Thursday, September 18, 2008

Agree or Disagree

"If the church is alive,
it's because the pulpit is alive--
if the church is dead,
it's because the pulpit is dead."
--Billy Graham

(Don't you just love the word "pulpit")


Anonymous said...

Not sure if you are being somewhat sarcastic or not ?

Josh Ross said...

No sarcasm.
I read the quote in "Pagan Christianity" by Barna and Viola. Thought it was interesting since most of us have grown up in pulpit-centered churches.
I didn't share my feelings too much beforehand. I think there is truth in the statement, and I also feel that churches can be alive without centering themselves around a 25-minute sermon.
(I have more thoughts, but I can share them later)

I do think the word "pulpit" is a little old-fashioned.

Martha said...

I strongly disagree considering that the pulpit time in our congregations on any given week amounts to about 40 minutes. There are 10,080 minutes in a week, so pulpit time is roughly .04% of the life of the church. Besides, most people aren't even listening, and their listening has nothing to do with the quality of the message or the efficiency of the presentation. They aren't listening because they do not have ears to hear. The Spirit gives life. Where the Spirit is active and welcomed and sought after, the church is alive, because our Good Father longs to give us Good gifts. And he will not withhold the Holy Spirit from those who ask.
I say, where the church is dead, people have stopped asking God to pour out His Spirit for life in
Christ. Of course, I'm just a youth minister, not a preacher, so I've got nothing at stake here. (:

Topher said...

I second what Keith said, but I agree with the quote to an extent.

Consider this revision...

If the [body] is alive, it's because the [tongue] is alive--if the [body] is dead, it's because the [tongue] is dead.

Assuming the remaining body is functioning, the tongue is not required for life in its basest form. The tongue is used to communicate and taste. The body may be able to survive without a tongue, but it has become less alive.

A church may be able to technically survive with a dead "pulpit." But, if a church is unable to communicate its spiritual purpose, then should it exist? Then, it is just a robotic coordination of gestures and rituals- a social habit producing a religious corporation.

As to the word 'pulpit,' I would define it loosely as the public communication of one's spiritual existence. I don't think this requires a sermon. I would argue sermons are more often about habitually reiterating an oral doctrine- an unwritten liturgy. (This does not apply to the sermons of Josh Ross.) I think the church's 'pulpit' is primarily its actions towards its members and towards its community. Sermons affect actions, but they are not substitutes for actions.

"Actions speak louder than words."
--Randy Harris
(Seriously, he was the first person to say it.)

"When all is said and done, more is said than done." -- Somebody cynical and clever

Anonymous said...

I disagree, I don't think "pulpit" is an old fashioned term.

Josh Ross said...

Good thoughts.
Studies show that the average person at a worship service will go home remembering 10% of what was said. As preachers, we better be giving them a good 10%.
Thanks for pointing us to life-giving Spirit.

I loved your revision and the way you think.

Your response is completely missing the point of this post. But, thanks for feeling need to share your passion for the word "pulpit." I'm not condemning the word, and it's still part of vocab.

Anonymous said...

I'm not in total agreement with Graham's statement. I see where he's coming from, but I think he's placing too much emphasis on the man, not the fellowship.

I love services where we do nothing but pray, or sing songs themed around something specific. Don't get me wrong - preaching is vital.

I love Francis of Assisi's (sp?) statement, "In everything you do, preach a sermon. If you have to, use words."

I like lecturn.

Karen said...

I think that "life" in a congregation is measured by its involvement in the community and among the members themselves. A spirit-filled "pulpit" certainly helps encourage that involvement, but I don't believe it is the measuring stick. Karen

kcox said...

To pulpit or not to pulpit...? I personally think the physical pulpit is a barrier between the speaker and the audience and a more conversational less lecturing style is more effective in reaching the audience. It might even make more "listeners" out of "hearers". (...have ears but don't hear.)

That aside, I think the speaker, chosen by the shepherds, can and must be a catalyst to affect change and growth. I am so thankful, Josh, that you were chosen through prayer for the direction of the Spirit, to be that catalyst at Sycamore View. Keep up the good work!

phil said...


I agree with you, the term “pulpit” is a little outdated for me as well, (but so is “song leader”). Anyways, I remember reading in “Surprising Insights from the Unchurched” by Thom Rainer that the overwhelming number one reason visitors gave for returning to a certain church was the message, and the personality of the preacher/pastor of the church. Also, research shows that a church who filters through ministers every couple of years are more likely to become stagnate and unhealthy. So I think there is some truth into what Graham is saying, however I don’t think it is an absolute or blanket statement (which it sounds like it was intended to be).

On another note, Ben Witherington did a lengthy 4 part review on “Pagan Christianity” in July on his blog page; something I would recommend reading if you have the time. Here is the link.

Justin said...

If the church is alive it could be because the pulpit inspired it.
If the church is dead it has little to do with the pulpit.
That doesn't really answer your question but those are my thoughts.

Keep inspiring.

By the way I think pulpit is old school, too.

Jeff said...

Making another revision (and this will probably show some level of ignorance on my part but it's nothing new for me), I would suppose if a pastor is in the pulpit and the purpose of a pastor is to feed the sheep and if the sheep are not fed, they die - the statement could be true.

While I'm a big fan of our current preacher, I'm not a fan of the idea that the preacher is on the hook for whether the church is moving forward or falling behind. I still look to the pastors to feed me, allow me to be healthy and through that health I will support what the church is doing (spiritually, financially and physically). I think our church is alive right now because the Elders are finding ways to feed the flock - through the pulpit and through other ministry avenues that put the flock to work. A strong pulpit enhances the overall efforts (as is evident in our church) but be the only indicator.

Tammie's Thoughts said...

I have been a part of congregations where the "pulpit" preacher wasn't all that great but the church grew...
I love your preaching and it might bring new people in but in the long run, that's not what is going to keep them faithful to the Lord. Each one has to develop their own faith. Preaching might help them to that or it might not. I'd say more often than not, the lives they see the people in the church lead along with their own Bible study, prayer, committment, AND the influence of their friends and/or teachers will have the greatest impact on their lives!