The day is fast approaching when worship leaders won’t know about overhead projectors. As younger leaders emerge, overhead projectors will disappear from the collective memory.
You think I’m joking, but the advent of these things in congregational worship was huge, causing controversy in some churches and revolutionizing others.
And sometimes, I miss ’em.
1. THEY WERE EXCITING
When you walked into a worship service and saw one of these things, you knew the church was trying something new. You could probably safely assume that at some point in the service, they were going to sing some choruses. And for lots of us, that was a big deal. I love learning new songs and a projector always had this exciting allure of possibility – what sort of song was I going to learn?
2. THEY WERE EASY
Remember what it was like to lead with one of these things? No time spent hunched over some old church desktop building elaborate PowerPoint presentations wondering, “How many times do we do that chorus again?” With overheads, you just slapped that finger-print smudged, scratched up overhead on there and started jamming. Easy. Plus, you could go anywhere in the song and nobody freaked out. (Unless your song was a two-pager…)
3. THEY WERE PORTABLE
Overhead projectors went anywhere. You could go lead worship in the women’s Sunday school at the drop of a hat or take a camp gig for a little church that met in somebody’s garage. A file folder of transparencies and an extension chord and you were ready to go. A lot of us spent a lot of miles with an overhead projector placed precariously in our backseats.
4. THEY WERE IMPORTANT
As I get older, I get grumpier, and it’s good for me to remember that many of the churches I came up in took a huge step in adapting a new technology for congregational worship. Like many of you, I think technology has become a distraction – or even an idol – in the life of the local church, but I’m convicted by the concept of overheads projectors. They were important and they brought a much-needed direction and zeal to many churches that were suffering from apathy. They didn’t solve the problem, but they shook us up.
5. THEY WEREN’T SEXY
Black letters on clear page. You couldn’t make it better or flashier. Every projector was the same and every screen was equally terrible. A far cry from the way worship leaders stand around a gawk at other church’s HD projectors and 200 ft. screens. I liked it when the gear didn’t matter to anyone.