Pulpit & Audience–Is It Biblical?

The idea of a preacher, a pulpit and an audience is certainly not a novel one. It is as ancient as the Scriptures themselves.

In Nehemiah, chapter 8, verses 1-6, we find this testimony:

And all the people gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the Lord had given to Israel.  Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women and all who could listen with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month. He read from it before the square which was in front of the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of men and women, those who could understand; and all the people were attentive to the book of the law. Ezra the scribe stood at a wooden podium which they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand; and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam on his left hand. Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the Lord the great God. And all the people answered, “ Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. (emphasis mine)

Notice the following:

  1. All the people gathered together in a central location.
  2. Ezra the priest took with him the Word of God to the wooden podium, or pulpit, which was built specifically for the purpose of preaching from it.
  3. Ezra entered that pulpit and stood, with the Scriptures, and preached while standing above (higher up than) the congregation.

Many today will say the early church would not recognize today’s pulpit/audience style. Yet the apostles would certainly be familiar with this passage in Nehemiah, demonstrating it not only recognized, but practiced in Scripture. Indeed, Jesus Himself customarily went to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood before an audience and read from the Scriptures. Luke 4:16.

Let us be careful not to adapt methods and methodologies without diligent biblical study and prayer. At the same time, let us be careful who we listen to when non-traditional methods of teaching and preaching are proposed.