Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

March 17, 2002



New technology is making it necessary for old dogs to learn some new tricks


        A friend told me that dogs are no longer trained in “obedience” schools. He said that trainers are now using “praise” to train dogs. The technique is simple. Praise the dog before asking him to do a trick, and then praise him after he has done it. I understand this plan works well with old dogs as well as the young.

        It makes sense to me. Praise works well with people. Pressure almost never works. I learned a long time ago that it is impossible to force people to embrace God. Only love will work, and praise is an excellent way to express love.

        Now that I run with that crowd known as seniors, I feel the challenge daily to learn new ways of doing things or get left behind. But I am determined to keep up. I don’t want anyone observing me to shake his head and say, “Poor man; it is so hard to teach an old dog new tricks.”

        I may be an old dog but I figure one of the best ways to stay alive is to keep on learning new tricks. Take preaching, for example.  Some exciting new things are being done in the pulpit these days.

        Many preachers are learning how to use the latest technology to help them communicate their sermons. They still use their voice to preach the message, but they are also adding power point and video clips to help the audience “see” the sermon.

        The first time I ever saw this done by another preacher, I realized that technology will inevitably change the way preaching is done in the future. People will no longer be satisfied merely to hear a sermon. If they can experience it visually as well, they will soon not settle for less. 

        We have always known that people retain only a small portion of what they hear. But, on the other hand, they retain much more of the content of what they both see and hear. That being the case, now that the technology is available, preachers young and old must learn how to share the good news visually as well as verbally. I fear that those who fail to do so will soon be left behind in a cloud of dust.

        Actually it is exciting to some of us old dogs to learn some new tricks. I have always felt that if another man could do something, I could do it too if I put my mind to it.  And within reasonable limits I have found that to be true. So these days I have a growing sense of excitement about my plans to “catch” up with the latest technology in the pulpit.

        Next Sunday in most churches is called Palm Sunday. Most preachers will preach about the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, riding upon a donkey. I have done just that for 50 years. But next Sunday’s sermon will be different from any I have ever preached.

        My friends, Jim Jackson, Scott Kaak, and Norm Brunelle, are helping me put together a sermon that will include key words on a large screen, brief clips from a brilliant DVD version of Jesus as portrayed by the Gospel of Matthew, some singing, and some sound effects by our church orchestra.

        To make all this work well we have had to secure a high quality projector, which uses a fairly expensive lens designed for the exact distance from our sound booth to the large screen. We have sought the advice of our friend William Brown, of Southern Electronics, as well.

        Our plan extends beyond Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. If all goes as planned, we will leave Jesus visually on the cross next Sunday, being crucified for the sins of the whole world. Then on Easter Sunday, with the help of the Gospel on DVD, we will listen and watch as the earthquake shakes the ground and the Risen Christ comes out of the tomb to announce his victory over death and hell.

        I can hardly wait to see how well we can make “Media Shout” and DVD pump some visual power into the presentation of the Gospel on a Sunday morning. Obviously I am hoping and praying for a very positive response from the congregation.

        If farmers can learn how to use a satellite to keep up with their milk cows, then preachers can learn how to utilize modern technology to communicate the faith in more exciting ways.  Maybe some of the folks who got bored to death by our wordy sermons will come back to church.

        I expect some criticism. There will always be those who think nothing should ever be changed. But I can handle that. What I don’t think I can handle is the thought of sitting around the front porch like an old dog that is too tired to learn a new trick.

        A new day has dawned and there are new ways to communicate old truths. There is a fast train moving down the tracks. We can get on board or be left behind. I want to be on that train.