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Visuals and Preaching

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Specific advice and resources for using visual images in your preaching.

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Guest: Dr. David Schmitt is a pastor and teacher. He currently teaches preaching to future pastors.

Introduction: Specific advice and resources for using visual images in your preaching.


  • Introductory copyright cautions:
    • Be sure to secure the proper permissions to use intellectual property and copyrighted materials.
    • Check repositories for copyright status. Look for public domain status.
    • Give credit: title, author, source of image.
    • Support local artists.


  • What do images bring to a sermon?
    • Images communicate!
    • Images evoke experience.
    • Images help visual learners and attend to the memory.


  • Ways to use images in a sermon
    • Decide whether to display image or verbally describe it.
      • Displayed images: more power but less control
      • Described images: less power but more control
    • Central focus—to communicate one idea or meaning
    • Multiple focus—using different part of the image for different parts of sermon
    • Multiple images—using different images for different points (be careful how they relate to one another)


  • Sources for images
    • Search engines
    • Curated sites—see complete list in Resources below
    • Build your own library of images


  • How to choose images
    • Slow down. Take a long look. Be able to see the image and meditate on it.
    • Be creative; consider looking for images that only appear to be unrelated to your point. Then bring the two images or thoughts together.



  • Books:
    • Brenner, Juliet. Contemplative Vision: A Guide to Christian Art and Prayer. Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2011.


  • Dyrness, William A. Visual Faith: Art, Theology, and Worship in Dialogue. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001.


  • Dyrness, William A. Senses of the Soul: Art and the Visual in Christian Worship. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2008.


  • Jensen, Richard A. Envisioning the Word: The Use of Visual Images in Preaching. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005.


  • Jensen, Robin M. The Substance of Things Seen: Art, Faith, and the Christian Community. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004.


  • Zuffi, Stephano, ed. Gospel Figures in Art. Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2003.


Sections 107-110 of Chapter 1, “Subject Matter and Scope of Copyright,” of the US Copyright Law, provide information on fair use. In particular, Section 110.3 offers helpful information on exemptions for display “in the course of services at a place of worship or other religious assembly.”


The Thrivent Collection of Religious Art offers a database of religious images with commentary on both the artist and the technical aspects of the art.


Art in the Christian Tradition offers a searchable database of religious images within the public domain.


EnVision Church: Art, Architecture, Liturgy, and Spirituality in the Catholic Tradition was The Georgetown Center for Liturgy’s interactive resource, providing a wide selection of articles on and exhibits of the integration of aesthetics and spiritual formation in the Christian tradition.


The Work of the People offers multimedia exploring Christianity, liturgy, and the arts.


These sites exhibit recent photojournalism with often excellent and provocative photos.


The Smithsonian Institution offers resources exploring American art with exhibitions and explanations of the collections.


The website of Image, a quarterly journal of religion and the arts, offers reflections on works of contemporary Christian art in various media.


The Revised Common Lectionary is a service of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library that offers art images for each set of readings in the three-year Revised Common Lectionary.


The Text This Week: Art Index offers a database of religious art linked to scriptural texts and topics.


Hear What the Spirit Is Saying is the blog of St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Palm Desert, California. It offers posts of visual images and meditations related to the liturgical year.


Visual Theology. Faithful Images. is the award-winning blog of Dave Perry that provides photography and contemplative meditations for use in worship, study, and reflection, often in conjunction with lectionary readings.


Eyes of Faith by Concordia Seminary graduate Matt Rosebrock offers original artwork and meditations on selected readings of the three-year lectionary.


The Painted Prayerbook by United Methodist minister, Jana Richardson offers original artwork and accompanying explanation and meditation on selected readings of the three-year lectionary.


A Visual Feast is a fledgling collaborative website, with contributions from pastors, poets, writers, and artists, seeking to compile an image and devotional meditation for every lesson of the liturgical year.


Drawing Out and Art Gives.Life are blogs by Christian artist Karl Fay, exploring the visual arts and faith.


The external links included here are provided for informational purposes only. CTA makes every effort to ensure the information included in these links is accurate and relevant; however, CTA cannot guarantee the content, nor does CTA endorse any of the products or services offered on the external sites.

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