This is from one of my older books, The Invisible Pulpit, that I am now revising…
THE PREACHER STEPPED up to the pulpit and peered out to his congregation with a somber look in his eyes. He read the passage to be expounded with a semi-nasal tone and a dryness that could absorb the recently spilled coffee in the outside foyer. He then proceeded to give his expository address to the sleepy individuals before him and brought out all the grammatical parsings of the Greek, as well as the specific archaeological details that supported his text. His monotone delivery seemed to hypnotize the people who could stay awake, and the others simply nodded off in a physical display of what seemed to be happening spiritually.
On the other side of town, another preacher waited for the whoops and hollering to simmer down after the music played its final notes. He then jogged up to his pulpit like a game-show host, and smiled as he opened his Bible. With intensity he read his passage, and then stepped away from the pulpit, pacing the platform and vehemently raising his voice concerning one topic after another. His congregation seemed to love it, and they encouraged him frequently with their cheers and applause. Yet one brother after the service was asked what the text was that morning, and he had to pause. “Wait, give me a minute…It was on, oh no, it wasn’t on that! It was…”
These days, there is no lack of variety coming from our pulpits. There are serious preachers and humorous preachers. There are preachers of the truth and preachers of the lie. There are preachers full of wisdom and preachers full of air. Technically, the pulpit is an indicator of authority. Many churches would rather not let just anyone get up there and preach. They want credentials! What is your story? Where have you studied? What is your experience? And so on. When the church is satisfied by the credentials, the pulpit is given to the preacher and the service begins.
The preacher’s authority
Though each preacher may have a certain authority in the pulpit, the authority that counts the MOST is that which is established through a strong relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the greatest pulpit of them all: the pulpit that is occupied by the one who intimately knows God. If a pastor has a number of theological degrees, but does not know God intimately, he is not good for much behind the pulpit– no matter how loud or impressive his speech.
This is not just required of preachers. Essentially, every Christian should know God intimately. Those that really do are given an invisible pulpit from which their lives speak with authority to others. They are the Christians who affect their surrounding environments with life. They do not necessarily have to speak, yet the message still goes forth from their invisible pulpits: For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life (2Corinthians 2:15-16).
We might, like Paul, apply these words to ourselves if we are pursuing the Lord in sincerity and truth. The closer we walk with the Lord, the more our lives will be as the savor of Christ, sending the message from our invisible pulpits. In this respect, every Christian is a preacher. Believers are in fact, “a royal priesthood” (1Peter 2:9). Whether it be through a powerful sermon or a gentle disposition, both can speak volumes about the Savior to the church and to the world. And while a spoken message always comes to an end, the unspoken message from the invisible pulpit continues on. It is backed by the invisible authority of Christ, which will upset some and uplift others.
Sadly, though, much of the authority given to Christians today comes from man. It is not God-given authority, and so much of what is spoken in the name of Christianity is but a faint resemblance of the faith, if not a farce. There has been no lack of heresy, showmanship, and hypocrisy. There has been a terrible lack of discernment.
Christianity or Christ?
It is not Christianity that should be promoted, but Christ. But to a large degree the faith has become a system. Many are satisfied with a Christianity that is little more than a label, simply used to denote denominational beliefs or a moral values system. Others base their faith on their esteem of favorite doctrines, and promote little more than a religion of head knowledge. Christianity has often been relegated to a business, complete with ‘Christian marketing’ and alternative entertainment.
We should consider what kind of messages we as the Body of Christ are sending forth from our invisible pulpits. Are we revealing the life of faith in Jesus or are we just acting like the rest of the world, with a bit of church and Christian lingo? Are we, like Paul, the fragrance of Christ to others? Are we as the savor of death unto the dead, and as the savor of life unto the living? The world has heard plenty of good preaching; however, our lives should speak louder.
That may be a bold statement for a little guy like me to make. I have not won the award for perfect Christian living, and in fact I deserve numerous demerits. The good news is that God sees us as righteous in Christ, no matter what! This is not about “doing better.” It is about releasing the power of God in our lives. A lack of knowledge about who we are and what we have in Christ is often to blame for the lack of fruit in our lives. The truth is that we have it all (see 1Cor.3:21-23)! Faith accepts this, although it is unseen (Heb.11:1). Obedience to the faith (Rom.1:5) brings it out.
Bringing it Out
The first step is understanding and believing that God loves you regardless of your successes and failures, even regardless of your sins! Many people have a hard time with this because of human nature’s self-righteous tendency. They base God’s acceptance of them on how well they are doing. When they aren’t doing well, they think He is ticked. But this is wrong. In faith we believe God accepts us based on the finished work of Jesus! It has nothing to do with our works, good or bad. The next time you mess up, instead of allowing discouragement in, try rejoicing in the fact that Jesus has already covered it! Your relationship with God is as good as it can ever get, because of Jesus and not because of you! Your experience of this relationship may fluctuate, but the problem is on your side, not God’s. His love for you never fluctuates.
The second step is obedience. Not obedience in order to get in good with God. But obedience to the faith. If you believe all is well, then obey and be happy. If you believe God will provide for you, then obey and don’t be stingy! If you believe God loves you, then obey and allow that love to flow to others. What you believe, act on. This will affect your relationship with God on your side- it will soften your heart towards Him. The truth is that you have the raising from the dead power of God working toward you (Ephesians 1:15-23). The Body of Christ fails to receive and enjoy it because they don’t believe it. They have been numbed by a powerless system of Christianity caught up in only in what is felt or seen.
We need the Holy Spirit to reveal the unseen to us, to speak forth from His invisible pulpit. I’m talking about the realities presented in the Word. We read about them but often misunderstand. Or we believe them in the head but have not seen them in the heart. The Holy Spirit will bring the revelation. Then the message can carry out through our own invisible pulpits and aid in bringing the answer of Jesus to this needy world.