Recently, I read a very interesting article that I believe fairly summarizes my own beliefs about the pulpit in our church. As you know, I am not known as the “wandering preacher.” I don’t care to be to the left or right of the pulpit. I don’t care to stand on the floor and walk around and have you watch me as I preach. I do not care to be the focus so that when you look up from your Bible you need to locate me in the sanctuary. I will be behind the pulpit and this is where I will stay.
Excepting the term Protestant in this article, I find myself in complete agreement on what the pulpit stands for. I thought about this when I had this pulpit made. I thought I might be too short for this pulpit, but it is not me you came to see. Enjoy this exposition by Joshua Jenkins.
I am of the conviction that we should, as much as we can, have a reason for everything we do as a church. For instance, you should have a reason why your sanctuary is set up the way it is; the position of the pulpit, the communion elements, and the like. Everything symbolizes your beliefs, or lack thereof, about something.
The obvious example of this is the pulpit. The reason most Protestant churches have their pulpit front and center stage is to symbolize the centrality of the Word. The Word of God is the central thing we gather around as a church on the Lord’s Day.
I want to consider for a moment what standing in the pulpit symbolizes. When I say standing in the pulpit I literally mean standing behind the pulpit to preach.
I believe that it is important to stand behind the pulpit to preach based on what it symbolizes. When a preacher stands behind the Word, there is symbolism. The Word is what leads us, guides us, and keeps us in line. We don’t go to the right or to the left of it, but right in line with it.
It also symbolizes that the Word is the focus of the attention for the preacher and the congregation. The people of God are not there to watch the pastor perform but to be given and fed the Word. The pastor stands behind the Word as if he is simply a server delivering food – God’s Word has been prepared and made edible.
In the same way, it symbolizes that it is not the pastor who is there to be put on display, while part of his body is literally covered up by the pulpit, but it is Christ that is on display.
Finally, when a pastor is free to simply stand behind the pulpit and deliver the Word, it symbolizes that the Scriptures are sufficient, both for the pastor and the congregation. There is no need for a show or performance, for the Word is enough – not in a ‘just enough to get by’ sense, but in an overflowing happiness ‘more than enough’ sense.
This, of course, is no hard and fast rule from the Bible, I am simply exploring what the way we preach symbolizes. Even if you disagree with my conclusions, I hope you consider these questions, ‘Is the Word the center?’ ‘What is my preaching style symbolizing?’ And, ‘Is what I symbolize more important than my preferred style?’ ~ Joshua Jenkins
Thank you, Joshua, I would like to add that I have seen many preaching clones that seem to feel their greatest need when their sermon begins is to exit the pulpit. They were taught in school to get away from it because attention spans are not long enough to stare at a straight tree in one spot. I feel the opposite. I am distracted from the word when it is only the word that should attract me. Maybe this is just a stylistic point, but I am happy to be a tree planted by the waters of the living word of God.
Pastor V. Mark Smith