Monday, October 27, 2008


My first full-time ministry was as a youth and Christian education pastor at a church of about 600-800 people. One of my tasks was occasionally doing the scripture reading for the day. Knowing I was to read...I would go over the assigned passage ahead of time so I wouldn't stumble over any unfamiliar words.

Alas, one Sunday brought a guest speaker and a different passage than that assigned. Normally not a problem except I had a brain freeze when it came to reading and pronouncing one word. The passage was in Mark 2 and it dealt with the parlyzed man being brought to Jesus. My translation talked about the "paralytic" and, if you pronounced it correctly then that is fine. I just couldn't get the accent right so I kept talking about the "par-ALytic." I knew in my mind it wasn't right but I couldn't think how to correct it. I sat down, embarrassed for myself and kept trying to think about the correct way to pronounce this word. A few minutes later, during verse 2 of whatever hymn we were singing, I remembered how to pronounce it. Since I also had a prayer during the service, I so badly wanted to pray for the poor "paralytic." I wanted to give thanks for God's grace to the paralytic and the healing brought to the paralytic and, if given the option I would have mentioned this healed paralytic a half dozen times.

I did not do what I wanted and learned a valuable lesson--people ARE listening. The church got about a half dozen notes with people letting me know how to correctly pronounce the word. Sigh...amazing how a blip in thinking can cause a situation remembered 25 years later.

One of the things I have noticed, though, is that many people DO mispronounce words when it isn't necessary. When reading Scripture, I have seen many readers also try to maintain eye contact with the audience and stumble over words. I have been in dozens of worship services where the singer has missed the words plainly printed in front of them. Many pastors have gotten ahead of themselves and misread the words set in front of them which then causes me to become distracted and tune out for awhile.

I understand mistakes--that is what my misread was. I don't quite understand either taking the time to go over what is to be read or, learning how to read what is in front of us correctly.

I guess at times we just get "parALyzed."

Friday, October 10, 2008

Outlines and power point

"In the old days," pastors would inquire of other pastors as to who led music or, who did the announcements or, who prayed during the service.
These days, a question often asked is: "who does your clicking?" By this, meaning, who controls the power point presentation of the pastor's outline?
Before technology, outlines were sometimes used but the visual aspects of it were not quite as evident. Someone would open a bulletin or take an insert and they would choose to follow along with the outline or not.
Nowadays, when the outline is broadcast behind the pastor or on his side or somewhere completely visible--it is impossible to ignore.

It is that visible outline I want to address here, because I have learned and am still learning interesting things about the power that outline holds.

First--people [nice "Christian" people] can get really upset if a pastor forgets to fill in a blank or, goes too fast for the blank to be filled. I have ended "wonderful messages" where the cloud of God descended only to be greeted at the door with: "you went too fast on point 2 b 1) for me to fill it in--what should I have put there?!?" Oops--my bad, so sad--because at that moment the odds of me remembering that particular point are quite slim. Not being said is: "and where was your attention when that blank went up"--no, we never say that.

Second--the outline seemingly forces the pastor to stay within time constraints, or else. There have been times when I didn't judge the time and outline correctly and I have been only half-way through the outline and......"time is up."
Choices at that time. Quickly make the sermon a "two-parter." Quickly go through the rest of the blanks. Decide to put the answers on the church website. Try to ignore what is there and face the wrath of those from the first point who will be REALLY TICKED!

Third--missspeled words and grammatical errors is the bane of my "pue sitting." I am not a totally structured person but....I do like structure and I do like things to be correct--especially if I am going to be looking at it for a few minutes in a sermon. I have not been perfect but I have learned to go through every visible presentation and look for misspelled words and grammatical errors because they will drive the structured people crazy.

Fourth--when the last blank is filled in--the message is over! People pace themselves in a service based on the blanks in the outline. When the last blank is filled in--I can be presenting the most important thing will get lost in the sound of Bibles closing, pens being capped, papers being filed and all manner of activity signaling that I might as well be done.

So...what are the options?
One--don't do an outline to begin with [I like having them because they DO keep me focused]
Two--being extra careful in going over them and, even having others do the same--we usually have at least two people go over what is presented so we can make sure it sounds right
Three--a little tip I don't always follow but...................end the message itself with one blank left. Fill in this blank after the closing prayer at which time people will be scrambling to get things put away as you head into the official close of the service.

The woman who "clicked" for me at my prior church always kidded about speeding up the sermon by clicking to the next point if I was getting bogged down. Thinking this would force me to go on, the reality was--I never looked at the monitors to see where she was compared to where I was. I suppose it might have helped those wishing to fill in blanks catch a slight snooze until I caught up.