Monday, August 15, 2011

Modern Technology and another way I'm NOT like Jonathan Edwards

Our pastor asked me to preach this past Sunday night, as he was going out of town on vacation. As I was preparing for the message Saturday morning, I noticed a unusual pop-up error message on the system tray of my PC. It said something along the lines of “No audio available because no audio hardware has been found.” I thought that was peculiar since I listen to audio on my PC all the time. Since 99% of all computer problems are solved by rebooting, that is exactly what I did. However, this issue turned out to be one of those 1% problems and my computer never booted back up! There was nothing I could do to revive it and I instantly went into panic mode.

You see, I understand that in the old days it was actually common for men to prepare sermons without the aid of a computer. I have it on good authority that Jonathan Edwards never once touched a computer. Sadly, though, I'm not one of those people. I am completely dependent on my computer. In fact, I've gone totally paperless and preach and teach from an iPad (although I still use old-fashioned real books when I consult commentaries). Thankfully, though, I work in IT and not only did I have a work computer I could use as a backup, I even had a SATA-to-USB adapter that I got from a Computer Security Forensics class I took a couple years ago that I was able to use to transfer the contents of my old dead laptop's hard drive to my work computer. In no time, I was back in business – finished the message, converted it from Word to PDF, sent it to Dropbox, and then imported it from Dropbox to my iPad and stored it in my GoodReader iPad app. I was good to go, albeit it took up more of my Saturday than I anticipated.

This whole episode got me thinking about how Jonathan Edwards might use modern technology. I've read several accounts of his preaching style and techniques. One thing he did was write out his sermons on small 3x4 (or so) sized pieces of paper that he could hold in the palm of his hand. I think he wanted his notes to be as unobtrusive as possible. So, my guess is he would be more inclined to preach from an iPhone than an iPad, if he had the choice.

I've been reading Douglas Sweeney's recent book, Jonathan Edwards and the Ministry of the Word, and discovered another interesting fact regarding the notes Edwards used in the pulpit. Instead of writing out Bible verses in his notes, “Edwards frequently substituted long, squiggly lines, trusting his memory to provide the missing text while he was preaching.” (Sweeney, 97) Evidently, Edwards was the original “walking Bible.” Me? I write out every line of every verse I plan to use in my message. It's so easy to transfer the text from Bibleworks to Word and it frees me from sounding like a “squiggly line” when I try to quote verses from memory while I'm speaking. For me it's just something about standing in front of a crowd of people and trying to recall a verse from memory that just never goes as well as planned!

Oh, in case you were wondering, here is my text from yesterday's message, written in the style that Jonathan Edwards might have used: