The Apostle Paul and PowerPoint

joelby Joel Comiskey

“How did the apostle Paul win the world without PowerPoint?” These were the words I twittered last Friday, March 05, when my PowerPoint presentation failed before 500 people. I was forced to depend on the Spirit of God during my presentation, and everything worked out wonderfully.

Sometimes we depend too much on technology. I know I do. God wants us to depend on Him.

Last Friday in Guatemala, I was prepared to speak with PowerPoint, having received repeated assurances that all I had to do was plug my computer into their system, and my PowerPoint slides would instantly appear on their screens. Five minutes before my opening talk to initiate the seminar, the bewildered tech person came into the room with bad news: nothing worked. We tried nervously to remedy the situation with zero success.

God drove me to trust His guidance. I gave my talk more spontaneously in a personal way, as I depended on God to give me the words. I remember thinking to myself, “God, I trust in Your sovereign grace to lead and guide every word.” Afterwards, I was flooded with compliments. The lead pastor of the host church said, “You have to share that message tomorrow when my elders are here.”

God does want us to diligently prepare, and I do love the added benefit of PowerPoint. However, I was reminded once again that God’s anointing is far more important than human techniques and often God rearranges our circumstances, so we’ll depend on Him completely.

Cell ministry demands the same dependence. I wrote in my book, How to Lead a Great Cell Group Meeting,

Logic and technique, while necessary, can’t teach the when and how of small group dynamics. The Holy Spirit works inside the cell leader so he or she can minister from the overflow of the heart. You can know all the practices and techniques of small group dynamics and fail to meet the deep needs of the group. You need a guide-The Holy Spirit. Do yourself and your group a favor. Cease all cell preparation at least one-half hour before the cell begins (e.g., lesson, refreshment preparation, etc.). Take that time to prepare your heart before God, asking Him to fill you with the Spirit. So many unexpected things happen in the course of a normal cell group: the ringing phone, the unexpected non-Christian visitor, the forgetfulness of Susan to prepare the icebreaker, the broken guitar string, and John’s job loss. When John shares about getting fired during the ice-breaker, should you pray for him immediately, give him more opportunity to share, or wait until after the lesson (perhaps you know John has the tendency to talk a lot)? You’ll need the Spirit’s wisdom.

The best cell leaders and pastors allow God to lead them.

God has been showing me lately that I need to allow the Holy Spirit to guide every thought throughout the day. I realize that I can’t perfectly hear the voice of God every moment, but God’s grace is sufficient to overcome my own failures and shortcomings.

Let us commit ourselves afresh to allow God to have His way in our lives, families, and ministries. Let us allow Him to change our plans and guide us through the difficult times, as we depend on Him to work through us.



12 thoughts on “The Apostle Paul and PowerPoint

  • When I do a workshop for group leaders or members, I use very skeletal power points and ask someone else to do the clicking from the AV booth.

    I no longer keep a laptop with me on the podium. I fall into the trap of reading the slides to the audience instead of sharing from my heart and being led by the Spirit. I’ve watched very powerful teachers become chemically dependent on their computers and it’s taken a real toll on their ability to use their God-given gift of communication. I do not want to follow them down that rabbit hole, that’s for sure!

    Have you ever considered abandoning the power points altogether for a season to see how different (positive or negative) your communication might be?

  • More media; more retention…

    The US Air Force Academy did a study and discovered that most people forget 95% of what we hear within the first 72 hours of hearing it. When additional media (such as powerpoint) and activity (such as taking notes) is added the retention span increases.

    In our cell-based church system (at Celebrated Community Church), we meet for Sunday celebration for the twofold purpose of WORSHIP and receiving biblical INSTRUCTION. We then intentionally meet on Wednesday evenings in cells for the twofold purpose of FELLOWSHIP and EXPRESSIONS of our faith as we edify the saints and evangelize the skeptics. And, although there is nothing sacred about meeting on Wednesday evenings, we do insist on the Wednesday evening meeting because just as we come to the end of that 72 hour period, we revisit and reinforce last Sunday’s teaching through discussion and application of what we heard, seen and took notes about. We have discovered that this approach works well for keeping God’s Word fresh.

    We then repeat this entire process as we meet the following Sunday near the end of the next 72 hour period from Wednesday evening. We also discovered this works very well when the teaching is based in a series of related teachings.

    As an advocate for simplicity, I prefer the above described approach over what I experienced for many years in a traditional Southern Baptist church where one lesson is taught in Sunday School, another in the worship service and another totally unrelated activity in the small-group. Although I was involved in much activity I question what all such activity actually accomplishes being that most people forget what they hear within 72 hours after hearing it.

    Focusing on the fourfold purpose in our cell-based church system (as described above) with an appreciation of the findings of the Air Force Academy and using additional media such as powerpoint aids in retention and works very well for us.

    PS. Use what you can and can the rest 😉

    Sharing the Journey,
    Rick & Becky Diefenderfer

  • One more brief but very important note about PowerPoint presentations…

    I highly recommend a book titled, “Beyond Bullet Points: Using Microsoft PowerPoint to Create Presentations That Inform, Motivate, and Inspire”; by Cliff Atkinson; ISBN 9780735620520

    In this book the author makes a valid point that if the presentation only consists of bullet points then why waste people’s valuable time with a meeting? Why not just send it to the people and ask them to read it at their liesure? “They” say, “a picture is worth a thousands words”. And while it is true that the church has no business trying to compete with Hollywood, why not learn from the professionals? I noticed, while watching the PowerPoint presenations at the Cell Church Symposium, some of our leaders have grasped this concept while others have not.

    I completely got away from using bullet points after reading the above referenced book years ago and the response has been unbelievable!

    Again, use what you can and can the rest 😉

    Sharing the Journey,
    Rick & Becky Diefenderfer

  • The technology is such a really helpful tool to do teaching or presentations, but be prepared and know the subject to be presented is a required.

    I has already presenced some conferences that the power point did not work.

    One tip is to have a spare usb flash drive with the presentation and use another computer.

    Well… lucky your audience to have a great panelist that studied the presentation before it.

    God bless you all.


  • Thanks, Randall and Rick,

    The point of my blog and newsletter, of course, is that the ANOINTING OF GOD’S SPIRIT is far more important than PowerPoint.

    HOWEVER, I tend to agree with Rick here. IF IT’S POSSIBLE, I still believe PowerPoint helps a lot. I’ve sat in the audience listening to people speak, some with PowerPoint and some without. Those who use PowerPoint (and use it well) grab my attention much more than those who don’t use it. Granted there are exceptions (Eric Glover, lead pastor of Wellspring, is such an excellent speaker that he doesn’t need PP). Yet, during a seminar, it just seems very help to have an additional reference point–something to look at–while the person is speaking. And pictures, etc. are definitely helpful. After nearly every seminar (and I’m now on my 225th), I give evaluations. I’VE NEVER HAD anyone recommend that I DON’T use PowerPoint. Just the opposite. I remember doing a seminar with Larry Kreider in Washington and the one critique he received a couple of times was that he needed to use PowerPoint (I received other pointed critiques on different areas but I did use PowerPoint in that seminar and the people liked it).

    Randall, your point is good about an OVER-DEPENDENCE on PowerPoint. That is, if the speaker is simply READING PowerPoint, that’s a huge problem. And I’ve fallen in to that trap. I recently did an Encounter Retreat in which I had far too many words on each PowerPoint. And I was critiqued negatively for that! Next time, I’ll whittle the words down to the bare minimum. I find that when I’m UNPREPARED for a course/seminar I can over-use PowerPoint by making each slide too wordy.

    Just to say that I still love PowerPoint, but I believe I must always be ready to abandon it AND FLOW if a church is not set up for it. But I equally believe that it’s better to USE POWERPOINT, as long as I’m also totally dependent upon the Spirit of God.

  • Amen, to that comment, Joel.

    I’m still in “that” classroom, learning from the Lord the lesson that He doesn’t need me, never has/never will. I’m naturally wired up as a super-oraganisational freak who has come from a life-practice of relying on myself and my “box of tricks” for getting things done to relying totally, completely and absolutely on the Holy Spirit.

    Praise the Lord for your power-point melt down experience – a timely reminder to me that in Him we always have what we need to accomplish His will (no matter the circumstance He chooses for us).

    Bill 🙂

  • It really is important to be lead by the spirit of God. In our small groups so many times we have stopped everything to pray for someone that was hurting. The Lord ministered to them and the group in a powerful way, and it never happens the same way. It is about being lead by the spirit, and being totally prepared for the small group and any other time of presenting the work of God through the Spirit of God. The letter killeth, but the Spirit give life. That is what we are after, the life giving Spirit of God. I use the technical but I believe the SPIRITUAL.

  • This is one experience all cell leaders must learn from. Pastor Cho alluded to the fact that we must always invite the Holy Spirit in all meetings.The work in the cell meetings become alot easier if we depend on the Holy Spirit. I also thank God for his Grace upon your life to discipline yourself in training and learning.No one can ever be stranded with the Holy Spirit,he knows the end from the begining and has remained the best Navigator.

  • Grasias hermano Joel por su onestidad, a mi personalmente no me gusta el
    power point, por que siento que pierdo la relasion con los alimnos, pero eso es personal, Dios nos usa de todas maneras, quisas en esta ocasion el queria que usted les tranferira mas a sus alumnos. Bendiciones

  • Randall Neighbour said:

    Joel, you should do a follow-up blog sometime entitled, “How did Paul disciple Timothy without discipleship resources?”Yet another hot-button topic!


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