Technology can be a wonderful servant but a terrible master. Nowhere is that more true than in the area of Christian ministry, especially for the preacher preparing sermons. My aim in this article is to help preachers use technology in such a way as to get the most out of this willing servant, but also to avoid it becoming a damaging tyrant. To do that, we will honestly face some of the dangers of technology in sermon preparation; then we will outline a number of ways technology can help in sermon preparation; finally, I’ll give you a brief description of the primary ways in which I use technology in sermon preparation.
THE DANGERS OF TECHNOLOGY
Even someone writing sermons with a quill and parchment can be distracted from his task. However, the time and the effort it takes to get and read another scroll from the vault would usually be sufficient disincentive to distraction. Modern technology, however, makes it much easier to be distracted. We’re just a couple of finger movements and clicks away from Facebook, YouTube, blogs and so on. It’s so fast, so quick and so, so easy. And so damaging to deep thought. Thankfully, we can use technology to keep technology under control by using software like LeechBlock to limit Internet access.
When all the early preachers had was a Bible, they had to wrestle with the text and prayerfully seek the help of the Holy Spirit, especially in dealing with difficult passages. With the availability of the Internet and Bible software, it so much easier to ask Google than to ask God. Admittedly, books pose a similar danger, but the ease of Internet searching and the huge capacities of modern Bible software make it all the more tempting than the hard work of prayerfully striving to understand God’s Word in a dependent spirit.
Digital books and the Internet have made it so fearfully easy to simply cut and paste swathes of text that some preachers are just parroting collations of other men’s sermons and passing it off as their own. This is deception which not only damages the preacher’s relationship with God, but also undercuts his hope of God’s blessing.
The more we depend on electronic resources and the more we simply cut and paste, the more we degrade our own thinking abilities. The less thinking we do for ourselves and the more we let others do our thinking for us, the harder and harder it becomes for us to think. Yes, it’s easier just to lazily reach for the commentary or to open Bible software, but we must resist that in order to develop the muscle of our own mind, which, like all muscles, gets stronger with use.
In my 13 years of teaching seminary students, I’ve noticed that students take much fewer notes in class than they used to. One reason for this is that they think they know where they can find information on the Internet when they need it. However, there’s a big difference between knowing where to find something and knowing something. Also, by taking knowledge into our minds, information on one subject is no longer separated from another subject as it is on the Internet. Instead, the knowledge of different subjects is mingling in our minds, cross-pollinating and fertilizing, and also renewing our minds and building a godly worldview.
Many preachers will concede that there is often a devotional deficit associated with using technology to prepare sermons, compared to writing with pen and paper. I’m not sure why that should be, apart from it just takes longer to write things out and we write more carefully than we type. Somehow, using a computer can make sermon writing a more mechanical and automated process rather than a spiritual and devotional exercise.