Preaching from an iPad?

I’m not accustomed to ranking pulpits in any order, let alone by their “coolness.”  But I have to admit that the PastorGear site has stumbled upon what is arguably “the coolest pulpit ever“. The iPodium comes with a place cut out for an iPad (or alternate tablet) to be placed right into the top surface.  The base models are priced beginning at $800, and the creative people at Little Mountain Productions will custom make an iPodium to fit your needs.

Okay, geeky attraction aside, would I actually preach from an iPad (whether or not it was embedded in my pulpit)? A blog post from Bret Capranica offers a list of benefits and drawbacks. Some of the benefits of preaching from an iPad include: no more paper and printers, a smaller pulpit footprint and the ease of future reference and review of all your sermons. I would say, though, that you can have your sermons and notes handy on your iPad for future use without having to preaching directly from it. Pastor Capranica observed that one drawback was that you had no option of quickly adding handwritten notes to your sermon manuscript. Another was a distracting glare (or glow) from the iPad, depending on the lighting. My worst fear, of course, would be of some glitch or battery problem that would (at least temporarily) make my iPad tablet less useful than Moses’ pre-carved tablets of stone.

What I feel more strongly about, however, is reading from a Bible app while conducting public worship. Although a book of paper and ink is no purer or holier than the pixels on a computer screen, and even though the words contained in them may be exactly alike, I know that not everyone in the congregation I serve is on the same level of familiarity and comfort with this technology.  When God’s word is being read in the hour of worship, I want all thoughts to be on the content of the message rather than on the messenger or the means. I don’t want the teens (or, more likely, 40 year old men) to be thinking, “Cool! Pastor has an iPad!” any more than I want the grandmas to be thinking, “What is that contraption he’s holding in his hands when he should be reading from the Bible?”

Was there a point in time when some were shocked that the Scripture was read from a book with pages rather than from a scroll? Possibly. But my call as pastor is not to use public worship to be a trendsetter. Rather, I am there in front of God’s people to proclaim God’s message of law and gospel, to call them to repentance and to assure them of God’s love for them in Christ. Any distraction from that message — no matter how “efficient,” “productive,” or “useful” it is — has no place in the chancel. Maybe someday (soon, if Steve Jobs has his way) we will all have our own personal handheld computers and people will look at you strangely if you read from a book. But in the meantime, I will content myself with using the iPad outside of leading public worship.

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7 Responses to Preaching from an iPad?

  1. Sallie says:

    Just have to share how I used my iPad in worship this morning – not for preaching, but for streaming live video of the service. We normally live stream our services at St. John’s, Sleepy Eye, MN (http://stjohnsse.com/live), but we do that using the camera in our church balcony which is hooked up to a computer with a wired internet connection. The snag that we hit on a annual basis happens when the heat of summer forces us to move worship to our air-conditioned church basement. We don’t have the camera/computer set up to support streaming from the basement. At least not until this week, when uStream.tv upgraded their iPad app to support live streaming. So this morning for the first time I streamed our entire service using my iPad over our wireless network. And it worked great! We had 7 viewers for most of the service. So excited by the possibilities this will allow us! Right away we will start regularly streaming Bible classes which are always held in the basement. School events will be much easier to stream. I’d say streaming ability might help a lot of congregations justify an iPad for ministry use!!

    Thanks for your blog! I’m really enjoying it.

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  6. Guy,
    I am a pastor in Virginia Beach. Last year when I got my iPad I had read this article. I’ve spent the past year looking for a good app to use for preaching notes. Most people are using Goodreader, Pages, Notes, or Keynote. I never liked any of them so a tech guy in my church is developing an app for preaching notes. I was wondering if you’d be interested in being a part of our Beta test for it. I’d send you a copy of the app next month when the coding is done for you to test out. I think you mentioned once that you don’t use it for preaching notes but I figured you would at least be the kind of person who’d like to test-drive something like this. I got an Alpha version of it last week and I think this is going to be the best thing out there for preaching with an iPad. It’s called PodiumPro.

    • revguy says:

      Steve, I would be happy to test-drive your preaching app. I know there are a lot of preachers out there looking for an app specifically made for the pulpit.

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