The church is in grave danger of losing its pulpit. It will not be yanked away by the atheists. It will simply side off the sanctuary platform because of lack of proper use.
What has been happening to the preached Word of late?
It has been giving way to entertainment. Over-head projectors, singing groups, gospel film showings, drama, choreographed prayers, children's ditties, mimes and the like have clogged up too many worship hours.
This has meant that there has been little time for a substantive message from the Word. Of course, the laity rarely complain because they are enamored by the change of pace. Further, some of them have been stuck with boredom for so long that they welcome a bit of life from the front of the church building.
It addition, sound preaching has been replaced in some quarters with a extra overlay of liturgy. It does not take too much thought to realize that one hour is made up of sixty minutes. With that a given, a "clergyperson" can figure how he can whittle away his message to eight or ten minutes if he only includes one more liturgical movement.
Again, laity may not notice the change. At first, they may be enthralled with the extra religious rite. However, what they are sacrificing in preaching is usually not worth the added show.
Even in evangelical churches where liturgy does not weigh that heavily, some "clergypersons" have stretched their rundown of the bulletin's announcements, hardly realizing that laity can read those details just as easily as they read the daily paper. Some pastors simply add an extra hymn to wedge in the time so as to cut short the sermon.
What is this yielding today's congregation?
We are losing out on the anointed preaching. God has promised to bless His messenger with eternal truth to convey to believers when that messenger puts forth prayer and earnest study to come upon the Sunday sermon. When tidbits are incorporated into a worship hour in order to sidestep a meaty message, the pastor is reneging on His divine call. He is a disappointment both to the Lord and His people. Eventually he will have to answer for his negligence.
We are fostering a spiritually ignorant people. Recent surveys indicate that the younger generation is not knowledgeable concerning the Bible. No doubt this is due to the slack-off on Sunday school attendance. But it is also due to the diluted preaching in too many pulpits. biblical doctrine is not being put forth. Instead, trite stories and pious mumblings are more in fad.
We are emptying our own pews. There is no need to strike out at the secular forces attacking Christendom. Certainly they are having the impact so as to increasingly diminish spiritual fervor. But in too many instances the bland pulpit has called for its own demise. Intelligent persons will finally give up on getting dressed up to trot off to some church for nothing but some sing-song called a sermon.
We still have time before we close the church doors. Then what can we do with the time left?
We can determine that we will diligently prepare a Sunday sermon which will last at least twenty-five minutes. Time length in itself does not guarantee quality; nevertheless, it is a start.
We can spend more time studiously crafting the message and less time running about town. It is easier to be active than passive. It is more enticing to get behind the wheel of the car to gadabout than it is to work the brain with the Bible in prayer.
We can return to more doctrinal preaching. Instead of simply tickling ears we can start to build fires in the hearts of men and women. This takes more effort than simply giggling from the pulpit; nevertheless, it is what the Almighty has destined us to do as preachers of the inspired Word.
We can preach more authoritatively. Instead of merely giving forth sermons which sound like opinion-sharing, we can declare eternal verities. We are to pronounce the message of God. That takes more than smiling widely through a public relations stint on behalf of a local church institution.
We can shudder at what is actually happening today between the pulpit and pew. Then we can recoup our souls before God with the promise to do better. After all, we are the preachers for this generation; it is up to us. We cannot shift the responsibility to those who preceded us nor those who will follow. To the work in the name of the coming Christ. He stands at the door and waits. How will He judge us?
Editor's Note: Rev. Swank pastors the Church of the Nazarene in Windham, Maine. This article is reprinted by permission of the author.
Dr. Rushdoony recently noted that the pulpit is the major media in America. Although the congregations across America each week outnumber the voters in any national election, we are failing to use the pulpit to educate our generation.