Ministerial Association secretary James A. Cress recently sat down with his former boss and mentor, Don Gray, to discuss how new technological advances can improve our presentation of the gospel.
Jim: Don, when I began public evangelism as a young pastor, state-of-the-art technology meant two projectors with a dissolve unit. I suspect things have changed.
Don: Yes. Cutting-edge technology everywhere is focusing on the future. What worked and was accepted in the seventies, or even in the eighties, is totally out of date today. We are just three years away from the new millennium. No other generation has ever witnessed the unbelievable developments in communications that we are experiencing. Computers and the CD-ROM, along with satellite downlinks and the Internet, have all enhanced our ability to communicate. Today you can let everyone everywhere simultaneously share the same information. For example, the recently completed Discoveries in Prophecy series was transmitted to five continents.
Jim: So do satellite broadcasts mean there is no longer need for a pastor to personally proclaim the gospel message in his own community?
Don: No. But today's savvy pastor must use tools that speak to audiences in ways they are accustomed to receiving information. For example, we need to communicate to the young and even the middle-aged by the means with which they are familiar. Slides to illustrate your sermons may have been great in the seventies and eighties, but state-of-the-art technology is used, expected, and understood today.
Jim: I wish such technology were readily available to a technologically challenged pastor like me.
Don: Pastors like you are the reason North American Division Graphics was created. Our task is to make it possible for busy pastors to use the computer to illustrate graphically what he or she wants to communicate. Any pastor with basic computer skills can now have photo graphs, texts, and charts that will rival the appearance of a 35mm slide.
Jim: I use a computer for word processing, electronic mail, and preparation of simple graphics. How do I move into this new type of computer usage?
Don: We have chosen the CD-ROM as the medium for making this material available to the busy pastor. The CD has the capacity for all the pictures, video clips, graphics, charts, and sermon texts for the entire NET '96 series.
Jim: Video clips? Are you telling me I could illustrate a sermon not just with photographs and charts, but with action videos?
Don: Computers are now capable of playing video clips with the quality of a VCR, yet with personal control of starting, stopping, and sequencing. In our new CD resource we have included all the action clips as well as the slides from NET '96. We have even included these clips in two different CD formats one for higher quality and a second for broader compatibility.
Jim: I hear you talk about all the slides, videos, and sermon scripts from the satellite series. But what if I don't want just to preach someone else's sermons? I want a product that is uniquely mine.
Don: That's the beauty of this resource. You can have high-quality pictures that are easy to use and easy to modify. You can preach the sermons just as they are, or you can rearrange the sequence, add your own material and illustrations, or modify the charts and texts for a different version of Scripture, etc. You can even translate the material into any language. You are in control. The program allows you to rearrange the pictures and video clips in any order to suit your preferences.
Jim: That sounds encouraging. But my next obvious question is: What new computer hardware must I purchase to use such a resource?
Don: All personal computers sold today are capable of running software for slide presentations, and many of these can also play video clips. If a pastor has an older computer, it is quite possible that it, too, can do a good job of playing the presentations. In general, if your computer is a 486 or faster with a CD-ROM, has at least Windows 3.1 and a minimum 16 MB memory (32 MB recommended), all you would need is a video adapter and you would be able to use it for giving presentations. Of course, you will need to connect to a video projector or large-screen TV.
Jim: That's all I need? I think my laptop meets those parameters.
Don: You might want a few extra options, such as a remote mouse so that you can control the slide show without having to be near your keyboard, some sort of backup device, such as a tape drive, and a removable cartridge hard drive. A full instructional manual comes with two CDs. The manual is thoroughly illustrated to walk you step-by-step through the process of using the materials. It is specifically written for those new to computers and computer graphics. Also, a program for viewing the slides is included on the disk so you need not purchase any other software.
Jim: What about wider use than just public evangelistic meetings. How else can I use this resource to enhance my presentations?
Don: A pastor in Las Vegas uses this material to illustrate his weekly sermons. He says his church services have come alive as he modifies the photos and text to illustrate what he wishes to communicate. He can also create his own pictures, using a scanner, and add these to his bank of available illustrations. I believe that this tool will give many pastors confidence to hold their own evangelistic meetings with up-to-date technology.
Jim: Don, I know you well enough to realize that this is just the beginning. What do you envision for the future of this resource?
Don: When you buy the original program, you will receive a discount on future programs, such as those planned by Kenneth Cox, Dwight Nelson (NET '98), and Lonnie Melashenko's upcoming series to go along with the Discover Bible Lessons.
Eventually we intend to produce a library of all the pictures we have from all of these programs on a single high-capacity DVD disc. Then you will be able to arrange 10,000 to 15,000 pictures in any order you choose. This extensive collection will provide an excellent resource from which to draw for creating new lectures, illustrating video series, etc.
Ultimately, any pastor can fully illustrate any sermon and project quality representations for the congregation. Using this new technology, we can more easily attract people to the old, old story of Jesus and His love.