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1992 Survey of Software for Preachers
In the old days, you could go to a Monday morning pastors' get-together and overhear comments like, "We had a great Sunday -- way up in Sunday School" or "We had two new families join yesterday." Increasingly, these days you'll listen in on an entirely new line of conversation:
"Just bought a 386 -- wow, does it move."
"I need a bigger hard disk; I'm about to fill up my 40 meg."
"The computer ate my sermon."
As more and more preachers (and other church leaders) turn to personal computers as important ministry tools, they are looking for effective programs that will aid in study and sermon preparation as well as the more mundane administrative tasks, like accounting and membership files.
That's why Preaching publishes an annual review of software for preachers. We look for programs that the average pastor will find helpful in a preaching and teaching ministry. Each program described here has been loaded onto my personal computer (I use a 386 SX, 20 mhz, 120 mg hard drive) so that I could "take it for a spin." I haven't spent hours with any one program (as much as I wanted to with a couple of them), but I have tried them out and used the manual (at least a bit -- I hate manuals). I'm an average computer user, not an expert (probably because I hate manuals) -- iso if I can use it, you probably can as well!
But Does It Do Windows?
The hottest thing on the computer horizon these days is Microsoft Windows, an operating environment that gives your computer a more graphical "look and feel" than DOS, the standard operating system used by most computers. Windows helps you operate your computer much more intuitively -- with graphic symbols and such -- along the lines of the Apple Macintosh. (A note to Mac users: Sorry, but I don't own or use a Mac, so these comments are pretty much PC oriented.)
Windows has been selling in the millions; the most recent release, Windows 3.1, has already sold over three million copies. Chances are, lots of preachers have either moved to Windows or are seriously considering it.
Once you learn to work within the Windows environment, you'll find it easier than the text-based DOS environment (which often requires memorizing lots of commands or keeping a written reference close by). Windows allows you to run (even view) multiple applications at the same time; for example, you can pull up your word processor and work on your sermon at the same time your PC is running a mailing list under your database program. Windows also allows you to link software programs together (what Microsoft calls Dynamic Data Exchange). And you can still run your old DOS-based programs under the Windows environment (though they won't look any different).
The experts say that you're better off not doing Windows unless you have a 386 SX machine or higher; you can do it with a 286, but it's very slow, and will drive you crazy. If you're still operating with a dual-floppy PC that's several years old, I'd encourage you to save your pennies and upgrade to at least a 386 SX (the prices are now down to approximately $1,000). Windows is worth it -- and it's attracting the best efforts of software companies these days. That's also true within the religious software market.
Logos Bible Study Software (Version 1.5)
One of my new favorites is Logos Research System's new Bible study product for Windows. Designed by a team of former Microsoft staffers -- they know how to do Windows -- the Logos program allows you to put multiple translations on screen simultaneously (in different windows), which can be linked or managed separately. The version I tested contained the KJV and RSV, along with Strong's Hebrew and Greek Lexicon, and the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge ($149 retail); Logos says it now has the NIV ($59), NKJV ($49), and NRSV ($49) available, with other translations in development. Two Greek texts are also available, and Hebrew texts are in preparation.
Suppose I'm doing a study on "power" in Scripture. The Concordance Search took about three seconds to find and lists 260 texts that use the word "power." You can store your list, work with it, check lexical references, print it out. I can select a verse to work with and display it on screen in multiple translations, or I can display several different passages at the same time.
The Phrase Search is a lot slower, which the manual acknowledges. I asked for references to "son of perdition" and limited my search to the New Testament. It took about three minutes for it to systematically search each New Testament chapter and find the two references in the KJV (John 17:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:3).
The program is easy to install and makes effective use of the Windows environment. Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) allows you to link Logos to your Windows-based word processor and easily transfer material from one to the other.
Any problems? The manual is pretty easy to use, with one exception; in the tutorial, there are a few references to performing certain operations without identifying where the command is to be found; for example, on page 13 you're told to "press the Set Cross Reference Button" without being told that that command is to be found in the "Edit" pull down window. Someone new to Windows is likely to do a bit of hunting unnecessarily.
This program -- like most Bible study software -- is oriented to topical Bible study, rather than in-depth study of a single passage. One promising development is an agreement between Logos and CDWord Library (an excellent collection of study resources on a compact disk), through which Logos will upgrade CDWord for Windows 3.1 and add additional reference works. The link of these two programs should provide a remarkable resource; I'm looking forward to seeing the first release from this alliance later in the year.
Logos Research Systems, Inc., is at 26 W. Route 70, Suite 270, Marlton, NJ 08053-3010 (609/983-5766 or 800/87-LOGOS).
Seedmaster for Windows (Version 1.1)
Unlike the Logos program, which was written and designed specifically for Windows, Seedmaster has the feel of a DOS program that was adapted to run under Windows (rather than designed to take advantage of the Windows environment).
The major advantage of this Bible study software, produced by White Harvest Software, Inc. (PO Box 97153, Raleigh, NC 27624, 919/870-0775) is cost. The basic program and KJV files are considered shareware -- that is, the publisher allows you to copy and distribute these files at no cost to others (or for a nominal charge to cover cost of duplication and diskettes). You may not reproduce the manual or other translation disks without permission (and a fee) to the publisher. Purchase of the Seedmaster (basic program disks, KJV text on disks, printed manual, and notification of future upgrades) is $40; you can also buy additional translations, like NIV ($30), RSV ($25), UBS Greek NT ($20), and RVA Spanish ($25).
Seedmaster is organized around three basic elements: Studies (Bible text and tools), Notepads (a text editor), and Commentary (another text editor with some variations).
Like most Bible study software, the primary tool is the "Search" procedure. You can do a word or a phrase search. One major weakness I found was under the Phrase Search: I asked for the phrase "son of God" and got 148 verses where the words "son" and "God" appear within the same verse -- not exactly what I had in mind. I returned to Logos, performed the same search, and received 47 references where "son of God" in that form appears. It did take longer to perform the more accurate search, but one of the benefits of Windows is that you can let one program perform a search in the background while you move to another program and continue your work (In my case, I switched over to Solitaire -- which comes bundled with Windows 3.1 -- but I lost. Guess that's what I get for playing cards while I'm also doing Bible study!)
One other weakness of Seedmaster is in installation. Rather than automatically creating its own program group and graphical icon in the Program Manager (to allow ease in opening a program), Seedmaster requires you to manually place its icon within an existing program group (like Windows Applications). It's not a major problem, but not something the average user is used to doing.
Based on cost alone, Seedmaster is quite a value. If you have a little more budget available, however, you'll probably be happier with a more full-featured program.
"No, I Don't Do Windows"
While Windows is the latest and most promising trend in software, the majority of Bible study and other church-related software continues to be written for DOS only. That is bound to change as more ministers and churches discover the world of Windows, but until then a lot of good programs will require you to use your MS-DOS prompt within Windows.
The Holy Scriptures (Version 1.65)
The Holy Scriptures is an excellent Bible study system produced by Christian Technologies, Inc. The program reviewed here is DOS-based, although a Windows version is expected to be released soon. I tried the program with KJV, NIV, and Greek/Hebrew modules, which occupied just over 9 meg on my hard drive.
The program features as many translation options as any software I've seen: KJV, ASV, Living Rible, Reina Valera (Spanish), and Inspired Version modules are $50 each; RSV, NRSV, NIV, and New American Bible with Revised New Testament are $70 each. (Am I the only one who's never heard of the Inspired Version before? I thought they all were!) A module with Greek/Hebrew translations is $30, or free if you purchase two or more translation modules.
I found The Holy Scriptures to be very easy to learn and simple to use; even a novice computer user will find the menu-driven program clear and intuitive. The brief manual (more like an instructions leaflet) is well-written and easy to follow. Windows users will appreciate the fact that the program can easily be run from the mouse rather than the keyboard.
As with most such programs, the "search" feature is central. This one is quick and simple, but offers some valuable options. For example, you can check for the occurrence of two words wherever they're found within the same verse; you can also look for every verse where either one of two words is found.
Using The Holy Scriptures, I found that are 47 occurrences of the word "preach" in the New Testament. The program created an index of those verses, which I could edit as desired, then download to a file for my own word processor. Within any of those verses, I could select "preach" (or any other word) and immediately call up a Greek or Hebrew transliteration, a pronunciation, and a definition from Strong's.
The Holy Scriptures is clearly among the best DOS-based Bible study programs; I'm looking forward to seeing the Windows version soon.
Christian Technologies, Inc., is at PO Box 2201, Independence, MO 64055 (800/366-8320).
PC Study Bible (Version 2.40)
Another fine Bible study system for DOS-based computing is the PC Study Bible, published by Bible Soft (22014 Seventh Ave. South, Seattle, WA 98198-6235, 206/824-0682). An updated version (3.00) -- which boasts a new look (more like a real Windows program) and several new features -- is scheduled for release September 1. Since the basic version is what's now available (and since the test version of 3.0 I used locked up my keyboard), this review will be based on Version 2.40.
PC Study Bible offers far more features than the typical Bible study software. The basic (Master Edition) system comes with KJV, NIV, Nave's Topical Bible, and Nelson's Bible Dictionary ($149.95); a slimmed-down version with your choice of KJV or NIV, plus Nave's, is also available ($69.95). The Reference Library Edition ($239.95) contains all of the Master Edition, plus Strong's Greek-Hebrew Dictionary, Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, and Englishman's Greek-Hebrew Concordance. For $49.95 each, you can add additional versions: NIV, KJV, NKJV, RSV, and the Living Bible. For this review, I used the Reference Library Edition, plus an RSV add-on module; that consumed 17 meg on my hard drive, so be sure you have plenty of storage space available.
PC Study Bible combines a Bible, concordance and reference works, and a simple word processor. It is easy to learn and use and offers a variety of helpful tools for sermon research. For example, I decided to do a search for every place in the Bible the words "wait" and "Lord" were found; it took less than thirty seconds to find the six references, from Psalm 38:15 to Jude 1:21. I copied all of them to the Notepad for storage and later reference, then decided to focus on Psalm 38:15. A simple command pulled up the verse in context; using right-left keys, I switched back and forth between KJV, NIV, and RSV translations of the same passage. (The new 3.0 version allows you to put multiple translations in on-screen windows simultaneously.)
I pulled various research material on the word "wait" from different resources within the program and saved them all to the Notepad, then transferred the material to the PC Study Bible word processor. I couldn't get the word processor to print to my HP LaserJet IIP (there is a technical support number, but it isn't open on Saturday afternoon), so I simply saved the file to disk, exited the program and entered Word Perfect, and printed the file. (It would have been an even simpler process to do within Windows; I hope the Bible Soft folks are working on a Windows version.)
If you're limited to a DOS environment, PC Study Bible is well worth considering. (A demo disk is available if you'd like to give it a look.)
ABS Reference Bible on CD-ROM
EveryWord is a basic Bible study software package, produced by the American Bible Society (1865 Broadway, New York, NY 10023), which uses only the Good News Bible (TEV), including Deutero-canonicals-Apocrypha, and retails for $249 (or $10 for a Matthew demo disk).
Since I don't remember seeing TEV on other programs, this could be an essential if that's your translation of choice. The price does seem a bit excessive compared to other packages on the market -- that may be due, in part, to the Word Perfect Jr. version bundled with it.
On the other hand, the ABS Reference Bible on CD-ROM looks like a bargain at $195. It contains seven English translations (TEV, ASB, KJV, RSV, NRSV, NASB, NKJV), plus one in Spanish (Reina Valera), Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament, Septuagint in English and Greek (two), lexicons, Abingdon Bible Dictionary, Lightfoot's Apostolic Fathers, an English Harmony of the Gospels, and a bunch of other stuff that makes this well worth the price, if you utilize CD-ROM. (If you don't, consider having a CD-ROM drive installed on your next computer or added to your current one; the prices have dropped dramatically and there is some terrific stuff available.)
Pro-Scrip (Version 03-24-92)
This is a simple program primarily valuable to pastors whose teaching ministry may involve use of audio-visuals. It is part shareware, part inexpensive modules. A color monitor is an essential for full use of this program.
The Pro-Scrip package is limited to KJV (free) and includes a basic word search program, which will find every use of up to five words (within a range of biblical books you set); the citations are tallied, then available for viewing on screen and/or saved to file (Search Word List & Tally, $30; View Verse List, $30). Another module (Call Verse, $20) provides a large letter display of requested texts (in colors you establish); another module (4-Way Read, $30) provides design alternatives for on-screen display of passages. With everything loaded, it requires about 5 meg of storage space.
Pro-Scrip Products, Inc., is located in Pipersville, PA 18947-0243 (215/766-8488).
Bible Source
Bible Source is produced by Zondervan (1415 Lake Drive SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506, 616/698-3222) as the successor to NIV-PC, which was positively reviewed in a previous installment of this annual software review. As best I can tell, the revised program offers the options of purchasing a set of NIV Study Bible Notes -- which will appear in a window alongside the NIV text -- and loading extra Bible translations (although NIV and KJV are the only ones listed; perhaps more are being added). The NIV Notes are a brief commentary on each verse; combined with the text, the effect is to create an electronic study Bible.
Bible Source is a good basic Bible study program, although it doesn't offer many of the options -- nor the attractive screen design -- of some of the other programs cited here.
But Will It Help Me Preach?
In addition to a host of Bible study programs now on the market -- which may be used as much or more by laity as by preachers -- there are several other software packages that are designed specifically to aid in the preaching task.
Illustration Finder
This brand new program is the high-tech version of those illustration books we all promised our homiletics professors we'd never use -- but do anyway. Containing just over 1,000 illustrations, Illustration Finder can access these jewels by topic (and sub-topic) or scripture. You can edit them, add new illustrations to the collection, and download them into your word processor (as an ASCII file).
Like all illustration collections, some are quite good, some are quite old, and it only takes a few good ones late on a Saturday night to make you glad you've got it!
The Illustration Finder is $159, available from Voicings Publications, PO Box 3102, Margate, NJ 08402.
Voicings also publishes another software package, SermonWare, which is simply a collection of fulltext sermons. There are two volumes ($159 each), each containing 328 sermons -- two for every Sunday in the three-year lectionary cycle, along with sixteen extra holiday sermons.
The Sermon Filer (Version 1.0)
Analogy (Version 1.0)
Software for Ministry (PO Box 1165, Yucaipa, CA 92399, 7/14-797-8445) has produced two clever little programs that are likely to find homes in the PC's of many preachers.
Sermon Filer ($50) offers a convenient way to store data about sermons; not the text itself, but information like: title, text, main topic, sub-topics, when and where preached, where filed, etc. There's also a place to add comments for each sermon, if desired (notes such as "Don't ever use this sermon again!"). It's really a simple database program that lets you store such data for later recall and output (to screen, printer, or disk). I found it easiest to download information to my Word Perfect data file on the hard drive, then call it up in the format I normally use.
Analogy is normally $30, but through October 31 it's included free to Preaching readers when they purchase Sermon Filer. Analogy is another simple database -- this time to store up to 8,500 illustrations. You can list illustrations by topic, text, or other variables; you have the option of storing the illustration text in your hard drive, or you can simply place a reference as to where it's found (such as "Bunyan, Pilgrim's Progress, p. 100") to save disk space.
Both Sermon Filer and Analogy are easy to load and use; you'll want to browse through the manuals, but you won't need them to run these menu-driven programs. The only weakness I see is that Sermon Filer is designed to hold just 1,000 sermon listings -- good for more than twenty years if you preach only once a week, but adequate for only eight years if you preach three times a week year-round (as many evangelical pastors are required to do). Perhaps a future upgrade will take care of this.
LEXEGETE, published by Tischrede Software (50 Elliot Street, Dartmouth, NH 02747, 508/994-7907) is the kind of sermon resource that would have been published in book form in years past, but now appears in electronic form. This program consists of exegetical and liturgical commentary linked to the three-year lectionary cycle. The writers are from mainline churches (heavy on Episcopal and Lutheran scholars), and as with any compilation the quality of the material varies, but much of it is quite good.
The material I reviewed included the Lukan passages from Year C. There is a separate file for each Sunday in the cycle; you use your own word processor to access files. The material for each text contains several elements: Context (the background and significance of the passage), Analysis (exegetical notes, sometimes including transliterated Greek terms with definitions, other times simply brief commentary on the verses), Strategy (discussion of methods of approaching the passage with a liturgical setting, sometimes suggesting potential homiletical themes), Hymn Suggestions, and References for further study.
To date, LEXEGETE only has material for the Gospel pericopes in Year A (Matthew), Year B (Mark), and Year C (Luke), but they will be bringing additional material into the program in the future. You can request PC versions in PC-Write, Word Perfect, or Word Star formats, and Mac versions in MacWrite or MS-Word. List price for each volume is $59.95, but Tischrede is currently offering (through December 31) a special price of just $59.95 for both A and C.
Just for Fun
All work and no play makes any preacher less effective. That's why it's helpful to have a few computer programs (other than games) that are fun to run, and -- like cherry-flavored medicine -- might even be good for you.
PC Bible Atlas
I remember one of my former pastors insisting that he believed the Bible, every word of it, "from Genesis to maps!" Here's a program he'd really love -- and so do I. Just released in April of this year by Parsons Technology (PO Box 100, Hiawatha, IA 52233-0100, 800/223- 6925), PC Bible Atlas ($69) contains geographical and historical information about the Holy Land.
Sure, it's got lots of important information and all -- but hey, I love the color maps! This program contains more than sixty maps, covering biblical events, regional economic and topographical issues, and even Paul's missionary journeys! (I always liked that map in the back of my Bible, too.) Although you can use the keyboard to navigate, this software is made for a mouse; just go to an interesting looking city (say, Sardis), click the mouse on it, and up pops a window with information about the city. Ever want to know the distance between Joppa and Jerusalem? It's as simple as running the mouse from one city to the next.
If the map (like "Bible lands") is too wide for your interest, you can zoom in on a particular segment of your choice. You can even edit or create entirely new maps. And you can print it all to your dot matrix or laser printer.
This one will come in particularly handy on those long evenings when you're bored to death with that tedious project you're working on. Come next Sunday, you'll be able to insert all kinds of fascinating detail in your sermon: "On a related thought, do you know how far it is from Joppa to Jerusalem?" Your congregation will love you for it.
A Software Sidebar
Since software programs must be available for review a couple of months before the publication date of this issue -- and because we review only from fully-functioning programs and not from demo disks or test/beta versions -- we sometimes miss some interesting software that is being released in late July or in August.
One of the programs I'd like to have seen is In His Time ($19.95) by Colonnade Technologies (11410 NE 124th St., Suite 171, Kirkland, WA 98034-4399, 206/827-4399). In His Time is the first comprehensive Christian information and resource organizer -- and it even runs under Windows! The program includes various calendars, appointment scheduling, to-do lists (I'm waiting for a program that will make me do what's already on my to-do lists!), event reminders, address/phone book, and a daily journal area. Integrated into the various elements are Scripture, Christian cartoons, personal prayer diary, and more features.
Another one we just missed this year is Quick Verse for Windows, a new Windows-based Bible study program from Parsons Technology, the publisher of PC-Bible Atlas (see article above). Parsons produces consistently outstanding software products (I even used their tax program to figure my IRS return this year -- that's trust!)'
Software is More Than Computers
The term "software" has generally come to be associated with computer programs, but the word can be more broadly defined to include other products -- including video and audio tapes.
In October, Preaching and the American Academy of Ministry will be releasing a video, Preaching from the Sermon on the Mount. The hour-long training video will feature Raymond Bailey and Craig Loscalzo of the preaching faculty at Southern Baptist Seminary, Louisville, and others. The video will cost $19.95 (plus $5 postage and handling). For more information, write: Preaching Video, 1529 Cesery Blvd., Jacksonville, FL 32211 (or call 800/288-9673).
An excellent audio package that has been released by the Institute if Evangelism of the Billy Graham Center al Wheaton College is Evangelistic Preaching. This self-study course includes a book, supplemented by excerpts of outstanding sermons on six accompanying audio tapes. The package costs $49.95; for more information contact: Extension & Continuing Education, Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL 60187-5593 (800/325-8718).
Increasingly, churches are using video, but cost can be a limiting factor. One solution may be Church Libraries' Video Co-Op (PO Box 3268, Gainesville, GA 30503, 800/741-8220), which is a network of church libraries rotating Christian videos. Each church pays $300 a year, and receives a selection of ten videos every two months -- a total of sixty a year. Mention you read about it in Preaching and they'll provide your church with a two-month free trial.
Do you know of any professional video productions for ministers? Let us hear from you; write to: Editor, Preaching, 1529 Cesery Blvd., Jacksonville. FL 32211.
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