We all recognize the effectiveness of visual illustration, and in the 23 years since PowerPoint was first introduced, it has completely changed the way we teach and lecture. From the boardroom to the classroom, PowerPoint presentations often add a touch of visual color to the aural equivalent of black words on white paper.
Even in church, Power-Point slides accompanying the preacher’s sermon have become ubiquitous, often providing explanation, illustration, or if nothing else, enough interest to deprive the flock of a bit of shut-eye during sermons.
Interestingly, the importance of visual illustration was not lost on earlier generations of preachers. Long before PowerPoint, preachers developed a decidedly low-tech way of providing visual punch to their sermons. Preachers in the first half of the 20th century often used linen or muslin bed sheets as the canvas upon which they would illustrate their sermons.
Bed sheets were relatively inexpensive, folded up small for travel, and could be re-used again and again as preachers traveled to different congregations for “Gospel Meetings.”
The Milliken Special Collections Department of Abilene Christian University’s Brown Library has accumulated several collections of these rare sermon charts, all of which were used by preachers in Churches of Christ. Most have already been digitized for viewing and study on the West Texas Digital Archives. Another batch is in process and should be loaded into the WTDA within the next month or so, making this one of the largest collections of 20th century sermon chart images in the world.
These sermon charts range from very simple to stunningly complex. Some simply contain a list of Scriptures referred to in the sermon, while others feature elaborate art work illustrating either a key concept from the sermon, or the sermon in its entirety. Some were clearly drawn by the preacher himself, while others enlisted the services of artists.
Take some time to explore the ACU Sermon Chart Collection for a fascinating look at preaching in a bygone era!