A Belated Reflection on Projection Screens in the Liturgical Context

The use of projection screens in place of printed books or bulletins in the Divine Service has become quite prevalent in some parts of North American Lutheranism.   With this said, I am not aware of any major study that has reviewed the implications of using said devices within the liturgical context, let alone for catechetical functions outside the sanctuary.  Obviously there is nothing in the Bible that forbids them as they didn’t exist until recently.  But this does not thereby commend their use to us.  Even when things are neither commanded nor forbidden, this does not mean they are completely indifferent or that they may be used willy-nilly.  What follows below are a few reflections and cautions regarding the use of projection screens (PowerPoint, etc) in the sanctuary or for the Divine Service in general.   I certainly do not expect these reflections to be definitive, but as grist for conversation and hopefully to give pause over jumping both feet in into this novelty.

1.       Regarding the transient and ethereal nature of the projection.

Obviously the computer, projector, and monitor can be switched on and switched off.   During the progression of a service various lyrics, pictures, and information can be flashed onto the screen for varying lengths of time.   This means that reading ahead in the service is not a possibility for the worshiper and neither for the liturgist, without a hand-held version of the service.   This also means that for the parishioner who is concerned to be a Berean Christian (Acts 17:11) about the content of the service, they have no means to evaluate such prior-to or during the service until it comes into being on the screen(s).   A thing that can lose power cannot be accounted for and is easily forgotten.  Yet the effect of these things upon the heart and mind, and the soul can be lasting, even negatively with harm.  There is no test of time, no evaluation of the church catholic, no ecclesial awareness at all in what is produced from an individual or committee in one locale.   It then becomes liturgical Russian-roulette.    Furthermore, even when said content is good, meditation on the text or other item projected is also a fleeting moment.   (And what trouble there is in a power outage!)  What is given in this context is a brief appearance, reflecting what someone thought at a moment.  It is to engender an experiential response to know the spiritual realm and in that has some affinity with Gnosticizing tendencies of centuries past.

2.       Regarding the dangerous potential of weekly chosen content.

Anytime one changes format or mode of presentation, the casting aside of standardized content becomes a real possibility and even likely.   For Lutherans who subscribe to Augsburg Confession and Apology XXIV, this is not something that should be ignored or taken for granted.   Even before the advent of projection screens in Lutheran sanctuaries, we have seen wholesale rejection of the liturgical heritage of our Confessions.    The liturgy du jour produced by pastor, worship committee, praise team, or what have you becomes the standard content of the screen.  And the liturgy du jour is hardly built around a format that is Divine Service (Acts 1:1-2; Luke 22:27; Revelation 3:20; Romans 10:17), or leitourgia in the sense of Apology of the Augsburg Confession XXIV.78-83.   This article of the Confessions still stands even when Formula X is invoked by the practitioners of liturgy du jour.   While, in the LCMS, we do have resources like Lutheran Service Builder, this still does not preclude liturgical tinkering, or worse, liturgical borrowing from the Arminians, Wesleyans, and charismatics.   Formula X, on adiaphora, never condones importing heterodoxy-laden songs and practices and rites from the schwärmer.  On the contrary it assumes that adiaphora are used to avoid confessional ambiguity in a liturgical context.   In this area, novel use of said technology in the worship context may lend itself well to promoting an Arminian to charismatic understanding.   Certainly we have a history among us of importing practices that originated among non-Lutheran protestants without much prior theological reflection out of undisciplined zeal, curiosity, items being offered in a supply catalog, or even coveting.   This is worse than crossing the street without looking both ways.   The purpose of the liturgical assembly and service is to deliver the saving gifts of our crucified and risen Lord.  However, so much of what happens when the liturgy du jour occurs is an engineered experience to produce a certain mood or sensation.   The projection screen helps enable this to higher degree in many cases.  Psychological and social sciences along with propaganda devices enable not catechesis but manipulation of image and emotion.

 3.       Regarding the displacement of books and printed material.

Certainly the use of printed material is well-within the biblical orthodox tradition, whether scrolls or codices, or modern bound books.   Computers and high quality printers make this easier than ever.  There is also something reflective of the incarnation and the sacraments in their physical, earthly, tangible character (see 1 John 1:1-5; John 1:14).    Many a bookworm could muse freely on the texture, weight, smell, and even the sound of a book as pages are turned within one’s own hands, especially as books age.   One could argue that the displacement of printed books with electronic media, has furthered the shortening of the attention span in western culture and narrowed our vocabulary.   This certainly impacts our catechesis and the nurture of faith in terms of both trust and content (fides qua and fides quae).   A book or a printed bulletin may easily be taken home and referred to again and become an object of discussion beyond the initial presentation.   By comparison, the permanence of a printed Bible or Catechism or hymnal presents an opportunity for ongoing reference, discussion, study, teaching, and prayer, with or without electricity or a projector technician, while the electronic text or artwork is relatively disincarnate, and is only virtually there.   In such cases is the medium or the text itself primary?   Will we become like Christians in the medieval church who thought it benefited them to merely watch the spectacle Mass rather than receive Christ’s body and blood given for the forgiveness of sins?

4.       Regarding the visual displacement of altar and cross.

Certainly the use of projection screens at the very least means an alteration of the chancel architecture and new focal point.   Prior to projection screens, the classic Christian tradition saw the altar and cross a united focal point for quite theological reasons:   We preach Christ and Him crucified.    This is surely even more consequential than when televisions became the focal point of the American household’s family room, now with even bigger screens and louder sound systems and integrated computers.  Screens in the sanctuary (holy place) cultivate the atmosphere of the living room, concert hall, karaoke bar, and sports arena.  After demonizing television for so many years why invite it in with its ever-expanding creep of questionable and indiscriminate content.   We live in the world and are not of it– we whose citizenship is in heaven among angels, archangels and the saints who have gone before us. Connected to an internet or satellite feed, such screens open up no end trouble for heresy and idolatry (Revelation 13:15) and indiscriminate borrowing from heterodox societies and fellowships that would deny our genuine confession of the unchanging faith (Jude 3).

What has been noted above is certainly not exhaustive by any means.    Christianity is spiritual not at the expense of or negation of the physical and tangible.   We confess a Savior who came back bodily alive from the grave.  And this Savior is the eternal Word of the Father who became flesh in order to submit Himself perfectly under the law in humility and suffer as the holy sacrificial Lamb.   The Temple and its predecessor were very earthy and tangible places. Christianity does not become less tangible or more ethereal but rather universal and sacramental so that the Word who became flesh and redeemed us may go out into the whole world until the new creation is revealed.  Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith as He comes and serves us in His holy Word and Sacraments.  My prayer is that more discussion and theological consideration of this somewhat prevalent practice may take place and we pause to consider whether we ought to use such technology in the liturgical context or reserve it for other uses with thoughtful care.   Perhaps we might even consider back-tracking down the road we have gone, when our eyes were fixed on shiny new equipment the neighboring churches had.  Certainly technology can be a great and useful gift within the Church in this world, but how and where it is used can be at least as important and using the latest thing certainly need not be inevitable.  My own personal opinion is that technology can be best used in the church in the context of education or catechesis rather than in the liturgical realm.  It can also be used well in outreach and catechesis beyond the church building with streaming audio and video, podcasts, informative websites, tracts, and online education as a component of the larger realm of residential education and parish catechesis.

About Pastor John Frahm III

Rev. John A. Frahm is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Boulder Junction, WI. He has previously served parishes in Colorado and the Midwest. He is a 1998 graduate of Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada and was ordained by Dr. Ray Hartwig in 1998. He was editor of the former website Reformation Today, and has published articles in The Bride of Christ, Logia, and The Lutheran Witness magazines and was a charter member of The Augustana Ministerium and helped write study materials for the ACELC. He has also served as a circuit visitor in the LCMS and has taken an interest in civil liberties He has also been a guest on Issues Etc. In college years, he was active in Lutheran campus ministry activities and was the first president of Region 4 of Lutheran Student Fellowship, helping to organize the first LSF national gathering for college students. Pastor Frahm was born in Arlington Heights, Illinois and was raised in southern Minnesota. He is married to Jennifer, a Michigan native. Jennifer currently works as an instructional designer. Pastor Frahm believes our biblical, confessional, and liturgical heritage is an asset to be boldly and forthrightly applied and used for the mission of the church.

Comments

A Belated Reflection on Projection Screens in the Liturgical Context — 61 Comments

  1. Screens are a distraction and it causes offense to me. They offend the faithful to impress the heathen.

  2. Technology is only as good as the operator. There seems to be some average number of glitches per hour. Say there are on average two little errors like advancing to the next slide to soon or too late. That is just on average. There are some perfect and some really messed up, too. But for every perfect presentation there is also a fairly well botched one let’s say a few times per year. That seems pretty annoying. Whereas the organist, a mere human, very rarely makes a noticeable error. Maybe only once or twice a year. Due to the high impact nature of visual media, the errors can be very distracting, far worse than perhaps similar other little human mistakes which aren’t boldly projected on a giant screen and therefore disturb everyone in the service. The bigger the screen, the harder when it fails.

  3. @Mrs. Hume #3
    Very true. That is part of the problem with bringing in the screens with one pastor or committee, when the next could take them in a totally different direction. It is harder to undo something than to avoid the problem. There is a sort of risk benefit analysis that needs to go on here. Similarly with synod, we don’t want to pass structure our bylaws just for “our guys.”

  4. Screens make people lazy. I dont even like when the service is printed in the bulletin. If you can’t keep up then you arent paying attention. If I can follow along with 2 kids, you can use a hymnal.

  5. The only arguments against screens that are to be taken seriously are numbers one and four. Who cares if we’re holding a book or not? That is entirely preference-driven. And a diligent and faithful pastor could put the same liturgy on the screen week after week, so the potential for abuse is not a factor. In fact, churches that use books can just as easily incorporate non-doctrinally-pure materials as churches that use screens can use consistent doctrinally-sound materials. Points two and three are utterly irrelevant and detract from a solid position against screens, turning the focus of the discussion toward areas that simply don’t matter. And power outages is another rather trite point. While it is a potential pitfall, it’s not something that’s going to be happening on a weekly basis. I would venture to say that most places would rarely if ever experience that. It’s an exception, and you cannot argue against exceptions as though they were the norm.

    Stick with the points that are the major issues: not being able to meditate upon the various portions of the service and displacing the focal point. Points one and four–unlike points two and three–actually have a direct impact upon the Christian at prayer. These are excellent points, and these are the points that cannot be argued against, so these are the points that should be addressed most vociferously.

  6. @Rev. Josh Osbun #6

    I disagree. Point #2 is quite relevant to the discussion. Liturgy du jour is a particularly odious characteristic of CoWo. I will grant that such practice is not necessarily limited to screens, and so your argument against this point carries some weight. However, screens & projectors notwithstanding, the practitioners of liturgy du jour are not content to have a set form, but would rather tinker with the liturgy (a misnomer), changing it each week One extremely annoying facet of this tinkering is what one person calls “the sin of the week.” Each week, the confession of sins is based on whatever particular sins may have been mentioned in the readings for the days. So, for instance, if the lesson were Luke 18:9-14, the prayer would go something like this: “Lord, we have been boastful and prideful. We have committed the Sin of Comparison. Have mercy on us sinners.” Now there’s nothing wrong with that prayer, but used in corporate worship, it has a manipulative quality, and it excludes a lot of other sins, focusing on only two or three.

    Point #3 is subtle, but valid. There is no substitute for a book, where one can pore over a passage or text or hymn with all its verses. I have yet to see a hymn flashed on the screen with all the notes. Maybe I want to sing bass or tenor, or the melody is unfamiliar, but the screen precludes harmony, or reading the melody line. An attitude of study and contemplation has been short-circuited.

    As I see it the biggest issue with projectors and screens, is that the medium becomes the message, no doubt about it. Pastors spend more time finding and editing film clips and pictures than on exegesis and dividing law and gospel, and The Divine Service has become a “worship experience,” with all the attendance dangers of experience trumping doctrine. One sits in the pew (or theatre seat), waiting for the “show” to begin, and when it’s over, she blinks, and heads for the exit, having had just another worship experience du jour.

  7. Win :
    @Rev. Josh Osbun #6
    I disagree. Point #2 is quite relevant to the discussion. Liturgy du jour is a particularly odious characteristic of CoWo. I will grant that such practice is not necessarily limited to screens, and so your argument against this point carries some weight. However, screens & projectors notwithstanding, the practitioners of liturgy du jour are not content to have a set form, but would rather tinker with the liturgy (a misnomer), changing it each week One extremely annoying facet of this tinkering is what one person calls “the sin of the week.” Each week, the confession of sins is based on whatever particular sins may have been mentioned in the readings for the days. So, for instance, if the lesson were Luke 18:9-14, the prayer would go something like this: “Lord, we have been boastful and prideful. We have committed the Sin of Comparison. Have mercy on us sinners.” Now there’s nothing wrong with that prayer, but used in corporate worship, it has a manipulative quality, and it excludes a lot of other sins, focusing on only two or three.

    Point number 2 is not about liturgy du jour. It is about the possibility for screens be used to promote liturgy du jour. Since liturgy do jour can happen without a screen; and since screens can be used without resorting to liturgy du jour, point number 2 is invalidated.

    Point #3 is subtle, but valid. There is no substitute for a book, where one can pore over a passage or text or hymn with all its verses. I have yet to see a hymn flashed on the screen with all the notes. Maybe I want to sing bass or tenor, or the melody is unfamiliar, but the screen precludes harmony, or reading the melody line. An attitude of study and contemplation has been short-circuited.

    The church survived for many years without everyone having books. And they even sang harmony. Heck, there are a number of hymns that I not only have memorized, but I have multiple harmony lines memorized for them as well. Books are nice, but they are not a necessity. So again, this point also is easily invalidated.

    As I see it the biggest issue with projectors and screens, is that the medium becomes the message, no doubt about it. Pastors spend more time finding and editing film clips and pictures than on exegesis and dividing law and gospel, and The Divine Service has become a “worship experience,” with all the attendance dangers of experience trumping doctrine. One sits in the pew (or theatre seat), waiting for the “show” to begin, and when it’s over, she blinks, and heads for the exit, having had just another worship experience du jour.

    Even this is not necessarily the case. While it happens often, it is not the automatic end result of screens. And everyone with a screen will swear up and down that he is using it reverently.

    The conversation needs to stay in the points that cannot be (reasonably) argued: namely, the ones where it detracts from the prayer life of the congregation. With all of the others it is far too easy to have the conversation get sidetracked down a useless path. Keep the conversation narrowly focused on just a couple of irrefutable points.

    And to be clear, I agree with all that has been written. I just want to see stronger and more concise apologetics for this topic.

  8. I think we are all indebted to Pastor Frahm for his lucid treatment of this terrible innovation. The placement of screens in church always savors of a place of entertainment rather than that place which is the House of God and Gate of Heaven. Anything that detracts from the centrality of the altar – a profusion of banners of indifferent quality (or even obviously cheap!) is another distraction encountered all too frequently in our churches – is to be deplored. I must also confess that I find it difficult to imagine where screens could be placed in a beautiful Gothic or Romanesque church building. If placed there at all, they must stick out like a sore thumb!

  9. If you have a child a hymnal is excellent for teaching them basic reading skills at an early age by guiding their finger along the page. It is much harder to “air-point” at the words on the screen.

  10. The screen implies that the central focus of the service is drama, pedagogy, or in some cases the person of the pastor whose face is projected and stands all out of proportion to the symbolic prominence of altar, font and pulpit.

  11. @Rev. Josh Osbun #8

    I’m willing to grant your argument regarding point #2. The odiuos liturgy du jour is not dependent on a screen.

    I stand by my argument on point #3 and my McLuhanesque conclusion, however. The fact that the screen does not ALWAYS lead to the effects I outline does not in any way diminish its deleterious effects on both worship and reading. You may have mulitple harmony lines memorized, but did you use a book to learn the harmonies? I even find the one-liner hymns in LSB troublesome, with their lack of harmony. It is very difficult to harmonize some of the less familiar hymns when only the melody is printed (or flashed on a screen). With all respect to the Commission on Worship (and the action of the synodical convention), this amounts to nothing more than an LCD, dumbing-down approach to our hymnody. The argument that we got along without books for a long time would not sit too well with Herr Gutenburg, I’m afraid. Computers, screens, projectors, and technology notwithstanding, there’s no substitute for a book. One can underline, make margin notes, highlight, and make other editorial embellishments to his/her book, a practice more difficult on a computer, and, less permanent. Books don’t “crash” or disappear when the “delete” button is inadvertently pressed. I love my computer, and I process a lot of words. The computer greatly enhanced my professional career.

    Several years ago, I led an adult Bible class of about 15 people that consisted of watching a film clip of a chapter in Luke. Before showing the film, I gave the participants a handout with several questions: What did Jesus say to the pharisees? How did they respond? What was the disiples’ reaction? What lesson(s) was Jesus teaching? What did you learn about money? About sin? About forgiveness? There were about 10-12 questions in all. After watching the clip, I began to go over the questions in the handout. Hardly any of the class remembered anything about what Jesus or the Pharisees or the disciples said, or what they had learned. They had opinions about the scenery, how Jesus looked, how he spoke, how he smiled or didn’t smile, and, despite my efforts, the class devolved into “What I liked / didn’t like about the film.” I was dumbfounded (and nonplussed). A day or so later, I met with my pastor, told him what had happened, and said, “Never again.” We did not get along fine without The Book. The medium had become the message.

    In worship (and Bible study), give me my bible, my hymnbook, and my worship folder. Give me the preached word, without gimmicks, film and audio clips, and the attedant entertainment atmosphere. Take the projector and screen and put them someplace else.

    I rest my case.

  12. Commenting on the use of projection equipment during a worship service. How much more unimportant can you get?

    Most churches have hymnbooks in the pews (some even have Bibles!), giving the worshiper a choice. Unless it has changed in the last few years, the church must own enough hymn books to cover the entire congregation before it can legally use projected material.

    We are so concerned about forcing a visitor to learn to flip through multiple pages in the hymnal, just so that members can have the comfort of their hymnal in their hands. That hardly fits the goal of making visitors comfortable AND able to more easily follow and participate in worship.

    As far as tempting pastors to change the liturgy wording, let’s remember when discussing the hymnal we are talking tradition, not doctrine. Tradition does not trump doctrine, nor is the hymnal our doctrine–it represents the traditions of how we express doctrine and should be open to change, as long as it does not change doctrine.

  13. I think most of the OP’s points are a stretch.
    Point 1, you are really going to need some hard facts to back this up. I am willing to suspect that if it exists the ethereal feeling of digital media is largely generational based and/or more prevalent in those who prefer printed material.

    Point 2, somebody already pointed out this was happening before projection so I won’t spend any more time on this point.

    Point 3, I admit there are some books that I prefer to have in hard copy, but the hymnal isn’t one of them. Sorry but it just doesn’t rank up their with my Bible and Book of Concord.

    Point 4, this is easily fixed and in some of the more recently built sanctuaries it has been addressed. Also, how is looking at a screen different from looking down at a hymnal?

  14. This is silly. The main reason for screens is that it’s hard to hold a hymnal and a squirming baby or a kid pulling on your arms.

  15. @boaz #16

    It can be done. I do it alot.

    The REAL reason for sreens is to alter and get away form the bound rule: i.e. the hymnal. It is about “I want it MY way” individualism. A pastor or song leader who things he/she is the next great Bach, a desping of the “tradition” of our elders, kinda despising the wisdom of our elders for working hard to come up with something beneficial and timeless…. I could go on. In a nut shell I say it is a way to not be LC-MS anymore, a vehicle to introduce other things.

  16. @Jason #17
    In a nut shell I say it is a way to not be LC-MS anymore, a vehicle to introduce other things.

    Anyone who is so inclined is welcome “not to be LCMS anymore”. I just wish they would not try to bully the rest of us into being “not LCMS” with them!

  17. God has provided the church with constantly improving technologies. Yet I get the impression that most of the posters here believe technological progress is merely a tool of Satan. Why not get rid of microphones and electric clavinovas. Heck, let’s turn off the electricity. Surely air conditioning should not be used in the worship service. It might make the congregation too comfortable.

    I am certain you will all shudder at this. Once, our pastor, knowing he was going to be on vacation but wanting to deliver his sermon anyway, VIDEOTAPED it for playback on Sunday!! WE WATCHED IT ON A SCREEN!!!

    Thank God you guys weren’t around in the days of Luther. You would have been bashing the printing press.

    Every time I read one of these posts I think they can’t get any more inane, and every week I am proved wrong again.

  18. Get rid of the evil screens of the Devil!

    Also get rid of the Devil’s evil electric lights and that foul unnatural sound system that puts wires and electrons between the pastor’s voice and my ear! Microphones and horrible glowing orbs have bereft the once sacred alters of Christendom of all their former purity and natural loveliness!

    Such “technology” can only impede the means of grace because it makes God’s word easier to hear and see. Make people strain to hear and fumble in the dark with yellowed pages from a dusty book. Grandpa used to read the hymnal with only the light from a flint striker and a couple of lightening bugs in a jar – everyone else is just lazy and not getting the full effect!

  19. I’ve been in two congregations that have installed screens, and the main reason people favored spending money on them was for families with little kids, for whom it is easier to sing along on a screen, and for visitors trying to follow the liturgy. Of course, that was before with the blue hymnals, and the dual tracks, which was confusing for everybody. Not everything is part of a sinister cowo plot. Id rather have a campaign to remove us flags from the altar area or a good explanation for the eternal candle.

  20. @James Strawn #12

    I agree. PowerPoint sermon outlines are pedantic and unnecessary. Sermons ought to be more about stimulating my imagination than convincing my intellect.

    @Win #13

    Spot on. Video clips of Bible stories are Hollywood’s interpretation of the biblical text. It is so much more interesting to let me imagine in my mind what the text is saying rather than how an actor portrays it on screen. The “Passion of the Christ” may be good drama, but it doesn’t communicate justification by faith alone. Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments” is a classic, but did the Exodus really happen that way? Is it a good thing that I now imagine Moses looked like Charlton Heston?

    “They turn it into a place of entertainment that will refresh bored and tired consumers and pump some zest into them; or they turn it into a lecture hall on the assumption that what they know, they then do; or turn it into a platform for launching good works, shooting rockets of righteousness behind the enemy lines. Attention is subverted from what God is doing to what we are doing.”

    – Eugene Peterson “Reversed Thunder” (New York: HarperCollins, 1988), p. 141

    To me this is an issue of bad art vs. good art. My experience with PP screens used in the divine service has been the former rather than the latter. I’m open to change, if I can see an example of it used well.

  21. boaz :</strongId rather have a campaign to remove us flags from the altar area or a good explanation for the eternal candle.

    Now that I agree with. Originally an appeasement to German fears of WWI, it flies in the face of hard-core seperation of curch and state people. Now in light of a hostile secular world, I just don’t think it is a good idea to display an allegiance to the Nation. “in the world, not of it” kinda thing. I would not miss them, nor mourn their removal.

  22. I’m puzzled how objection to screens has been interpreted as seeing them as “tools of Satan,” (#19 and 20) and against the printing press, electricity, and sound systems, among other things. Those of us who have posted reasonable and logical objections to screens and projectors are painted as “inane.” Some of the anti-screenites, like myself, have voiced their preference for the printed word (thanks Gutenberg), while the screenists seem to have ignored them, painting them rather as witch-hunters and ecclesiastical Luddites.

    As the shouting has begun, it’s time for a vacation from this thread.

  23. @sue wilson #14
    Sue,
    Hymnals had darn well better be about doctrine! Liturgy comes from Scripture–which IS our doctrine! Hymns are means to teach doctrine and are based on Scripture, well, they should be based on Scripture rather than feelings. I think sometimes the faith handed down through the ages gets called “tradition” rather than what it is–faithful doctrine taught from Scripture.

    Pr. James Schulz, I find it odd that you, a pastor, think that sermons should stimulate our imaginations. There is Disney and Pixar for that. Sermons are meant to proclaim Christ and what He has done and does for us. If a little imagination and mind stimulation is involved, great, but those are not to be the focus.

    My question about all this is: IF it is possible to teach proper Lutheran doctrine in these contemporary worship ways, what then happens to people who move to a town where the only Lutheran church in town does “traditional” worship? Will they have a good enough understanding of Biblical Lutheran doctrine to “stick with” the church in spite of the worship “style”? Or will they run to the nearest non-denom, praise band church because they “feel more comfortable” with that style of worship–even if they have to give up God’s means of grace in the sacraments? The answer to that question, for me, is the litmus test for “styles” of worship.

  24. @Jean #11
    Jean:
    Here’s an old-school answer: We just need a power-point / liturgy app that can add the old “bouncing ball” to the projected hymn lyrics for you to point to so your kids can follow along more easily.

    BTW, I find projector-screen services extremely difficult to follow. The power-point slides often have backgrounds that obscure the words, or poor contrast between the print and the background, and my reading glasses are of no use with the projected words. If you’re over 45 and have vision problems, the screens simply make following the service nearly impossible. If it’s a non-liturgical service, or one that I’m unfamiliar with, I simply can’t participate.

  25. @Eric Ramer #28
    That isn’t so much a problem with screens as it is a problem with the person putting them together. Too many put together the slides on their desktop/laptop and never check how it plays out on the screen.

  26. @KathyS #26

    Pr. James Schulz, I find it odd that you, a pastor, think that sermons should stimulate our imaginations. There is Disney and Pixar for that. Sermons are meant to proclaim Christ and what He has done and does for us. If a little imagination and mind stimulation is involved, great, but those are not to be the focus.

    KathyS, I apologize that I wasn’t clear in what I was trying to say. Please forgive me. I agree with you 100% that sermons are meant to proclaim Christ and what He has done for us. I find that when it comes to preaching sermons, rather than using PowerPoint video clips and fill-in-blank texts projected on a screen, the better way is to write and speak in such a way that the proclaimed words/Word enable the listener to draw a picture in his or her own mind of how they imagine the text speaking to them. NOT that the doctrine of God’s Word is a matter of interpretation for each individual, but that each of us envisions what Jesus looked like, where Paul preached, etc.

  27. @John Rixe #27
    I love it! Even as a rallying cry it rolls off the tongue rather nicely.

    I found Rev. Peter Berg’s article in the new LW to be very insightful and his thoughts along these lines as well. His middle column on page 17 speaks to thing like screens (albeit indirectly perhaps). Hope all on here have checked it out!

  28. There is nothing new under the sun:

    “The scope of this book [Screen and Projector in Christian Education by Paul H. Janes] is more exactly shown by its subtitle: How to Use Motion Pictures and Projected Still Pictures in Worship, Study, and Recreation. The author rightly says: ‘With the addition of motion-pictures, projected still pictures, prints, photographs, models, maps, school journeys and reproduced sound, the educator has set out to stimulate a wealth of experiences to be used in the classroom to facilitate the understanding of the verbal symbols in books’ (p. 14). We should like to emphasize the words ‘in the classroom’ and add ‘in the church hall,’ because visual education has proved an invaluable aid in the work of our parish-school, Sunday-schools, young people’s societies, and the various auxiliary organizations of the congregation. Every pastor who desires to have accurate information concerning the use of visual education helps will be glad to use the information contained in this book. We cannot endorse the larger part of Chapter V, on ‘The Use of Visual Aids in Worship,’ because the doctrinal and expository sermons of the Lutheran Church will rarely require, in most cases not even permit, the use of pictures. There are other dangers connected with the indiscriminate use of visual aids, especially if the emotional element is stressed.” – Paul E. Kretzmann, book review, Concordia Theological Monthly, January 1933

  29. I think the LCMS’ new sermon aspect or focus should be titled, “God’s Word and…” We always seem to think that the spoken Word alone is not enough. That somehow, despite thousands of years of evidence to the contrary, God still needs our creativity to get His message across. Is not His Word creative in and of itself? Trust me, no one is not believing in God or His Word because the pastor does not have visual imagery or words on a screen to “assist” the spoken Word. (Begin sarcasm) “Golly gee God, I’d only believe if you could just work through some other means of grace or through some other medium other than boring old speech!” (End sarcasm) God does not sit around lamenting how unclear He must have been in His Word when people fail to believe and now He just wishes and hopes for some creative pastor to figure out ways to make it better and more understandable for those poor heathens! Yet that’s kind of what we think and assume of Him. We seem to think that what He has given us isn’t enough and we just need to add that final creative flourish for His Word to truly be effective.

    “He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how.”
    -Mark 4:27

  30. I’m an old school, young-ish guy with a growing family that likes old things and old ways.

    Our congregation has a very large retired population ( old ) and a few younger families joining. We only use the screens for announcements before service, hymn lyrics, creeds and an occasional image, usually in the background of hymns. No powerpoint slides of sermons. In fact, I can’t tell you what is on them during the readings or sermon, so they are either off or have a still image on it that I promptly ignore.

    The screens ( yes, we have more than one ) provide the elderly, some who can only stand with a walker or cane ( arthritis anyone? ), the ability to still participate without holding a 1.5 pound book. They can use the worship bulletin/folder along with the screens and make it through a service without even opening the LSB. But…This is not entirely a good thing either, because there are some valuable prayers and other resources in the LSB that may go unnoticed by some.

    For the younger families, holding a child and the LSB can be a challenge, but not impossible. As someone mentioned, I prefer to use the LSB with my children. Teach them how to read the music, the importance of following along, teach them where to look for certain resources, how to navigate it, etc. I mean, after all, we are raising future Lutherans, right? right? Do we want them to depend on a screen and a printed piece of paper and assume that’s all they need? Do they look at that brown book in the pew in front of them and wonder why don’t we ever use that thing?

    And, as a new Lutheran who tries to use the LSB for my benefit as well as my kids, I have noticed the *pace* of church is not as slow and deliberate. Our previous church, before the hymn was sung, the hymn # was announced, some time was given to find it, familiarize yourself with it and go. And at the end, a few extra seconds to close the hymn book, place back into the pew, gather yourself to the worship bulletin, prepare for the readings, etc. But now, with the hymns on the screen, the pace of the service does seem slightly accelerated.

    A compromise. Figure out how to use the screens while relying on written materials? Instead of having a small footnote at the bottom of the projected lyrics telling you what hymn # from the LSB is being sung, make it more pronounced?

    Printed worship folders that tell you where to find prayers, collects, etc in the LSB. Figure out ways to point back to our Bibles and to the the LSB ( wow, how many times can this guy use the acronym LSB ).

  31. My argument against screens lies more with the cost of the technology. Projection equipment in church like any tool can be a great asset if used correctly. But with congregations cash strapped, especially with the economy not out of the gutter yet, is the cost of providing Powerpoint slides really worth it??

  32. @Jesse #37
    For a while, I took the time each week to find a “just right” clip art illustration for the cover of the bulletin/service folder to match the theme of the day. After a while I figured it just wasn’t worth the extra time. So I channeled that time into sermon preparation. I can’t imagine the time it must take to look for that “just right” clip art and/or video clip for a sermon week in and week out….

    …But I am open to suggestions….

  33. @Rev. James Schulz #38

    Find a trusted congregant or other staff member who is gifted with insight, sensitivity and with the ability to navigate both the written and visual media. If you’d like something to illustrate what you are talking about, give them your thoughts and then ask them to bring you suggestions. They have to be willing to “let go” of it if you decide not to use any of their recommendations because, in the end, you are the only one tasked by God to bring His Word to the congregation on Sunday. How honoring, though, would it be for someone to be able to use the passions and skills God has gifted them with to be able to aid the pastor when asked?

    When it’s something like clip art or illustration for the bulletin/service folder, you may have someone in your congregation who would love to use their creativity to enhance the beauty of the folder. God has given you everything you need in your congregation and staff. Sometimes you just have to ask and find out who is out there who can help and who would love to use their gifts to the glory of God.

  34. 1. How will children know that Scripture comes via the Bible if it is only read from bulletins and/or screens? Will they think those are the only places that Scripture is found? (Maybe they’ll think announcements in the bulletins are Scripture, too?)
    2. How can we know if what is proclaimed from the pulpit is Scriptural and not out-of-context if we don’t have a Bible handy to check context and cross-references?
    3. We recently attended an LCMS congregation in a neighboring state where there were (3) screens. The hymns were up there, but we chose to use LSB, until we found out that they were only using selected verses, at which time we sang verse 2 while everyone else sang verse 4. (Haven’t we all been there?) And, yes, Win, no alto, tenor, bass. Further, there were pictures on the screens with sayings (some Scriptural, some just neat sayings) during the sermon. Every time they changed, our eyes and minds were drawn to the screen, and we lost the continuity of the message.
    P.S. We have “wrestled” five kids in services over the years, and still managed to teach them to use hymnals. What’s the big deal?

  35. @DWCasey #36

    In reference to Casey’s description… When in college, the congregation that supports campus ministry that I attended… The pastors would welcome visitors and tell them to pull the insert out of the bulletin. The bulletin was only announcements. The insert was the half page that had the readings, Introit, Gradual and Collect on it. It is one of the options from CPH (along with bulletins) This insert was the BOOKMARK. So as you went through the liturgy, when the time came for the readings, THEY WERE RIGHT THERE. No flipping around a bulletin. When you needed to go to the hymn, you did. And when you needed to come back to the liturgy, YOU WENT BACK TO THE BOOKMARK. Shockingly simple. And the two pastors spoke with love and care. They were not by the book, but added to it. Did everything in the hymnal (LW at that time) but the extras they said were GUIDANCE AND INSTRUCTION to help all follow the printed liturgy in the hymnal. I loved it, and if/when that is exactly how I wish to model worship.

    Simple yet stunningly intelligent.

  36. I visited a local “feel good” church a number of years back that had a big screen, you even got to drink coffee during church. I’m glad that even back then I thought it was corny. the bulletin at our church along with the hymns on the board up front make it pretty easy to follow along in the hymnal. As for wanting visitors to feel welcome, that’s for before and after church. You’re there to hear the word, receive forgiveness and communion. People who want a feel good experience miss the point, in my opinion. Keep your eyes on the pastor and your ears open to the word, not looking at a screen.

  37. We have two of those screeny things in church. I find them helpful, but not necessary. They are a tool that sometimes gets abused. I had not hymnal when I was young. I memorized the liturgy in English and Arabic. I teach my son the Divine Service with the hymnal because it is useful, but I could teach him without it as well. My father taught me in two languages.

  38. Screens are stupid. Don’t use them. With small children, memorize the liturgy (same one each week will help here). Teach your children the liturgy at home. (I’ve found with my two they’re following along and singing and sometimes reciting the pastor’s parts by 18 months). Give up on a hymn when the children get too squirrelly to handle them and a hymnal at once. Teach the children good hymns so that when they’re parents, they’ll be able to sing the hymn from memory and handle squirelly at the same time! Oh and put a hymnal in their hands even before they can read. They will see the music (all FOUR parts, please), they will see words. If you can’t read music, learn. Make sure your children learn too. It makes them smarter. The smarter they are the better they’ll understand theology.

    Who are the fools claiming we are calling technology devilish? They should have learned to read instead of watch cartoons and play video games. Then again, I’m typing this on an iPhone making it difficult to remain coherent. Maybe technology is the devil! Take down the screens! Throw away the dumbphones!

  39. Come to think of it, I’ve just about had it with pipe organs — pompous, expensive, blaring monstrosities. And hardly a Sunday goes by without the operator — who doesn’t come cheap, BTW — either missing a cue or stumbling through the notes at some point. It’s very distracting.

    I looked at an organ console once: Trumpet? Violin? Hey, I know what those instruments really sound like.

  40. Whether you want screens or not you should deal with the issue heartily at your voters meeting.  Why do you want to bully the rest of us?  If you are visiting from out of town and this is a huge worry just call ahead to see if we use screens.  The churches listed in http://lutheranliturgy.org are probably screenless.

  41. The point is that ANYTHING – including projection screens – can be used properly or improperly. For example, this website. It is sometimes used for good and sometimes for evil. How it is used is in the hands of the user. The technology itself is neutral.

    You decry screens, yet you are looking at one right now. What pitiful irony.

  42. @Joe #20
    Hmm. Neither of the churches I serve has a sound system. With my big mouth, it ain’t needed. (And I *have* asked, and continue to do so, from time to time.)

    🙂

    Funny how a thoughtful article engaging in *discussion* of some valid points regarding drawbacks or potential drawbacks to using a particular technology winds up with straw man, emotion-laden, knee-jerk responses.
    Those responses that actually engaged Pastor Frahm’s points are worthy of consideration and respect. Thanks to all who actually turned on their brains as they critiqued the article!

    Rich, #48–please keep red herrings out of your arguments. Right now, we are looking at screens, *not* engaged in teh Divine Service.

  43. You people are thinking too small. Imagine a church interior in which every surface was covered with OLEDS. Not only the liturgy can change every service, but so can the church art and the Bible passages we’ve painted over the sanctuary, on the altar, over the organ. At Christmas, you change the altar art to Christmas themes, i.e., a tender picture of Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, and the shepherds kneeling all about with angels up in the deep, blue night sky. It’s an image you bought in a software program. One Sunday have a huge 30 ft high altar with art covering every inch, then next sunday have nothing but a large, life-sized crucifix on a deep black background. During the sermon, as you cover the seven last words, the altar art can subtly change to support which word you’re covering, showing the pole with the sponge of vinegar. The visuals on every surface could fade or come into focus as you reach certain points in your sermon.

    Large screens, large projections, and PowerPoint are so 10 years ago, maybe 20 years ago by now. Dump the old screens, projection (we did projection when I was a kid in Sunday School class) and PowerPoint, what are you a traveling salesman? A screen is like making a giant bulletin and taping it up on the front wall. Lame, man.

    Besides, can’t you see that electronic books are steamrolling their way through our lives at this point. You’ve got to be able to tell the difference between a book and the medium you read it on. The primary way that the Word of God is promoted is through Preaching, through hearing the Word. Ephata! Through the centuries it’s been primarily read to us, mostly because we couldn’t read, but it was read out of a gospel book (only gospels in this book). It’s been read out of service books by the liturgist/celebrant, it’s been sung in the liturgy, in polyphonic music, and hymns sung by the choirboys and the congregation. Books are created electronically and the last step is to print them out onto something. Until recently we’ve used paper as the primary medium for books, today we use readers and skip that last step.

    What we want is for CPH to turn the whole LSB into an electronic book, with multimedia (if a pastor doesn’t know what the red line mean, he can click on a rubric and see a short clip that shows and tells. If you just want to hear the bass or tenor line on “I come to the garden at evening” to sing some of the verses in 4 parts, go for it. The LSB can do it; it’s electric and it’s multimedia.

    Then we want CPH to ingegrate the electronic LSB into the LSB (Lutheran Service Builder). And, that has been done to some extent. The pastor selects the liturgy in the LSB and then using the LSB puts together the full service with all readings, hymns, hymn tunes if the organist is on sabbatical, or it’s Lent and you really want to tone down the music thing, whatever. Basically turn the whole service into an LSB to be …… what …

    To be held in the hand of every worshipper just like the bulletins and hymnals are now, only with a special LC-MS Service reader, looks a lot like an iPad, or a Kindel, or whatever kind of reader will work for you holding twins in your arms. (Now, you’ve got to admit that everybody looking at a blowup on a hugh upfront screen screams of 1950s at the preCrystal Palace drive-in church. Big screens are so been there done that and tacky as hell in a beautiful church.

    But we Lutherans have always held hymn books, service books in our hands, because we are called to participate in the Liturgy.

    And what are you really afraid of? I know, the sectarian loner who gets the idea to break out of the CPH LSB/LSB and turn your church into a Billy Graham Hour of Power. But, if we make this all a CPH project and all the readers must have the CPH Service Reader software on their reading/seeing/hearing/ device, at the least you could know when the sectarian devil pulls a congreagation off the common walk (out of catholic worship).

    You may be shocked to learn that most of the electronic work to do this is done, it’s more a matter of making the software that integrates it all, but can still control the content. And, after all, we walk-together (catholic) Lutherans like very tight, but still adjustable to some extent, content control.

    I’m like you, I love geting a good feeling in church. The Word of God makes us feel things, the beautiful art and music that Lutherans have always insisted upon are lovely and to think on them makes me feel good. And at the same time, we are chained like Luther’s conscience to true doctrine and our common declaration of faith (every Sunday in the liturgy we make this common declaration with over a billion other Christians on this planet. So, when the sectarian tells you that you are the odd man out, he’s projecting (on an old drive-in movie screen) on you his separation from the common (catholic) worship of the church, and we are beautifully connected and have been for 500 years. Go peddle your loner, separatism someplace else.

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