It is difficult for some to imagine just how great the age of transparencies were in this modern PowerPoint Age! However, there was a time where flannel boards, bed sheets and chalkboards were used to add a visual component to sermons. I can recall my mother using a hoop, stencils and various colors of liquid embroidery ink in tubes to add major points, scripture references and even artwork to a bed sheet that would be hung behind the pulpit and utilized by my father in his preaching. My mother tells me that a bed sheet chart would take her a couple of days to complete. My father still has those “bed sheet” sermons and has agreed to let me have them one day. While not convenient to display, these will remain a respected heirloom of days when first principles were preached, preached, preached from the pulpit. One knew that a bed sheet sermon was something special just by the amount of work it took to produce one! Many of these charts are not just a labor of love but required time and talent to create these works of art.
I recently had the opportunity to hear brother John Moore at the Polishing the Pulpit Workshop present a session on the value of bed sheet sermons. He was able to collect several of these from various preachers utilizing a digital camera. He made a very important point that we should remember. We often like to use multiple slides in PowerPoint because we think that it will keep the audience’s attention. While it may do that, consider this about a single chart displayed for over 30 minutes—it has a way of sticking in your mind. Brother Moore placed charts on the screen that I immediately recognized even though I had not seen them for several years. Something for us to consider in preparing our lessons—maybe less is more!
Sermon Charts is a collection of photographs of flannel board sermons that were prepared by Artie Collins of Hohenwald, TN. Artie has been a friend of our family since I was a little boy when my dad attended the Nashville School of Preaching in the late 1960s. Visits with Artie and his wife Marie are always a treasure for our family. Artie would regularly attend the Freed-Hardeman Bible Lectureship with my father when I was growing up. While they were away, I would often imagine how great it would be to go with them to enjoy in the friendship and fellowship. Not so ironically, these memories propelled me to attend Freed-Hardeman University. In fact, I told my parents quite bluntly the only Christian college I would even consider was Freed-Hardeman University even though I had never been on the campus. One year, Artie came to hold a gospel meeting for the church in New Philadelphia, OH where we were located at the time. I can recall very well his use of charts in his sermons. (The picture with this article is from that meeting.)
Charts are wonderful devices to help us learn and retain information. I have collected a few books of sermon charts and am always interested in looking at them. I never grow weary of just leafing through the pages of them. For the past few months I have been editing the church bulletin here at Streetsboro and one of the goals I accomplished was to be able include an instructional sermon chart on the back page of each week’s bulletin. Whether the congregation liked it or not, I sure enjoyed it! Having a few sermon chart books in a church library is a good tool to help young men to sketch in their minds a sermon that they might want to deliver from a pulpit someday. Something we should probably do more of—encouraging our young men and boys to prepare lessons to preach. By being an inspiration to young boys, they will grow up to be aspiring preachers and elders!
Originally printed in West Virginia Christian, Vol. 18, No. 11, November 2011, p. 8. Reprinted by permission.