Since Gutenberg first applied moveable type to ink and paper, preachers have been among the most avid bibliophiles. For most preachers, the only limits to the number of books we buy are budget and available space on the bookshelf (and even the latter won’t stop us for long).
So when early proponents of computers began ranting about a “paperless society” and reducing entire libraries to the size of a compact disk, some book lovers (preachers included) feared the imminent demise of traditional publishing.
By now it is clear that — at least for many years to come — such fears are misplaced. Anyone who works in a computerized office knows that “paperless” is hardly an accurate description for what goes on; indeed, the speed of computers and their enormous storage capacities have encouraged us to develop more and more ways to produce information — usually on paper.
Rather than replace books, we preachers are discovering that the personal computer is simply an additional tool to enhance our productivity and enable us to perform tasks that might have otherwise been too time-consuming.
And preachers are discovering computers in a big way. At this spring’s National Conference on Preaching, more than half the registrants indicated they are now using a computer in their ministry. I’ve encountered computer users among pastors of churches running less than 100 to those with memberships of 5,000 and more.
In fact, the computer may be more valuable for the pastor of a small church than for the mega-church pastor. Because staff and budget are far more limited in the smaller church, it is crucial to maximize use of time and resources. Effective use of a personal computer can do just that, as more and more preachers are discovering.
Although most church-based computers were originally acquired for the more mundane, administrative tasks of the church office — like membership and financial records, mass mailings, and so on — increasingly computers are making their way into the pastor’s study as a tool for sermon study and preparation.
One of the clear leaders in the field of software for preachers is NavPress. Their Infosearch series is a remarkable product that is a model for the kinds of software that will benefit preachers.
Infosearch is actually a series of three databases — think of a database as an electronic filing cabinet — which are indexed and cross-referenced for quick access. The three include:
– “Sermon Illustrations” is just what the name suggests — a collection of 2,000 illustrations which can be searched by subject or scripture reference and can be viewed on screen, printed, or imported into your own word processor. Enter a category (or select one from a list provided), and the illustration will appear in a window on-screen, along with other potential categories for that illustration, and suggested scripture references. It will run through all illustrations in that category, or just those you haven’t already viewed, whichever you prefer.
It’s not perfect — I wish some of the illustrations contained more detail and the original sources of the stories — but that’s a fairly small drawback to an excellent concept. Beyond the original 2,000 contained in the basic program (priced at $69.00), you can subscribe to a quarterly service (at $17.95 per quarter) that will provide an additional 75 illustrations with each installment.
– “Current Thoughts & Trends” is a service which provides abstracts (brief summaries) of articles from more than 40 Christian publications. Indexed by subject and publication, you can review recent articles on “Church Growth” or just check abstracts from Christian Century. Each abstract contains bibliographic information – helpful for those who want to consult the full article.
Your initial package ($69.00) contains a full year of abstracts (about 1,200), plus the next quarterly update. You can subscribe to future updates ($17.95 per quarter), which would seem to be an essential with this particular program.
– “The Hymnal for Worship and Celebration” may be of more interest to your minister of music, but will be of interest to anyone who plans the worship service. This program contains the complete text of Word, Inc.’s hymnal (which carries the same name); after calling up a hymn text, it will even play the melody through your computer. Hymns are referenced by topics and scripture references, which might be of interest for those who like to use hymns as sermon illustrations. The Hymnal software sells for $89.00; you can also purchase all three Info-search programs as a single package for $195.00. A demonstration kit is available for $4.95.
There are plenty of “Bible on disk” programs running around. In fact, you can pick up a set of Bible text disks for $2.50 or $3.00 apiece through “shareware” ads in most computer magazines. But if all you are going to have on PC is the text, it is frankly not much of an advantage (if any) over simply skipping the computer altogether and using your regular study Bible.
The advantage of computer software, however, is that special features can be added that enhance your study. Wordsearch, also a NavPress product, is an example. When you are looking for particular words or phrases from scripture — from specific books or from the entire Bible — Wordsearch will find them for you in seconds. In fact, you can search up to nine words, phrases, word roots, verses or passages simultaneously.
I was intrigued to see that, if you’ve got a color monitor, the words of Jesus appear in red (some traditions carry over from printed page to computer screen, I suppose). Once you’ve found the texts you want, you can view on-screen, print, or import to your own word processor.
You can specify which translation you prefer to use (NIV, KJV, NKJV, NRSV, or Living) when you purchase; each is priced at $79.00, or you can get a package containing both NIV and KJV with “Bridge” for $129.00. The “Bridge” program is available separately for $29.00, and looks like a valuable addition, since it allows you to jump into Wordsearch directly from your word processor with a single keystroke (without being forced to exit one program and enter the second). If you will be using Wordsearch for sermon preparation, the “Bridge” program seems like an essential.
NavPress has recently added two new modules to make Wordsearch even more valuable. One is based on the Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, and allows you to access Greek or Hebrew roots, along with definitions. I was particularly impressed with the ability to link definitions, following a string to trace connections of words and meanings. This will be an enormously helpful study aid for pastors who prepare expository sermons.
The other new module contains the complete Nave’s Topical Bible, along with some 500 additional listings meant to update the original publication. It’s relatively easy to use and will offer countless sermon ideas and insights just browsing.
For information on Infosearch or Wordsearch, you can contact NavPress Software at (800) 366-7788, or write them at PO Box 6000, Colorado Springs, CO 80934.
Word Advanced Study System 3.0
A program with some similarities to Wordsearch is a new program by WordSoft (the software division of Word Publishing). The Word Advanced Study System 3.0 is identified as the first fully graphic Bible program. Through use of a windowing format, the program allows you to compare several Bible references on-screen simultaneously. In fact, it is possible to view up to ten different Bible translations at the same time (though only one Bible version is included with the package; the system can access prior Bible text programs you already own — an excellent and helpful feature).
The Word Advanced Study System 3.0 allows you to search Bible texts for specific words (or parts of words) or phrases, and allows you to add your own study notes. Word-Soft plans to add other products in the future, including an atlas, dictionaries, a topical Bible, and other study aids.
The program does require that your computer have a graphics card installed (the Word Study System 2.0 is a text-based system and doesn’t require a graphics card). System 3.0 will retail for $99.99 (with one Bible version) when it is officially released in September, or $74.99 without a Bible version. System 2.0 will sell for $59.99 (with a Bible version) or $34.99 without. Translations available from Word-Soft will include KJV, NKJV, or NRSV (or you can use any text program you already own).
For information, contact Word Publishing at (800) 299-9673, or write them at: 5221 N. O’Connor Boulevard, Irving, TX 75030.
CD Word Library
Although this program was featured in last year’s review of software for preachers, it is good enough to warrant a reminder.
CD Word Library literally is a library on a compact disc. It requires a CD-ROM drive to use it, but the prices on those are down to $500 or so and are well worth the investment. The program is on CD-ROM because of the enormous volume of material it contains: the text of the Greek New Testament, two lexicons, four English translations of the Bible, three commentaries, two Bible dictionaries, plus an assortment of tools to aid in Bible study and sermon preparation.
The price is $595, a substantial but worthwhile investment. To get the full impact, you’ll want to order their demo tape (for $10) and see for yourself. You can call CD Word Library at (214) 770-2414, or write them at: 5420 LBJ Freeway, LB7, Dallas, TX 75240.
If you’re like me, language study was one of the least enjoyable parts of college and seminary. (In fact, I made a deal with my Hebrew professor: if he’d pass me, I’d agree not to take any more classes from him. It was a good arrangement for both of us.)
In studying Greek, I found that flash cards were the best way to learn vocabulary. So I was delighted to see that even a sophisticated software program found my old method the best way to learn (or review) New Testament Greek.
GreekTools is a remarkable tool that should be standard issue for every seminarian (and for ministers who didn’t study Greek in school or who would like an occasional review). The program allows you to create your own stack of “flash cards” on screen, drawn from a lexicon of some 1150 commonly used New Testament words.
The program also includes helps with conjugation and declension. It even contains a database of more than 1200 Greek manuscripts to aid in performing more sophisticated textual study. A copy of John Dobson’s book, Learn New Testament Greek, is included with the package.
At $49, GreekTools is a software bargain that will find a valued place in the computer library of many preachers. It can be ordered from Parson’s Technology, P.O. Box 3120, Cedar Rapids, IA 52406, or by calling them at (800) 223-6925.
While not a program that the average pastor will use regularly, ScriptureFonts is a fascinating product that allows you to display and print Hebrew and Greek words on your personal computer, using Word Perfect 5.0 or 5.1.
When writing my book on Second Corinthians, I had to leave spaces and hand-letter the places where I wanted to reference a Greek word or phrase. With this program I could have picked up the correct terms and printed them correctly, even mixing English, Greek and Hebrew on the same line.
The program is $79.95 and is published by Zondervan Electronic Publishing, 1415 Lake Drive, SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506.
Something for Your Library
I’ve always wanted to organize my personal library in some way, and a computer seems the most logical method to record all the data necessary. I’ve also been concerned that in the event of a fire or other natural disaster, there’s no way I could re-create what was in my library for insurance purposes. A diskette stored in a safety deposit box would sure be an improvement over my memory.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find just the right program. I tried one for the minister’s library, but it was far too limiting; other programs, designed for church libraries, are more expensive and more complicated than I need. I’ve wished that I could just do my own.
So, with a little help, that’s what I did. With the help of talented programmer Susan Parker, I will soon have a library program designed for preachers. It will run under DOS or Windows, and has just the right number of features — at least for this preacher!
After we finish polishing things up, “The Preacher’s Bookshelf” will be available for sale. It should be available by November 1, so consult next month’s issue for more information.
Software for Your VCR
The term “software” has come to refer to a number of media in addition to those used with a computer. That includes videotapes, and one of the most interesting pieces of “software” introduced in recent years is a two-videotape set, A Guide to Improving Your Preaching, presented by the National Center for Christian Preaching at Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
These two one-hour tapes provide a self-directed study course on sermon preparation and delivery. Hosted by Raymond Bailey and other Southern Seminary preaching faculty — James Cox, Craig Loscalzo, and Chuck Bugg — the dialogue about preaching is punctuated by a refreshing assortment of video excerpts by many of today’s favorite preachers, including William Wil-limon, Fred Craddock, Joel Gregory, Elizabeth Achtemeier, and others.
The conversation is engaging and practical, while the sermon excerpts are quite useful in illustrating the observations made. One helpful feature is the use of brief observations superimposed on the screen during the excerpts, pointing to specific items that could be observed in the presentations.
The tapes are published by Broadman Press and retail for $79.95. While that price may be more than many individual pastors can handle, this set would be a useful investment for many associations of churches or ministers’ conferences; indeed, a brief printed study guide is enclosed for use by groups of ministers who may wish to go through these tapes together. That could well be the most productive thing your ministers’ group does all year!

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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