Recently I’ve begun to realize that pulpits are more than preaching tools. In many churches, they are the final repository of things that don’t go anywhere else.
I have the opportunity to preach in various churches from time to time. During most worship services, you spend at least half an hour on the platform — sitting behind and slightly to the side of the pulpit — before rising to preach.
I know I should spend all of that time in prayerful preparation, but I’ve discovered that if I pray fervently before the service begins I have time to visually explore the area under the pulpit as a way of learning more about a church and its preacher.
Of course, there are a small cluster of churches in which the area under the pulpit is empty of all but a few scattered microphone wires. Such a pulpit is the home of a well-organized, meticulous minister — or a well-motivated custodian.
Few pulpits fall into that category. For the most part, they are full-to-overflowing of a variety of merchandise any garage sale would be proud to display.
In recent months I’ve spied all kinds of items, including …
– enough light bulbs to stock the lighting center of your neighborhood K-Mart store;
– Sunday School literature from 1976 (the Bicentennial was obviously a good year for Sunday School literature) and several years since;
– a healthy supply of chalk and erasers (in case the preacher develops a sudden urge to support his message with visual aids, I suppose);
– more New Testaments than the Gideons will need for distribution for the next six years;
– Vacation Bible School attendance certificates (the kids obviously missed the day when certificates were passed out);
– copies of every hymnal published since 1935;
– a packet of seeds (perhaps to encourage fertile ideas for sermons?);
– a telephone directory (I suppose to assist preachers who needed to contact employment agencies on short notice);
– a pair of socks and … on second thought, never mind. (I almost forgot; those were mine. I’d explain it, but it’s a long story.)
I have come to the conclusion that the average Protestant pulpit holds enough assorted merchandise to occupy a respectable landfill — and much of the stuff I’ve seen belongs in one.
Of course, some churches play it smart and put doors on the back of the pulpit area. That way they can fill it with stuff they don’t need but won’t throw away, and nosey visiting preachers are none the wiser.
I only hope that in most churches the words spoken from the pulpit represent an investment as significant as the supplies stored under the pulpit.

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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