Words of a Fether

I am the way, the truth, and the life;
no one comes to the Father except through me. ~Jesus

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There it was again; the P word, throughout the article I was just reading. I’m so tired of seeing it everywhere, in every other sentence, the way the lost throw around curse words. I’m talking about the word Pulpit (frequently pronounced Pool Pit).

What’s wrong with The Pulpit, you ask? Well if you’ve read any of my earlier rants you know about my great consternation over the state of the church today, and how it’s been patterned after ancient Greek and Roman society for most of its history. And in spite of the fact that the word itself is only found once even in the KJV (Nehemiah 8:4), and means nothing close to what people think it means, it has become for me the very symbol of what’s wrong with the church today.

Now I don’t mean anything personal by this. People just aren’t aware of how they use the word and how often they use it. But the fact is that The Pulpit has much more in common with civil oratory than anything we see in the scriptures. Its purpose is to focus attention on a public speaker. Presumably, such a speaker would be someone of importance, so people naturally associated such platforms as places of authority.

And therein lies the problem. The Bible, especially the New Testament, knows nothing of putting one believer over another, but instead says this:

Mark 10:42 So Jesus called them together and said, You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 43 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Of course there are verses about submitting to those who mature in the faith and have been proven able to properly handle scriptures. But this kind of submission is the same as when a student submits to a teacher or a child to a parent. The important point is that this situation is not meant to be permanent. Instead, its purpose is to bring the child to maturity and the student to full knowledge. So the elders protect and train the more vulnerable members until they can stand alone.

Instead, The Pulpit has become a symbol of autocratic rule, of mystical holiness, and of an unbiblical clergy class. To stand in the pulpit immediately denotes an air of royalty which ordinary believers do not dare approach. Yet such a contrived office does not exist in any apostolic writings. None of the NT writers expressed or implied this pulpit concept in any way. What they did say was this:

1 Cor. 14:26 Well, my brothers and sisters, let’s summarize. When you meet together, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in tongues, and another will interpret what is said. But everything that is done must strengthen all of you.
This bears no resemblance at all to the typical church service, or really even the average Sunday School class. It’s always lectures by the elite to the compliant, passive workers. Many who attend church do exactly and only that: attend. They may feel religious, they may even get some conviction, but they are, above all, passive. This is NOT what the Bible means by fellowship!

We need to get rid of those infernal Pulpits, pews, and professional performances. Do you really want to say you assembled together as the verses above tell us? It just isn’t possible when sitting in theater seats and standing and sitting on cue. It can’t happen when only one believer speaks, and always the same believer every week. It won’t come from a quarterly or a devotional guide or a retreat. (And we should be ashamed of that word, Retreat!)

Like the Whos in Whoville from Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas, we need to be the kind of believers who can lose all the external trappings of Churchianity and never break a sweat. Take away all the stained glass, the bulletins, the programs, and the babysitters, and we’ll find out what Christians are really made of.

But whatever you do, don’t throw the Bible out with the bad habits. Keep to the Code!

Posted 2007-04-01 under worship, community, community, pulpit