“For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Romans 10:13-14)
What do students, professionals, and churchgoers have in common? They’re all bored to death with Powerpoint presentations. Researchers at the University of New South Wales, Australia, led by Professor John Sweller, may have the answer why. They have recently concluded that the human mind suffers from “cognitive overload” when fed with written and spoken information simultaneously. Professor Sweller’s research “shows the human brain processes and retains more information if it is digested in either its verbal or written form, but not both at the same time.” Sweller is not the first one to recognize this. Richard E. Mayer of UC Santa Barbara and Roxana Moreno of the University of New Mexico came to the same conclusion in a cognitive load paper published in 2003.
This implies that the brain can only process as much “multitasking” as its “memory” and “CPU” can handle, and it “freezes” if given too much information. I can only speculate on the implication of this research on the use of Powerpoint in sermons and music in church services. Is this why so many people in churches don’t participate in singing, but only watch the “worship” team’s entertainment? Is this also why so many people remember only the jokes and cartoons in Powerpoint sermons? George Barna should do a research on this too.
Maybe churches should once in a while read the Bible. They might discover, in those books gathering dust in the pews, that preaching the gospel (plus the sacraments, the “visible Word”) is God’s ordained way to save and edify His
people. Maybe, just maybe, God designed the human brain for maximizing the processing of information about the things of God through hearing the preached Word, and not through entertaining multi-sensual gimmicks.
(Sweller’s research was first pointed out by Westminster Professor R. Scott Clark in the wscalumni group.)