A Pulpit Is Not A Platform

By Dr. R. Scott Clark - Posted at The Heidelblog:

Since the early 18th century, American Christianity has been dominated by personalities. George Whitefield, the Wesleys, and Jonathan Edwards feature prominently in any narrative of the history of eighteenth-century American Christianity. When we think of the 19th century we think of figures such as Charles Finney. Twentieth-century American evangelicalism was dominated by the likes of Billy Sunday and Billy Graham. Many of those figures were not associated with any particular pulpit. They were traveling preachers. They developed a following. American evangelicals have tended to gather around personalities and platforms rather than around preachers and pulpits.

We know what a literal platform is: it is raised surface on which a speaker can stand in order to be heard. It is a stage. It highlights the speaker, the personality. A platform has sound and lighting technology, designed to highlight the speaker. The platform has room enough for the speaker or entertainer to walk about (with a follow-spot) and to engage the audience dramatically.

A pulpit, however, is another thing. It too is raised. Depending upon when it was built, it may even have a sounding board above it, in order to help project the sound of the preacher’s voice out to the congregation. That was sixteenth-century sound technology. Unlike the platform, however, the pulpit was designed to highlight neither the preacher nor his personality. Unlike the stage or platform, the pulpit is a single-use piece of furniture. It is designed to facilitate the preaching of the Word. In architectural terms, a true pulpit is not just a lectern placed on a stage. It is at the top of a short flight of stairs. It has a door. The pulpit is a box. By design, once the minister enters the pulpit there is no place for him to go and nothing for him to do but one thing: preach the Word.