Wednesday, January 09, 2008

And now, for your reading pleasure

The article that started it all.
(Editor's note: This article is intended as satire. The story is offered in jest only. For the most part, everything it conveys is a complete fabrication.)

Local Church Brings Technology to the Sacred Art of Preaching
Johann Johannsen, Special reporter to The Mouse

At first, it seemed like a typical worship service. The morning started with a warm greeting offered by an energetic young man, and then gave way to a rousing time of congregational singing. The offering was taken, somebody prayed.

But that’s where it became anything but typical. “Who wants to preach this morning?” asked Gene Graddon, Church Chairperson. Silence followed, with eyes shifting downward, feet nervously scuffling the floor. “Come on, it’s not that hard. Last week Robert Lee did an excellent job. Who wants a chance today?”

Finally, Shane Hostetler, long-time member of the church and father of five, stood up and announced that he’d have a go at it. Everyone applauded.

“Do you have anything by Moody?” Hostetler asked. “I’ve always enjoyed his style. Plus he didn’t use too many big words.”

And so began one more week of Lakebay Community Church’s newest foray into modern technology – Sermon Karaoke®.

It all began in December, 2007, after the church’s Christmas dinner. One of the highlights that night was Christmas Carol Karaoke. A few days later, as the Men’s Fellowship gathered for breakfast they talked about what they’d experienced

“Well, we were all talking about our favorite radio preachers,” said Harrold Forch, leader of the Men’s Fellowship. “And most of us agreed that Pastor Dan’s sermons just weren’t up to snuff. It seemed such a waste, all these good sermons being written and preached, and we never get to hear any of them.”

Dennis Wixon agreed. “I’m a big fan of Charles Finney. I’ve read all his sermons. And I thought, ‘why shouldn’t those sermons be heard again, rather than Pastor Dan having to keep coming up with new ones?’”

That’s when they hit upon the idea for Sermon Karaoke®. “It seemed like a natural,” said Forch. “Anybody who could read could preach the sermon. You wouldn’t need to prepare or anything. Plus this way we don’t have to pay a preacher. There’s a lot of good stuff out there for free – C.S. Lewis, Jonathon Edwards; even modern preachers, like Billy Graham.”

None of the men knew enough about technology to create a Sermon Karaoke machine, so they contacted church member Wes Lathan, who also happens to work for Microsoft. Lathan loved the idea. “It didn’t seem like that big a challenge,” remembers Lathan. He recruited Joseph Lindhartsen, another church member who works with computers, to help out. “With my programming expertise, and Joseph’s technical background, it only took a couple weeks to get a prototype up and running.”

The only piece left was creating a sermon database, but that wasn’t a problem for these electronic wizards. “We created a really user-friendly interface,” said Lindhartsen. “Basically, you find sermons online, copy them into a word processor, then enter that into the Karaoke program, and bingo! The sermon is in and ready to be preached.”

In order to fill out the sermon list, the men hired two students in the church, Kate McCourt and Sara Wilson, to download and enter as many sermons into the machine as they could find. Within three months, they had over 6,000 sermons installed, covering most of the popular sermon topics as well as every scripture in the Bible. “Except Leviticus 17,” quipped Wilson. “For some reason, we couldn’t find any sermons on Leviticus 17.”

Finally, the men had a working model ready to present to the Church Board. “It was a slam-dunk,” said Wixon. “Once we explained that we wouldn’t have to pay a preacher any more, they jumped at this opportunity. I mean, think of the financial savings every year.”

Three weeks later, Pastor Whitmarsh’s office was empty, and the Sermon Karoake® system debuted. “Our first sermon was a real doozy,” said Marci Fisher, Chair of the Worship Committee. “Elaine Forch chose Luther’s sermon on Romans 2. Wow, was that powerful. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. And to think she had never preached before. It was an anointed moment.”

And Version 2.0 will be even better, promises Lathan. “We’re going to put up two different reading screens, so the preacher can move from one side of the stage to the other. And we’re working on a Powerpoint ™ module. Many of the more modern sermons – think Bill Hybells and Rick Warren – use Powerpoint ™ extensively. With Sermon Karoake ® 2.0, the Powerpoint™ slides will be presented right along with the sermon.”

It appears the only person opposed to this technological innovation was Pastor Whitmarsh. When tracked down at his new job at Dick’s Drive-In, Whitmarsh criticized the church’s decision. “It takes hard work to bring God’s Word to bear in any given situation. I really worry that people are taking preaching too lightly. Sure, church attendance has tripled since they began this, but numbers aren’t everything.”

Still, the Church thinks they have hit on something big. Plans are under way to market Sermon Karaoke® to other churches. “If this thing kicks off,” said Lathan, “I may be able to retire in a couple years. Plus the church could finally build that new building it’s been talking about. The potential revenue is mind-boggling.”

And beyond that? A few people are beginning to ask if the church still needs its worship team. “Why not do Worship Karaoke, as well?” asked Holly Lucas. “I would love to belt out some of my favorite Sandi Patti numbers for these people.”

1 comment:

Kim said...

"It was an anointed moment.”

Bwaaaa ha ha ha ha!!!!!!

This was great, thanks for sharing it. There was not a dry eye on this end of the computer screen...