Ezra the scribe stood at a wooden podium which they had made for the purpose of reading and explaining the Law. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand; and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam on his left hand. (Nehemiah 8:4)
The rest of the passage reads, “Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the Lord the
great God. And all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, explained the law to the people while the people remained in their place.”
and the last verse…
“They read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading.”
It should be noted that the word used for “pulpit” in verse 4 could just as well be “platform.” Even if that is the case, it hardly justifies the place that the pulpit is given in modern ecclesiology.
Webster once gave the definition of “pulpit” as follows: “An elevated place or enclosed stage, in a church, in which the clergyman stands while preaching.” Whew! if that isn’t laden with assumptions! The online definition of pulpit has changed since then and now the Webster defines it in this way: “an elevated platform or high reading desk used in preaching or conducting a worship service.”
The pulpit still has all but a complete monopoly on preaching. But, should it? Most still consider preaching from or inside a pulpit, as an of a marketable Christian service commodity. Much time and money is expended to “place” people in that position. But again, should it?
The original idea of having a suitable place to talk from was not bad, but like so many other ideas somewhere along the way it got turned around. In the beginning the pulpit was designed to accommodate preaching; now preaching is designed to accommodate the pulpit. How many times have you heard “the power of the pulpit” when discussing churches or the like? Often the pulpit is a a designation to set it apart from the pews or “regular” people (parishioners) – from the professional pastor or preacher. I believe this mind-set is detrimental to the church. Why would a church without a pulpit be considered “unfurnished,” or unstaffed?
The verses taken from Nehemiah seem to be the only ones that approach a modern justification and the use of pulpits in Christendom. Are there any others? Also, you’ll see a lot of the liturgy or ” the order and manner of worship services” in the same verses. Shouldn’t the church have evolved beyond the need for this type of fixed and stationary preaching? Can preaching from a pulpit really be considered preaching at all?
If we’re going to select this one verse out of the bible and us it to dictate the main way of preaching, then aren’t we purposefully neglecting the countless other mentions of preaching that take place out and about when we’re on God’s mission?
Should the church continue using pulpits, or is it time to put the focus of preaching elsewhere?