Two other notes from my visit to Hawthorne Gospel Church. Every service the pastor commented that I live in Tupelo, MS. At one point he said, "I just like saying that name." I don't think they get a lot of Mississippi preachers up in New Jersey--even though I'm originally from Alabama and have spent nearly all of my ministry outside the South--in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago. I started every message the same way--"Howdy, Y'all," which drew a big laugh. On Sunday night I commented that I had eaten at two excellent Italian restaurants, and then I told them that if they want good barbecue or fried catfish, they need to come to Mississippi. For that matter, I told them my favorite meal was chicken-fried steak, mashed potatoes, fried okra, creamed corn, cole slaw, sweet tea and peach cobbler. I got a few Amens on that one. "Get used to it." I said, "That's what we're going to eat in heaven every day." They thought I was kidding.

On a more serious note, the AV team at Hawthorne does something I've never seen anywhere else. While I was preaching, a fellow sat at a computer console furiously typing. He told me beforehand to ignore him. I noticed people looking at the screen, I knew they weren't projecting my image, and I hadn't given them an outline. Turns out that he was listening, typing down pithy comments from my sermon, and then projecting them in real time on the screen. Sometimes it would be a Scripture reference. When I quoted the poem, "He Maketh No Mistakes," he flashed on the screen, "God Makes No Mistakes!" It takes someone who is a sharp listener--and a good typist--to do something like that. Sometimes he puts the outline up on the screen as the pastor preaches. But that only works if the pastor gives him the outline ahead of time. Personally I've never thought that flashing the outline up on the screen makes much difference. I like what he did on Sunday much better--putting up unique comments, paraphrases of what I said, etc. True, I did see people turning their heads away from me from time to time, but it was a good way to keep people engaged with the general flow of the message. And I suppose if the sermon is boring, he can put up the latest news from the New York Yankees or the latest Fox News headlines. Okay, I'm just teasing abou that, but I thought what they did was very creative--much better than simply putting the outline up on the screen. At one point on Sunday night, during my sermon about Peter denying Christ, I said, "The irony is that Peter fooled no one but himself." Then I said, "You ought to put that on the screen." I don't now if he did or not, but I saw him typing energetically. It gives people a reason to look at the screen, and it ends up being like the live headlines you see at the bottom of the screen on CNN and Fox News. You need a good listener who is both creative and a good typist who can do it in real time. I thought this idea was worth passing along.

You can reach the author at  ray@keepbelieving.com. Click here to sign up for the free weekly email sermon.