“Wherever the pulpit is going, that’s where the church is going.”
That’s a tweet that recently appeared in my twitter feed. I cringed when I saw it. But then I thought, it’s true. Sad, but oh so true. Needless to say, it got my mind going about pulpits and power, honorific titles and top-down authority, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. It doesn’t take much to get me going, does it? I hear endless debates about whether women should be allowed behind the pulpit but in each conversation I hear, the most obvious question is missing: Why is anyone scrambling to get behind the pulpit and why is there a pulpit in the first place?
In my opinion, nothing kills the original intent of the gathered assembly quicker than a pulpit. Nothing separates the assembly into us and them quicker or more effectively than a pulpit. Nothing says “keep your distance, I’m the trained professional Christian and you need to hear what I have to say” more effectively than the pulpit. Add to that, the raised platform and the priesthood of all believers vanishes and is replaced by the priesthood of one or a select few. Add the pulpit into the mix and active participation of the entire assembly turns into a lecture given to passive spectators by one who is assumed to be in control. This model has come to us via church history by those in supposed positions of power or control who perpetuate power and control by perpetuating power and control. It’s man-made. It’s foreign to the New Testament and harmful to the church. The pulpit is not passive.
“Wherever the pulpit is going, that’s where the church is going” is an unfortunate reality in modern institutional church settings. In a community where Jesus said that kind of power and control wasn’t to exist, we encourage and perpetuate it. Whatever happened to the Holy Spirit leading the assembly? Whatever happened to Jesus being Lord of his church? Whatever happened to the priesthood of all believers instead of a select few? Tell me again, why is there a pulpit?
“But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie–just as it has taught you, abide in him.” 1 John 2:27