world within the context of the sermon.
    _I confess that I am distracted when the ppt slides move on too quickly.

    • Dcn. Brench says:

      Good point about the sermon notes/outline and the hymn/song lyrics. Those are definitely excellent uses for something like PowerPoint; I didn’t mean to disparage the technology (which I seem to have done somewhat by omitting its positive uses).

      My issue was primarily with having the overall worship plan “hidden” from the congregation, of which neither of our churches are guilty.

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