As someone who preaches in a variety of churches and settings, I often find myself evaluating a preaching position. I was recently in the friendliest little countryside chapel that just happened to have the highest pulpit platform I’ve seen in a long time. Why preach from all the way up there?
Elevation Intimidation – If I were to preach from up there I would be implying several things. For one, there is authority when spoken from on high. But on the other hand, there is also a sense of intimidation. A sense of separation between the lofty preacher and the humble listeners.
Distant Proclamation – In other venues the front three rows are empty and the pulpit is then back some distance. Again, it is a position of authority, but there is also the sense of interpersonal distance. If my goal is to be an aloof expert, that is fine. But if I want to increase the sense of connection in the communication event, perhaps I need to preach from closer (and on the same level avoids the elevation issues mentioned above).
Obstructed Communication – In most venues there is a barricade, a pile of rubble and barrels that obscure the preacher from the listener. Really? Ok, maybe not specifically that, but the big old wooden pulpit monument functions in the same way. Authority? Sure. But what about the inevitable distance that obstruction puts into communication? Try having a meaningful conversation through a door, or a wall. Now cut a hole so you can see just the upper torso and head…still feels weird.
If our goal is to connect and communicate, then we must consider where we preach from, and why.