Vanishing PulpitsJune 15, 2009
Alistair Begg tells a story about one of his first conference engagements overseas. During the conference, he shared the platform with an older gentlemen who evidently didn’t like pulpits. Whenever this veteran pastor would begin his sermon, the first thing he would do was remove the pulpit from the platform, so that he could ‘engage’ more fully with his audience. But when Alistair followed on in the next session, the young Scot would re-install the pulpit at center stage, emphasizing the primacy of the bible and the preacher’s dependence on it. On and on the dual went. The older man would remove the pulpit, Begg would reinstall it. Remove, re-install. Remove, reinstall.
Well, some years on since Begg’s battle, it seems as though the ‘removalists’ are winning the war! The phenomenon of downsizing, or even disposing of the pulpit, is growing in the USA (see “O Pulpit, Where Art Thou?”) , and by my observation, building momentum here too.
Of course, pulpits aren’t necessarily mandated by the bible (though Ezra had a pretty good one!). Nonetheless, I do have a few questions that evidence ‘uneasy-feeling’ at the pulpit’s swift demise:
- if the pulpit is disposed of, what will be the new focal point of the church meeting room, and what will it convey about what we now prioritize in terms of worship? (eg. a sizable space for the worship band = music)
- unless physically holding his bible, how will the preacher preach from one?
- …and what will it convey to the congregation if, to all appearances, the preacher no longer needs one?
- will the bible remain central if the pulpit isn’t?
- and why are some Christians so evidently eager to ‘be rid’ of pulpits anyway?
By the way, the church I’m going to pastor has a pulpit…