The Pulpit (and Other Sacred Things)
Does your church have a pulpit for your pastor? It is getting more and more common for churches to either pack the pulpit away or use a smaller, sometimes clear and barely noticeable stand. There are legitimate reasons for this change just like there were legitimate reasons for the installment of the pulpit in the first place.
Pulpits were introduced in the Christian church during the middle ages but were mainly used for sacrament practices. The Protestant Reformation period saw the pulpit used for preaching as this became the focal point of the church service. It is said Queen Elizabeth I ordered that sermons be two hours in length; thereby making the use of the pulpit a dire need for the preacher as a crutch as much as anything.
Pulpits became larger and more ornate during this time, replacing the communion table/altar as the prominent piece of furniture in the church. I’ll bet someone complained about that change too.
Many feel it appropriate that the pulpit be the largest piece of furniture to represent the power and sacredness of the Word. (That’s like using a visual to make a point more profound, right? There’s no real power in the furniture…)
A flip through the Old Testament gives a little different impression of the importance of church furniture. God gave very specific instructions to Moses on constructing the temple furniture (Ex. 25). It was carefully inventoried, was specifically mentioned when taken by the enemy, and later returned. But keep in mind, God was very specific about lots of other things in the Old Testament as well (the whole Law thing).
The furniture and other vessels were holy. God obviously considered them important. I’m no scholar on this by any stretch of the imagination, so keeping it simple, these items were sacred because of their symbolism. Some of them are referred back to in the book of Revelation.
So is it biblical to have or not have a pulpit? Will a church with one be more powerful and blessed than one without? Jesus didn’t use a pulpit.
If it is symbolism and getting the point across of the power of God’s Word that we’re after, can that not be equally made with other visuals like drama, lighting, image projection, videos, music? I expect some of the apostles would have generously used the technology we have today had it been available to them.
Paul taught about moderation and balance. That along with our motives and heart should be the main consideration. Extremes get us where many churches are today both conservative, traditional, and contemporary. Each church will be different depending on its personality which is made up by the people within the church, their talents and passions. Condemning a church for not having a pulpit or some other “sacred thing” is like condemning someone for having a fun-loving or serious/focused personality. It misses the point entirely.