Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Stand up, stand up for Jesus

While I'm on a semi-rant about methods of preaching, I'll point out another issue with the church-as-classroom.

Winston Churchill said, "We shape our buildings, and thereafter they shape us." This can especially be said about churches.

Build churches without icons, and we forget that we are -- per Hebrews 12.1 -- surrounded by the saints of God.

Build churches without a crucifix, and we forget the cross.

Make a baptismal font insignificant, and baptism will become -- to us, not to God -- insignificant.

But the problem I address today is pews. Go into 99% of churches in the US, and one will find the following structure: a pulpit facing rows of pews. Which looks like a variant of a lecture hall. And as I mentioned in an earlier post, people (preacher and congregation) begin to imagine that they are there for their weekly dose of religious instruction.

Most of our eastern brethren realize that it's quite improper for us to sit in the presence of a king. Especially the King of kings. But sit we do.

Remove the pews. Provide seats around the side so the frail or elderly or tired or nursing mothers or whomever can sit down when they need to. But most of the congregants can and should stand.

Remove the pulpit. Let the preacher stand in Christ's stead in the midst of the congregation and proclaim God's word to God's people.

More about the sermon tomorrow.


Presbytera said...

I can not even begin to imagine keeping children under control if there were no pews. If you had several children, you would have to rope them to keep them in line if there were no pews.

At our church, we stand when we address the KING in the liturgy. We bow when singing or saying the Triune name. At my former church we kneeled when confessing or praying. There are different ways of showing respect and honoring our God other than standing.

The elevated pulpit helps to carry the voice of the preacher and allows the listeners to look at the speaker. How rude in our society not to look. I have never seen a teaching podium that remotely resembles our pulpit. The pulpit also hides the man so to speak. When I see a pastor preaching who is outside the pulpit, it makes me focus on his actions -- more like an actor on a stage.

jim huffman said...

As the father of 4 children (now mostly grown) I'm very sympathetic with those who are dealing with small children. I think that as with anything else, it's a matter of careful, systematic training in behavior, and also a need for a congregation to be tolerant of occasional noise and disruptions due to children. I'm also a big believer in children being in the service from early on, so they get used to proper behavior and decorum there.

My point about standing is that if an earthly king were in our midst, we would not sit. It just wouldn't be done. I'm not sure why we feel that it's OK to do so in the presence of the King of kings.

Having a pulpit architecturally designed so that the preacher can be heard is certainly not a bad thing. My question would be whether it's optimal to have congregations so large that the preacher cannot be heard without using such a device.

My point about the pulpit resembling a lectern is that the way many of them look now resembles teaching lecterns from several hundred years ago. If a church was built in the 1950s or 1960s -- my church was -- the "pulpit" is often nothing more than a lectern.

Thanks for your comments.