Technology: iPad in the Pulpit

Greg Strand – November 25, 2013 Leave a comment

Many are beginning to use their iPads as they preach sermons without carrying a physical hard-copy of the Bible to the pulpit. Is this good or bad? Are there benefits to it? Are there detriments? What are they?

Pondering the personal and corporate use – and abuse – of technology in the church is important. How is it used? How do you control this tool or use this as a tool as opposed to it becoming another tool that controls or uses you? (Of course, I am the acting subject that would be responsible for this tool controlling or consuming me.)

In a couple of recent responses to these questions, there are guides to help one to do so, while giving a caution of not bringing a hard-copy of the Bible with you because of what that communicates.

The point of both of these articles is that using an iPad in the pulpit can be a good thing. It does not have to be considered bad. Technology is not immoral, nor is it moral. But it is not completely neutral either. Moreover, its presence and use communicates something. All of these issues must be known, both strengths and weaknesses, benefits and detriments, and they also ought to be communicated. It is a wonderful opportunity to teach and model a proper use of technology, or at least one person’s attempt to use it wisely. Availability and accessibility do not mandate usability. Nor do the potential – and real – misuses mandate no use (think Luddites).

The concern raised about not bringing an actual Bible into the pulpit as one preaches, a concern which I echo, is that it can be read and feel like a step away from the Bible, not towards it. It is true that the preacher preaching from an iPad is not stepping away from the Bible, since he uses the Bible on his iPad. The Bible is the Bible! But what he models may be something different.

I say something similar with the use of PowerPoint. It is not sinful to include the Scripture text on the PowerPoint slide. There is no biblical mandate that would prohibit including Scripture on PowerPoint slides. In fact, the more places one includes Scripture in a corporate service with God’s people the better. But if it becomes the sole use in preaching, pretty soon, that which we have made more accessible to the hearer, the Word on the screen, be it PowerPoint projection on a screen or an iPad screen, may inadvertently lead them to step away from their own hard-copy of the Bible rather than towards it.

So even though the process may not be sinful, the end result may be harmful. So after hearing a sermon and reading the Bible only on the screen, when you want to go back and find the section from the top right side of the page, how do you retrieve that from the PowerPoint slide or the on-line Bible?

I do not want to approach this dogmatically, because I think one will end up proof-texting in such a manner that will validate one’s own preferences through his hermeneutic (think eisegesis, not exegesis). Instead, I want to approach it with love and wisdom, asking, is this the best, more fruitful, most profitable way to apply and use this tool, or is there a better way, or a more excellent way?

*For more of a practical “how to,” see these two posts on preaching from an iPad and how practically to do it from Michael, my 25 year old son!

**For a broader look at the use of social media in the church, cf. EFCA Today, “The Ties That Bind: The power of social media to connect us with each other and with the gospel.”

Greg Strand

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Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

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