This past Sunday, at church, we met a man and his wife who moved from Kentucky to our area a year ago. The woman was just as pleasant as could be as she sought more information on how to get involved in the church. The man, however, reminded me of the Children of Israel with his terribly grumbly attitude and outlook on where he was in life.
After sharing about the financial problems of the church he had been pastoring, which led to its death and personal health problems that caused him to have to start over, the man told me, “If I’m not behind a pulpit, I’m dead.”
The thing is, that man was not dead. He still had lots of breath in him. I know because he was blowing a lot of hot air in that room. But the thing is, he was wasting his breath.
He shared that he believed he just knew he could revive a little bitty, dying country church because he had great ideas of how to do so. An energetic lady leading aerobics in the mornings. Potluck dinners combined with Bible Studies on Wednesday nights. Friday family fun nights with a feature film to foster a safe community activity. Those were all fantastic ideas for helping a church grow, though they certainly were not new ideas. I tried to encourage him that our church had all of those things and more, in which he could find valuable ministry opportunities. But he rebutted that our area was just water logged with people stepping all over each other in the ministry. No, he’d much rather pastor a church… somewhere else…because he was dead if he wasn’t behind the pulpit.
Somewhere else. Somewhere other than where God had him right then.
Now, I am all for listening for the still small voice of the Lord and if it means that a new longing or stirring comes in your spirit from His Holy Spirit, then by all means, dream big, cast visions for those places He is leading you to, and Go! That’s biblical.
I’m not for refusing to acknowledge and participate in what God is doing around you, in the spaces you occupy right now. You know, for such a time as this… Why? Because in essence, you’re fixating so much on what you are not able to do or where you want to be that it becomes an idol. That’s not biblical.
I can’t help but feel sorry for this man we spoke to just a few days ago. I’ve been praying that God would open his eyes to new pulpits around him, but mostly to the fact that he seems to have placed his calling above the One who called Him.
That’s sad. Really really sad. What’s sadder is that I know I’ve been guilty of falling into that trap before too. And it makes me feel disgusting inside to know that there have been times I have elevated my ministry ideals above my master.
Shortly after my Daddy died, I had a very vivid dream. You see, not only did he leave behind an empty chair at our family dinner table, he also left behind an empty pulpit. He was my Pastor. And our church was grieving his loss tremendously, while searching for someone who could deliver God’s Word faithfully and shepherd our congregation tenderly. One of my dad’s last requests before he was bedridden was for me to drive him to the church parking lot so he could pray for this body of believers he loved so dearly and for those who would come to that pulpit behind him. Maybe his passionate, sincere prayers that day spilled into this dream I had.
In this dream, I remember getting up from my seat, walking to the platform, standing behind the pulpit which my Daddy’s sermons and Bible had darkened, and while clinching the sides and running my fingers over these words which were inscribed in that reverent piece of wood, loudly shouting what was written there to those gathered in the pews, “Sir. We would see Jesus!”
It wasn’t Pastor Jerry’s pulpit. It didn’t belong to the next pastor who came after him or the one after him or the one after him. It was the Lord’s. The only one worthy to be lifted high for all to see from that pulpit and platform was Jesus. The pulpit was just the vehicle for elevating Christ.
We’ve all got pulpits, you know. Each person who bears the name of Christ has a place to stand to proclaim His Gospel.
If God’s moved you away from the pulpit you’ve been used to, maybe it’s so He can open your eyes to a new one He has given you so you’ll stop idolizing the position on the platform you once held. Maybe it’s so people can stop looking to you and start looking to Jesus.
I recently toured the church that John Wesley, one of the forefathers of the evangelical movement, pastored. More than the pulpit he delivered so many powerful messages from and more than his gravesite which testified to the impact he left on this earth for eternity, the thing that impacted me the most that trip was a painting in the museum below. There, standing outside a church that had banned him from preaching in their pulpit, John Wesley stood upon the platform of his father’s grave to boldly share the message of the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ to all who surrounded him.
Wherever you are, whoever you are, if you are in Christ, you have a pulpit, which is the platform God gave you to testify to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the hope that He has brought to this dying world.
Maybe God has given you the pulpit to stand upon your father’s grave like John Wesley did, using the loss of a loved one to catalyst someone who is lost being found.
Do you think the knock on your neighbor’s door to simply ask how they are doing could be a pulpit offering them the hope that they are not alone, that they are cared for, and that they are not forgotten?
Maybe God has made your pulpit one which acknowledges that yes, your home is broken and the pieces are so broken that you don’t even know how to sort through them, in order to offer the world the truth that God makes all things new and sets the lonely in families.
Or maybe God wants to use the pulpit of your empty womb and empty arms to testify that He is still able to fill every nook and cranny of life, even as the sense of longing ebbs and flows while He steadily overwhelms hearts with His peace that passes all understanding.
What if every layup you go for on the basketball court is a dance with your pulpit’s message of the importance of community centered around one goal?
Perhaps all the orders you hand people from behind the counter of that food chain provide a pulpit for making someone’s day a little simpler and an extension the love of Jesus in the form of a friendly face.
Maybe your pulpit is the chair you sit in while the chemo drips into your veins, as your weary body and spirit proclaims to the world around you that your soul is more alive than any part of your being because it has been resurrected because of the blood that was spilt from Jesus’ veins.
Maybe your pulpit is your minivan, filled with ballet shoes, crushed up cheerios, soccer cleats, and groceries, as you preach to your captive audience every day by your words and behaviors.
Could it be that your pulpit is that corner office you occupy, with the opportunity to model integrity and make lasting differences in the world by how you treat people?
As long as you’ve got breath, you’ve got a purpose on this earth. And as long as you’ve got purpose, you’ve got a pulpit, my friend. It may not be of wood or fiberglass, but it’s the place from which God Almighty has trusted you out of every person in eternity to proclaim His message.
Whatever platform it comes from, embrace the One who gave you your pulpit and use it to elevate Jesus. Don’t make the mistake of elevating your pulpit above Him, though.
Open your eyes, friend. Look around you. Don’t miss your pulpit.