Electronic Preaching

Electronic Preaching

My New Toy: An LCD Projector

Stan Cox

Preachers have for years utilized visual aids in the presentation of their lessons. Technological advances over the last 20 years have given preachers many options in the presentation of their sermons. A few short years ago, preachers were limited to slate boards and chalk, or bedsheet charts. While these were effective, they were limited and time consuming to prepare. Some preachers have and still do use slide projectors. However, this technology can be expensive and time consuming as well. You have to take pictures of your charts, develop the film, frame the slides, and color the slides with a magnifying glass and special paints. The overhead projector is much easier to utilize, but a problem arises as to how to prepare the transparencies. Some use a pen, and hand letter their charts. (I have seen some real ugly charts designed with this method). Perhaps you remember the dreaded "ThermoFax" machine. Long after the rest of the world had rejected it as outmoded technology, preachers were dealing with the hard to use and hard to protect thermal film it utilized. The computer has helped greatly with design, and inkjet printers are a wonderful tool. But, anyone who has printed up full color transparencies on their inkjet is aware of how costly the ink and transparencies are. At present, technology has presented us with a new tool (or as the members where I preach call it, a new toy!). It is the LCD Data projector, used in conjunction with the computer to project charts in a similar way to the overhead projectors with which we are so familiar. Far and away it is the most versatile and effective means of complimenting your sermon presentation with visual aids.

With new technology comes growing pains. Some preachers misuse the technology, others are incompetent in their use of it, and from time to time you have members who are resistant to anything new.

An example of an incompetent use of new technology came at the Roy Cogdill, Guy N. Woods debate in Birmingham, Alabama in November of 1957. Brother Cogdill is on record complaining about the use of an overhead projector. On page 88 of the debate (second night, Codgill's third affirmative), he said, "Well, you know he showed us a number of charts. I couldn't see half of them. I couldn't read them even as well as he could, and he couldn't read them too well last night, because it was difficult for us to see." Anyone who has suffered through a sermon where the charts were typed, or the font was too small, or the colors chosen were garish, or the handwritten chart had bad penmanship, can commiserate with brother Cogdill's frustration.

Some believe that the Data Projector has been misused. In the debate held in Louisville, KY between brothers Gene Frost and John Welch, brother Welch used the projector. This scribe was present at that debate. While the use of the projector was indeed impressive, I came away a bit unsettled at the tactics used by brother Welch in the debate. This sentiment is shared by many who were present, and in fact has led to some demanding in subsequent debates that they be held without benefit of the projector. My perception is that the use of the projector in that debate made the common practice of supplying a copy of each chart to the opponent a waste of time. Brother Frost was almost literally buried in paper, as each individual point of each chart was placed on a separate piece of paper. Too, near the end of the debate, an interactive slide with brother Welch carrying on a virtual "conversation" with brother Frost via the computer, was clearly an attempt to humiliate brother Frost, and was unbecoming behavior for brother Welch. It garnered several "laughs" from the audience, but left many sickened and saddened by such tactics. It is one thing to press inconsistencies, it is another thing to ridicule. Many believed that brother Welch had clearly crossed that line.

While there is the potential abuse of the projector, it is too versatile and effective to not be utilized. Those with sufficient means would do well to look into the purchase of this tool.

Following are some common questions asked that should help a preacher or a church decide if they should look into purchasing a data projector, what the costs might be, and how the projector could be utilized to help in the worship:

What is a Data Projector?

Simply put, a data projector is a computer monitor. It projects up on a screen or wall the exact picture you would see on the computer monitor on your desk. It is used in conjunction with some type of "presentation" software, to project a series of "slides" to accompany a sermon or class.

What about Cost?

You get what you pay for. The prices of projectors have dropped quickly, and there is no reason why this trend should not continue. (At least to a certain extent). It is still, however, expensive. The projector that we utilize cost around $3,000. Prices range from $1,800 to $20,000, depending upon the features, and the brightness of the projected image. Remember that the projector is only one part of the hardware. There must also be a computer, or VCR, or some other source for the image. Most who use a data projector do so with a laptop computer. Laptops cost between $1,200 and $2,500, and can add significantly to the cost of projection. However, a laptop is not necessary. At present, I have my office computer on a mobile cart, and use it. I unhook my monitor from the computer, and wheel the cart (minus the monitor) down to the auditorium. The cart is compact, and does not constitute an eyesore in the auditorium. It takes me approximatly 10 minutes to set up the computer each Saturday, and 10 minutes to put it back in my office each Monday morning. The cart cost $100. The upside is that after the initial outlay of money, there is no more cost. You could theoretically have 100 slides per sermon, and there is no cost for ink, transparencies, or any other material. Too, the bulbs for the projectors should last well over 10 years under normal conditions.

What Should I Look For in a Projector?

A bright image. A projector with a rating of 1,000 lumens or above should satisfy the needs of most church auditoriums. This has been the trouble with data projectors in the past. Projectors of 300 - 500 lumens were never bright enough to be used in a lighted auditorium. Those present at the Louisville debate may remember that Welch's charts looked a bit "washed out." With the brighter projectors this problem is eliminated. Another consideration would be keystone correction. Most are aware that when the screen is not hung at the same angle of the projected image, and keystone effect occurs. That is, the image is much wider at the top, and narrow at the bottom. Many data projectors have an ability to correct this effect within the projector itself. Finally, consideration should be given to how the slides will be advanced. Many projectors have an IR remote that works in conjunction with the computer, allowing for the computer to be put up to 40 feet away from the presenter. A simple button click allows for the progression of slides. Before purchasing the projector, the congregation would need to determine what their needs would be, based upon the auditorium, and computer being used.

What Kind of Software Do I Need to Have?

I'm not familiar with Macintosh software 1, but for PC's there are two very good products. The most popular is the Microsoft Power Point software. Corel also has a software product, called Presentations, that I personally use. Both products are very versatile. They allow for the utilization of templates (the use of which I would strongly encourage), clip art, slide transitions and dissolves, and various animations. For example, If a sermon has 3 major points, a chart could be designed that would allow for the points to move into the chart, from the top or bottom, one at a time, each time the remote button is clicked. This can be a very effective way of moving from one point to another in the sermon.

Do You Have Any Suggestions on How to Use the Projector?

Nice of you to ask. Yes, I do! In the short time I have been utilizing the projector I have learned some do's and don't's. The remainder of this article will allow me to share some wisdom gleaned from "trial and error." If anyone has any other questions, don't hestitate to email.

The preceding, of course, is not exhaustive. I hope that it is beneficial to at least a few. Technology is neither inherently good nor bad, but it can certainly be useful. Just an hour ago one of the elders here at West Side indicated to me that he believed the purchase of the projector was one of the best things we have done for the worship in recent memory. I said in reference to the substantial cost, "Well, I'm glad because I felt a bit of trepidation in suggesting we buy it." He answered, "Well, I'm glad too, because I felt a bit of trepidation in agreeing to it!" If I can assist anyone who is interested in buying or using one of these projectors, or if anyone has other suggestions we could use in a future article on the subject, please email me.

Following is some general information regarding the projector we purchased. It has manual focus and zoom, and does not have the keystone correction. We sacrificed some of the "bells and whistles" to get as bright a projector as possible at the price. We have been extremely satisfied with the projector.

Mfg. Part no.: LVP-S50U
Mitsubishi S50 Ultra Por LCD Proj, 1000 Lumens SVGA

Price $2,873.05
UPS 3 Day 28.64
$10 handling fee for check
Total: $2,911.69

It was purchased it from a place called:

#1 TechStore
10 Commercial Blvd. Ste. 202
Novato, CA 94949
TechStore Part no.: 480MIT213

1. A reader who is familiar with Apple Software sent in the following, "I just wanted to kindly add that PowerPoint is also available for the Mac, and AppleWorks version 6.0 also has a new presentation module. I'm not sure about Corel." Thanks Joel!

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e-mail this author at stancox@watchmanmag.com

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