The Sad and Bitter Overhead Projection Lady

The Sad and Bitter Overhead Projection Lady
Dan Kimball

A few years ago, I went to a church that was still using overhead projectors to show song lyrics and the sermon outline. Up in the front of the room was the worship band, and sitting in a chair among the band was the Overhead Projection Lady. She looked like she was having the time of her life. As the worship band played on, she joyfully moved her head up and down to the music, singing along and gracefully replacing the overheads in perfect timing from verse to verse of the songs.

Recently I was back at that same church, and as the band started I realized that they had shifted to PowerPoint. Recalling my former visit to that church, I immediately wondered, ‘Where is the Overhead Projection Lady?’ I looked around the room and finally spotted her sitting way in the back of the room. She was now behind a computer working the PowerPoint, but there was a big change since last time I was there. She was no longer joyfully bopping her head to the music, but looked rather sullen and melancholy as she clicked the mouse for the song lyrics.

It was a sad moment. I remembered the other image of a happy Overhead Projection Lady. However, change happened. The church moved from overheads to PowerPoint, and now she seemed sad and out of place. It’s hard to say what was going on, but judging by her expression, she might have even become bitter that the church shifted how they worship by moving to PowerPoint from overheads. The change was beneficial to the church in its worship, but sad for the Overhead Projection Lady.

This experience reminded me of the criticism of changes in worship. Changing forms and expressions of worship are brushed off as ‘trendy.’ Criticism and resistance to change are usually directed toward churches that are beginning to use art in the worship gatherings or using contemplative forms of worship or prayer stations. I’ve heard some pastors and leaders dismiss these changes in worship as trendy and silly.

I agree that changes can be trendy, if they’re done without thinking through why they’re being used. But there’s a great difference between jumping on a trend and seeing something as being useful as an expression of worship or as a tool to help others in their worship of God. If there’s thoughtful theology behind the change, it’s not trendy.

When many went from hymnals to overhead projectors, this could’ve been seen as trendy. Yet when culture and technology changed, the overhead projector was brought in. Then technology changed again and moved from overhead projectors to PowerPoint. Were these changes in our forms of worship trendy? What about the continually changing expressions of worship throughout church history? I’m not saying that we need to always change how we worship. However, many churches are changing their expressions of worship because of cultural change. They’re expressing their worship to God through art, contemplative prayer, and other ancient forms of worship.

But so often it seems we can be critical and kind of like the Overhead Projection Lady. We were happy when we were worshiping in one particular way, but when culture changed we didn’t want to change anything. Resistance to change is usually rooted more in personal preference than in theology. I just hope that as culture and worship changes in the future, I won’t be like the Overhead Projection Lady and become sad and bitter. I hope I will allow others who resonate with new forms of worship the freedom and joy of praising God in a way that best expresses their love for God.

Dan Kimball is the pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, California, and the author of The Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity for New Generations (Zondervan).

This article ‘The Sad and Bitter Overhead Projection Lady’ by Dan Kimball was excerpted from: website, June 2011. It may be used for study & research purposes only.

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes ‘Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.’