Technology and Preaching

You might want to read yesterday's post on Evernote to get some context.

All this business about technology and preaching has me thinking random thoughts...

First thing is the positive stuff: because I am anal retentive hyper organized, it is a relief to have all of my 'output' in one place. This is the basis of David Allen's Getting Things Done---get all your tasks and reference material into a system you trust so it's not taking up space in your psyche. There's nothing worse than that low-level anxiety from fear you're forgetting something. GTD and my Evernote system take a load off my mind. (Yes, that means I would be even more high strung if I were less organized. Did I just blow your mind?)

I also think the way we are writing sermons is changing. Spirit works in many ways. If faithful sermons were written by a pastor in the 1950s, working in his [and only occasionally her] study while consulting a stack of commentaries, I absolutely think the Spirit can work in my clipping an article on stewardship in May for use in October. (Anyway, haven't we always done this? We just used folders and file cabinets before.)

However.

Just as all technology has a shadow side, so does this organizational system. In a busy week of ministry, it can be very tempting to do a paint-by-numbers job on the sermon using bits and pieces I've collected from random places, rather than really delving into the text. Nick Carr is right---having information at our fingertips means that we can forgo deep reflection for the sake of readily available data.

I'm not one for self-punishment over this, by the way. Weekly preaching (as opposed to monthly) has meant lowering my standards a bit... which is a gracious thing to do for yourselves, fellow perfectionists. It's meant trusting the preaching relationship more than the power of a single sermon. But I can tell when the work is getting superficial, when I feel like Bilbo Baggins, "Sort of stretched, like... butter scraped over too much bread."

As with most things, the fact that something (in this case, a certain technology) can be abused isn't an excuse not to use it. It's a discernment process.

I also think a lot about hoarding. Because Evernote makes it so easy to save stuff, it can be easy to overdo it. Do I really need to clip and save this bit about Lent in the middle of August? Can I not trust that when Lent rolls around, there will be something provided right when it is needed? Am I hoarding by saving this? [Separate but related issue: The importance of reading for its own sake, not thinking about how I might "use" it later.]

I recently read about the difference between hoarding and saving. The former is done haphazardly and with a scarcity mentality. The latter is purposeful. It seems that storing up tidbits, stories, archives of stuff, can go either way, into the realm of hoarding (I'm going to hold onto this because I'm fearful about the future), or purposeful saving (the Boy Scout motto comes to mind).

Final thought: there's something bizarre about having an archive of sermons that, at their core, are very of-the-moment pieces of writing. I believe and was taught that sermons are events. After I preach one, I tend to obsess about how it could have been better, so I often do a mental exercise in which I imagine myself flying a kite, and I cut the string and let it float away. It doesn't belong to me anymore. It's over.

This is all true, and yet... I have a record of every sermon I've ever preached. They don't really go away. Strange, no?

Preachers: how has technology changed how you write and (more deeply) how you think about what a sermon is? Sermon listeners, and writers of other stripes, chime in too.