If you want to watch an awkward display of uncoolness, just give me a handheld microphone in one hand and something else in the other.
I remember one occasion getting the opportunity to preach before a relatively large group of college students. I was already somewhat nervous. My anxiety turned to full blown hyperventilation when I discovered that I would have to use a handheld microphone. I cannot preach with one. I use my hands when I preach and I’m too dense to keep a microphone in one place. I’d rather go all George Whitefield and preach with a bleeding throat and no microphone than be hindered.
Before the invention of the wireless handheld or the Britney Spears model our church uses, many pastors had to stay behind the pulpit because that was the only microphone. But with the invention of all things technological pastors do not have to remain stationary. Combine this with more pastors preaching without notes and an interesting thing has happened in many churches: the pulpit is gone.
Obviously, it is not absolutely necessary to preach behind a pulpit. You would be hard pressed to find Jesus using a pulpit, and it’d be a foolish argument to say that Jesus was not faithful in preaching. But is it possible that the pulpit holds a great symbolic function in the church? Is it possible that we should not be so quick to remove the pulpit?
Consider what Steven Koster says:
“In Reformed churches, the tradition has been to put the Pulpit in the center because of the centrality of preaching and the Word as a means of grace. The Pulpit is not just a utility stand for the preacher to use to hold his notes, but a weighty visual anchor to point to the significance of the proclaimed Word itself (which is why some churches have favored massive pulpits). In fact, some churches have a big pulpit (with Bible) in the center that is used only for preaching, with a smaller lectern to the side used for other readings and worship leading.
But is such a big bulky pulpit practical? Does it “scare away” seekers? Consider this by Mike Schreiter:
Fewer people want to see a sermon delivered from behind a large, wooden pulpit. Dynamic preachers that want to engage congregations today need to capture attention with words, actions, and illustrations. Today, a preacher needs a wireless microphone and a video remote control more than he needs a designated place to stand.
So what do you think? Should pulpits be discarded? Or do they carry a symbolism that ought to be preserved within our churches?
On Friday I will try to answer this question and also give a little history on where pulpits came from.