About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Is There Pride In The Pulpit And Passiveness In The Pew?

Take a quick look around some Sunday morning as you sit in your church pew and see how things are set up around you, and note how the service is structured. It doesnít look much different than your local theatre, where you might go and watch a play, or a musical production.

Many modern sanctuaries have copied the theatre in its structure. That is, you have theatre style seats arranged in a semi-circle, fastened to a sloping floor so you can see clearly what is happening on the stage. We as Christians tend to call the stage a platform. The word platform seems to sound a little better to our ears. It makes it look like we arenít copying our local theatre, a place where many of us were told to stay clear of as a youth because of its sinfulness.

On the stage, I mean platform, you might see a music team members with all of their instruments, but in the centre you will see, "the pulpit". This is where the main part of the Sunday morning service takes place.

All young aspiring preachers canít wait for the day they have their very own "pulpit ministry", on their very own platform. Iíve been to Bible School. I know what young aspiring preachers can be like. The problem that too often occurs with this set-up is the appearance of our old menus called "pride". All eyes and ears are on the preacher, resulting in the temptation for the preacher to take himself more seriously than he ought, possibly giving in to the fight against pride. You can bet that pride will sooner or later mount an attack.

We have set our preachers and pastors up for a fall. It is only natural to like the admiration, the attention one gets when all eyes are on you. Like many singer/musicians, you get a rush from the audience, and audience it is. (we have long ago lost the participatory nature of a meeting of the church as described by Paul in 1 Cor. 14)

Getting high from the rush one gets from being the centre of attention leads to one "loving the work of the Lord more than the Lord of the work". If this becomes the case, and it doesnít have to, it is possible that the words spoken from the pulpit are more from the flesh than from the Father. If this is allowed to proceed, the speaker can easily becomes a super-star of sorts, not unlike a rock and roll singer as he sings and plays before his screaming fans.

There are some problems with the way we set up our meetings and our churches. There is the problem of pride in the pulpit. There is the problem of words spoken in the flesh, unable to reach the hearts of those listening. Then you get the audience mentality of those who are in attendance. The meeting of the church was never meant to be spectatorative, (my made up word for spectator mentality). Church gatherings were never meant to be similar to watching a theatrical production. People in the pews were never meant to be passive.

I often wonder what Paul would think of the way "we do church" these days. Iím using modern lingo. After a couple years of seriously studying Paul, it is my conclusion that he would not be happy in many of our western churches. He may be happier in the third world church, or so I think from my limited understanding of many third world churches.

The answer to me is clear Ė "what does the Bible say"? More specifically, "what does Paul say about this issue"? Paul said more than most about this subject. For example, he devotes a long chapter in 1 Cor. 14 to this very topic. He gives instructions in how to conduct a meeting of the church. Notice I say, "a meeting of the church", and not "a church meeting". 1 Cor. 14 is a good place to start. Read it and analyze it carefully, verse by verse. I wonít go into all of the details here. You are smart enough to see it and understand it for yourself. It is the ultimate in "church growth" material. You actually might want to "copy and paste" it, and email it to all of your friends on the internet. You might go as far to say, "letís try this some day".

Paul was the "apostles to the Gentiles", and most of us in the western church are Gentiles, so it might be a good idea to see what our apostle has to say about church structure before we go and read the latest book on how to grow our church. Just an idea.

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