Look Back to the Future: Theotek Podcast #050

On this week’s episode we look back to 2015 and think about what were the biggest stories affecting church and Bible technology. We also look ahead at 2016 and try to predict what the headlines will be at the end of the new year.

Give it a listen below or watch on YouTube above. If you’re a YouTube users, please subscribe to our channel and share it with your friends that might have an interest in Church and Bible Technology.

video camera

Theotek Podcast #029: Moving Picture Show

We talked about using video in church on episode 29 of the Theotek Podcast. When is it a good idea and how can we do a better job.

Here’s the video from YouTube that you can watch and enjoy.

Below, please help us by posting your comments on great times to use video in church. For example, do you use it as a tool for announcements, sermon illustrations, for backgrounds to lyrics or text or as a way to present a theme?

video camera
Credit: jsawkins on Flickr

We also talked gave our audience some tips on how to do a better job.

Listen to the audio version below.

Theotek Podcast #023: Church Computer Buying Guide

The Microsoft Surface 3 came out and a couple of our team members got one. Rick Mansfield and I talk about our impressions of Microsoft’s new tablet and how it works as a Bible study tool.

The Surface 3 discussions led us to talking about what kind of computer we recommend users buy for their church. We take another stab at it here with recommendations for a computer for the sanctuary, the pastor and the church secretary.

Subscribe to the Theotek Podcast

Listen to the episode #023 of the Theotek Podcast below or watch the YouTube version of our Google Hangout on Air above. We record the podcast every Friday morning at 9:00 a.m. ET using Google Hangouts on Air. You can get notices of them by subscribing to our YouTube channel or the blog email newsletter. You can also get it on Stitcher Radio or on iTunes.

A Computer for the Church Secretary

In one sense almost any computer will do. The key for a church secretary is being able to work on office documents, print things like bulletins and newsletters, work on the books and handle all the tasks he or she will need to do. So here’s our specific recommendations.

Kevin Purcell

lenovo thinkserver ts140

Most people already know Windows, so find a decent desktop system since they don’t cost as much. If someone at the church can work on desktop systems, install a hard drive and install an operating system, then get the Lenovo ThinkServier TS140 and then put in a fast 256GB SSD. Buy a copy of Windows. This makes for a speedy system that can do dual display with two DisplayPort out ports on the back and 6 USB ports on back and two on front. The reason I’m recommending a server is because it’s fast, powerful and costs just $260 on Amazon. Install this 240GB Kingston SSD for under $90 and buy a copy of Windows 7 for under $70 for a total of $420. All you need is a keyboard, mouse and monitor which she likely already has.

Rick Mansfield


The 21-inch iMac makes a great option for the Mac lover manning the church office. It starts at just over $1,000 and handles everything the average office user would need.

Wes Allen

The MacBook Air plugged into an external monitor and keyboard/mouse can serve as a desktop that’s also portable. It handles all the office work well too. Don’t use one unless you get a larger screen monitor too.

Antoine Wright


Surprise! Antoine suggests no PC at all. Instead he suggests the secretary using an iPad. That’s a novel choice and we’ll let you ask him directly how in the world he thinks she can really get all of her work done on a 10-inch display that doesn’t run anything more than apps. She’ll likely need a Bluetooth keyboard to go with it and may want a display plus the adapter to plug it in or the Apple TV hooked up so she can do screen mirroring to a larger screen.

A Computer for the Pastor

Pastors need something that portable so they can take it home, on the road or put it on their desk. They also need a little more power since many pastors will want to promote their church with video, pictures and maybe audio of their sermons. That’s why all three of our team suggests a laptop/two-in-one computer.

Kevin Purcell

Since my friends will likely push the MacBooks, I’ll suggest the Microsoft Surface Pro 3. It’s an awesome computer. Wait and MS will likely release a new version (Surface Pro 4 possibly) in the coming months. It’s a surprising fast, powerful and easy to use system that doubles as a tablet and laptop.


Add the excellent Microsoft Dock and hook up a monitor, keyboard and mouse and you get a desktop too for a few hundred dollars more.

The Surface Pro 3 costs $799 for the low-end model, but I recommend getting one with at least 256GB of storage for $1,299.

Rick Mansfield

Rick also suggests the MacBook Air for the Apple fans or the Surface Pro 3 for the Windows users.

Wes Allen

The new MacBook will fit well, but might not come with enough power. That’s why a MacBook Pro will always fit.

Antoine Wright

Antoine also likes the Surface Pro 3 for the Pastor. That’s the trifecta!

A Computer for the Sanctuary

The sanctuary computer needs more power than either the pastor or the secretary. According to Memory Tree of Austin such a  system will need at least two video outputs and a dedicated graphics card will help keep it from stalling while playing video and presenting graphics. Some people also use the same computer to record audio and video and stream the worship service online. I recommend getting two if you do all that. Hook up one to the sound system and record the audio and stream the video using that computer. Display the lyrics using software like MediaShout or ProPresenter, which handles lyrics, Bible verses, graphics, video and audio files.

Kevin Purcell

The Lenovo recommended for the secretary will also work in the sanctuary. Install a good video card to get the two outputs for driving the screen and the monitor connected for the operator.

Wes Allen

macbook air

Wes uses the MacBook Air, which starts at $899 for the 11-inch machine. It’s a great system for churches with simpler needs. Wes uses open source church presentation software so it doesn’t require a lot of horsepower. I think most people will prefer the 13-inch system because it gives them more room for sowing the presentation user-interface. He suggests adding an external hard drive for media storage.

Rick Mansfield

The 27-inch iMac brings plenty of power and screen real-estate for running presentations and doing multi-tasking like recording or streaming the service while presenting and controlling the sound board.

Antoine Wright

When we asked Antoine what he suggests for the worship computer, he said, “None.” He suggested only hooking up a Chromecast ($35) or a Tronsmart Miracast dongle (under $30 and connects via HDMI) to a projector. Of course he meant that the church should use either the pastor’s or secretary’s tablet to cast or wirelessly display their content over the projector.

mike elgan from twit

What a Tech Podcaster Can Teach Pastors about Leadership

Mike Elgan, the news director for Twit.tv wrote an article about the lessons he’s learned about leadership while serving as the anchor of This Week In Tech’s daily tech news podcast. I read the article and decided that his lessons apply to pastors too. Here’s what a tech podcaster can teach pastors about leadership in the local church.

mike elgan from twit
Mike Elgan’s on the left.

I recommend that you read Mike’s article over at Baseline, a business site that focuses on technology and its use in business. He shares his six lessons about leadership. Let me start by quoting them below and then we’ll talk about how his lessons as the news director at Twit can apply to leadership in the local church.

  1. Embrace rejection.
  2. Let people own their own ideas and information.
  3. Never stop evolving.
  4. Embrace checklists.
  5. Start with the best partner you can.
  6. Serve the customers you want, not just the ones you’ve got.

That’s an interesting list and already most pastors can probably already see how they apply to our role as leaders in the church.

Embrace Rejection in Leadership

image credit: Tilemahos Efthimiadis on Flickr

Pastors face a lot of rejection. Lots of people will reject a pastor including…

  • People we talk to about the Gospel – they’ll reject Jesus’ gift of grace.
  • Disciples reject taking the next step in their growth – change is hard and changing my sinful habits is the hardest kind of change imaginable. Some of the best church members don’t want to grow in their discipleship because it means they need to stop sinning in one way or it means they need to start taking risks to follow Jesus and our leadership.
  • Churches will reject potential pastors – you’re not educated enough, smart enough, old, young, skinny, or attractive enough. You’re not married to the right kind of spouse. The experience you have doesn’t match what they want. You get the idea.
  • Visitors reject us – someone visits one Sunday or many Sundays, but then they leave. You preach too long or your music’s not right. The seats are too firm or the temperature’s too cold/hot.
  • Members reject us – I won’t do that job or I won’t come back because of what you or someone else said/did.

It’s easy to become gun-shy and avoid rejection by avoiding the risk. We close in and quit trying as hard. You can never avoid all rejection risk, but you can reduce it. As a result, we stop growing and so do the people in our churches.

Let People Own Their Stuff

give credit where credit is due
image credit: Nisha A on Flickr

Another way to say this is, “Give credit where credit is due.” However, it’s more than that. I can take credit for things and often deserve it. However, as my Church Grown prof said in Seminary, “You get what you praise!” Sometimes I should give away the praise because giving it to another person means they will feel encouraged and keep giving. Others will see the praise they got and subconsciously or consciously want it and follow their good example.

In other circumstances, we owe other people credit. I remember hearing about a pastor who preached a series of sermons. The congregation loved it and it was a hit. However, one person felt like they’d heard or read it somewhere. After a Google search, the person found that most of the content wasn’t original. The ideas, the stories and even the themes came from someone else. The pastor didn’t get fired over it, but he lost some respect.

Give credit. Most people don’t mind a pastor borrowing ideas to present a good message, but they do mind dishonesty. A simple statement like, “I read a book and it inspired me. I want to share what James MacDonald said in this book, so the next four weeks we’re going to look at how he handled marriage in that book.”

Don’t do this every week, but it’s okay to borrow occasionally. If you’re doing it more than once out of every six or seven sermons or Bible studies, then you’re probably being lazy.

Never Stop Evolving

Early in my ministry I read a lot more than I do today. Let me correct that. I read more books than I do now. Today, I find more helpful stuff online in short stints. However, I still read a lot … every day!

Don’t quit growing and changing. We’re not talking about changing ethical standards or moral beliefs. Keep the fundamentals fundamental. But evolve in how you present, lead, relate and reach out. Grow more knowledgable, stronger, more humble and more confident.

The best way I know of to do this is with other people. I try to surround myself with smart, talented, creative people. This includes people in ministry and outside. I can learn from a tech journalist and a ministry mentor.

Speaking of mentors, do you have one? Good ones are hard to find. Find one. They’re worth so much, if they will love and invest in your life.

Partner with Great People

This one’s out-of-order compared to the list from Mike Elgan. It continues the previous lesson in leadership. People help you grow and putting talented, godly, creative, humble and energetic people around you will help you grow. If you praise them, they will join you in your efforts.

A great book about working with people comes from John Maxwell, leadership guru and former pastor. Be a People Person talks about how to work with, get the most out of and inspire people. Grab a copy and read it, mark it up, find someone to talk with about it, and learn what he’s saying. It’s a great book on partnering with great people.

Embrace Checklists

image credit: Mufidah Kassalias on Flickr

I’m not good at his and need to learn this lesson myself. My checklists usually stay in my email inbox, the Reminders app on my iPhone, iPad or Mac, or just in my mind. I’ve not done a good job of organizing them into one daily checklist. I need to.

Mike Elgan says he learned this lesson when he took lessons on how to fly. Pilots live by checklists. They do a preflight checklist that they have to methodically follow or someone could die.

So, here’s a few areas I need to start making such lists.

  • Sermon prep – there’s a list of tasks a good preacher should do for every message and I often forget them, like praying before I start or testing my message for faith-building language instead making people feel guilty until they obey.
  • Ministry planning – too many times I’ve showed up at a meeting about a particular project with only a mental checklist. Recently I made a checklist for such a meeting and it was one of the most productive I’ve led in a months.
  • Family time – bring the checklist home and set goals for spending the right time with family doing the right things.

Serve the Customers You Want, Not Just the Ones You Have

We don’t serve customers, but we do serve people. The concept’s the same even if the terms don’t match.

How do we “serve the customers” that we want in ministry? If you do all of your teaching at a surface, overly simple level, then your people will remain simplistic and never grow. Instead dig deep and take them along for the ride. Show people the meaning of the text and why you believe it means that. Then show them how they can find that same meaning without you. Empower people to do hermeneutics even if they don’t know what that is.

Expect things of people. Don’t assume the worst of church people. Assume they will give you the best, and then expect it of them. People will surprise us.

You get the idea. Imagine the kind of church members you wish you had, and then start treating the ones you have like they are those kinds of people. They will surprise you and become stronger, more committed, more knowledgeable and more faithful. And you might find some that already were, but never could prove it because no one expected it of them.

get connected online

Online Church?

Church today takes on many forms, from the traditional collection of members meeting regularly in a building to house churches that gather in a living room or even churches in coffee shops, restaurants or other public places. But can a church go online and still keep the biblical requirements for church?

Paul Alan Clifford from Trinity Digital Media talks about what it takes to properly put together an online campus in a recent episode of his Tech No Babel show. Watch it below and then see what the Bible requires for a group to claim the status of church listed after the video.

6 Requirements for Church

It’s an interesting idea and a traditional church pastor like me struggles with the idea. How can you do church without a building and a regularly Sunday morning worship serviced where people gather in one place to sing, pray and listen to preaching or teaching from the Bible? That’s not the list the Bible offers for the requirements for church.

There’s no one passage that neatly lists them, but here’s what I think the Bible says a church should look like.

  1. Pastoral Leadership – Ephesians 4 talks about how God gave the church equipping gifts, including pastors and teachers. Without a pastor, we don’t have a church. Some churches lose their pastor, but they look for a replacement and often call an interim until they find one. An online church must have an equipping pastor.
  2. Community – In Hebrews 10:25 we read that we should not forsake the assembling of the community. Can a group of people engage in community if they can’t see one another face-to-face? I have a group of friends that I’ve never met in person, but they’re still important to me. I’ve shared private prayer needs with them. I laugh when they tell jokes. I feel the pain of their struggles. We are friends and fellow believers. We share community. Why can’t people do that online for one another in a church?
  3. Disciple-making – Jesus commanded all people to go and make disciples in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Any online church that’s not effectively teaching people to observe all that Jesus commanded them isn’t a church.
  4. Evangelism – As a part of making disciples we’re told to “do the work of the evangelist” in 2 Timothy 4:5 meaning we as believers must share the Gospel with others. Without evangelism you don’t have church.
  5. Ministering – Some people call this service or care-giving. Whatever you call it, its loving others and meeting their needs. The early church appointed deacons for this purpose. Without people sharing and meeting the needs of others, you don’t have a church. Deacons organize this, but everyone’s responsible to minister to the other members of the church and their community outside the church. This, more than possibly anything else, grew the local Jerusalem church in the early days of its history in Acts.
  6. Worship – This seems like the easiest one to fulfill online. After all most online churches stream “worship services” to their online community. Are the viewers really worshipping? Viewing a stream seems quite passive. If the online participants worship, then they can claim to have a church. If not, then it’s not. I’ve watched streamed worship services and it feels like watching a TV program, not actively participating in a church. It seems like the easiest element to fulfill, but might be the hardest.
get connected online
Media Credit: Sharefaith.com

The Answer

As I look over the list above, one thing stands out; many churches fail to measure up to the Biblical requirements of church whether online or offline. How many churches fail to make disciples, effectively share the Gospel, never really meet needs and don’t sincerely worship. Instead they’re performing a series of habitual activities that resemble worship but without any power?

If a congregation doesn’t include these six things, then it’s not a church. If it does, then who cares whether all the people meet in the same building or online.

what is a church
Media Credit: Sharefaith.com

How to Do Online Church

As Paul Alan Clifford says in the episode of Tech No Babel posted above, a dedicated pastor can help the online campus achieve the status of church. That’s not possible for some churches. Adding new staff for this group may not make sense financially. However, they could add the duties to someone already on staff. This only works if the person prioritizes the online members. Their needs can’t tumble to the bottom of the to-do list every day.

Getting a volunteer whose mature and needs some experience is a better solution for an online church pastor. Maybe a church has a person whose got the gifts and skills to become an effective pastor, but not the training or theological education. Here’s a great way to let them learn on the job as an apprentice of the church’s pastor. Serve as the online pastor and meet the needs of the online attendees by calling on the online members through digital means. Pray for them and even teach them through a YouTube channel or video chat.

Second, setup a way for these members to enjoy community. Use Google Hangouts or Skype. Find some way for them to get together regularly for online fellowship, prayer and even group Bible study online. If possible, schedule some in-person time for those living close to one another.

Finally, encourage them to minister to people’s online needs for the sake of the kingdom. Tech savvy members can volunteer to help people with tech needs. This is the digital version of raking leaves for a senior citizen. In the process they’re sharing the love of Christ in a tangible way. They can also share prayer needs in a private moderated online forum of some kind like a Facebook Group or a Google Community on Google+.

Who Should Attend Online Church

Despite all we’ve said, I don’t think its a good idea for a person to make an online church their exclusive church. People need a hug sometimes. So who should attend one of these online churches? Here’s a few. Add your own to comments below.

  • Shut-ins – train them to use the tools and even get them a computer or tablet to make it possible.
  • Temporary attendees – people away at college, in the hospital for an extended time, or shut-in temporarily make great candidates for an online campus.
  • Potential members – someone might want to get involved with a church, but they don’t want to commit yet. They could find the church’s website and get involved in a non-threatening way. This person may be extremely shy and threatened by interaction with people they don’t know.
  • Inmates – Paul had a great ministry to people in prison since he found himself in one a few times. A church could do the same digitally.
  • Sunday workers – many people work on Sundays and can’t attend our services. Get them involved online so they can still grow until their job changes.

5 Tips for Preaching with PowerPoint – #1 and 2

Ten years ago when I finished my Doctor of Ministry Dissertation, Using Multimedia in Expository Preaching, many churches already used projection systems even back then to display song lyrics, announcements, photo slide shows of church activities and for preaching with PowerPoint. In 2015 the projector and screen shows up in most church worship spaces, even in churches that still call them a “sanctuary.”

As someone whose preached for over ten years using multimedia to display outlines, illustrations and Bible verses, let me share 5 tips for preaching with PowerPoint to help pastors and multimedia teams communicate God’s work in a powerful, interesting and even entertaining way.

Stop Preaching with PowerPoint

Get rid of PowerPoint and use worship presentation software like MediaShout.

Confession time! I used the term PowerPoint in the title of this article as a generic word. When a person needs to wipe their nose they ask for a Kleenex, even though we don’t necessary want one branded Kleenex. A tissue is a Kleenex to most people even if it’s from another brand.

Using a multimedia presentation too is using “PowerPoint” even though we may not use Microsoft’s presentation program.

Preachers should stop preaching with PowerPoint, Keynote or any other of the PowerPoint alternatives. Instead invest in a great church presentation or worship presentation program.

At my church we use MediaShout. It’s powerful and with that power comes some complexity. However, it does a great job of displaying lyrics, pictures, video and Bible verses.

Other worship presentation software programs include the following:

We won’t make recommendations as to which one you should buy. Instead, check your budget and the features against the following list. If a worship software program doesn’t include the following features, then don’t get it.

  • Display lyrics, Bible verses, and text
  • Import PowerPoint files since guest speakers usually show up with a flash drive with a PowerPoint presentation
  • Show video files, DVDs and if possible YouTube videos from within the program
  • Display websites
  • Edit slides, including the program’s content like Bible verses and lyrics
  • Loop pre-service slides for announcements
  • Handle countdowns
  • Text formatting
  • Background editing so you can display video, images and solid colors

In addition to the above features, many programs will also let the user edit their presentation on their home or office computer and sync it to the sanctuary computer. Some run on both PC and Mac. A few offer remote control apps that run on an iPhone, Android phone, iPad or tablet.

These make creating worship presentations so much easier than PowerPoint. Also, they force the user to avoid the ugly PowerPoint themes and templates. Most worship attendees can spot an ugly PowerPoint template quickly and these templates turn people off. People see so many bad PowerPoint presentations that this distracts them from worship instead of enhancing it.

If you must use PowerPoint, invest in a good worship plug-in. I know of two. MediaShout Bridge (see above) turns PowerPoint into a simple form of MediaShout within PowerPoint with lyric and Bible verse import. It also inserts multimedia easily.

Another PowerPoint plugin comes from the folks at ShareFaith (see video above). Their ShareFaith Presenter comes free for those who subscribe to the service, which includes a library of media to download and use in worship like backgrounds, stock photos, PowerPoint themes or templates, and

Don’t Show Your Full Outline


Too many preachers ask their churches to install an expensive projection system, computer and they might even install one of the great worship presentation programs listed above. Then the preacher loads up their outline on slides and displays these outlines with lots of text that looks like the slide above instead of like the one below.

Instead of a boring outlines the previous one above, show a slide like this to bring the point to life quickly.

Here’s a few rules to follow:

  • Never shore more than 10 words per slide
  • Use meaningful phrases of 5-10 words at most
  • Leave off the Roman Numerals or any other numbered or lettered lists
  • Include a picture on each slide that illustrates the idea
  • Only show one idea or sermon point per slide

Long sentences and numbered outlines look boring. A single screen with one sermon point or idea per screen focuses hearers on the current idea. Use a photo to illustrate the idea when possible.

Where do we get these photos?

Start by searching Google using Google’s image search and their creative commons filter. Here’s how to do it. Head over to their image search site. Enter the idea to search. For example, if I’m illustrating a point that says “God honors humble servants” then you could search for awards, medals or trophies to focus on the idea of honoring. Or search the word humble. Once the search shows the results, click on Search tools just below the search box at the right end.

Click on the usage rights drop down and select one of the last two items.
Click on the Usage rights drop down and select Labelled for noncommercial reuse with modification or Labelled for noncommercial reuse.

A new toolbar appears just above the search results. Filter the search using the Usage rights drop down. Pick one of the last two items on the list. The first one reads, Labelled for noncommercial reuse with modification or Labelled for noncommercial reuse. Pick the former if you plan to change it or edit it in some way. Pick the latter if you don’t. Make sure to put attribution on the slide somewhere. It doesn’t need to be very big. Put it in small font in the button corner with a link to the site where you found the image.

Use one of the other filter drop downs to filter images by size, color and more. I always pick the size filter choosing pictures that are larger than 1024×768.

Look for pictures at a few other sources, like Wikipedia or Flickr. In both cases, look for creative commons licensed photos and give credit on the slide. See the above slide with trophies. Notice the link in the lower right corner.

getty images
Getty Images offers a better quality of image, but they’re expensive.

A third place to find pictures is subscription or pay services like ShareFaith or Getty Images. You’ll find a better quality of images, but also a more limited selection and they’ll cost some money. ShareFaith charges a subscription while Getty lets users buy credits to use to download images.

Finally, when you do use text, proofread it. Look at the terrible pure text slide at the beginning of this section above. It’s got a couple of typos. Can you find them?

Part 2 of Tips for Preaching with PowerPoint Coming Soon …

The next post will come soon, with more of our 5 tips. Can you guess what the other three will say? Comment below and tell me what your tips include.