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preaching article Pulpit Dreams or Pulpit Reality?

Pulpit Dreams or Pulpit Reality?

based on 6 ratings
Aug 27, 2012
Scripture: none
(Suggest Scripture)

As the vibrations from the band fade away, the stage fog recedes, and the theater lighting dims, you saunter across the stage, place your Bible on the high-top table and settle into the matching chair. You take a moment to peer out at the thousands who are ready to hear you preach a motivational message perfectly timed to not a second more than 20 minutes ...

... or so goes the dream for many of today's church leaders.

One of the problems with that dream is current reality.

For most, the preacher stands on a simple stage before about 75 people in a modest meeting place and takes on various roles: making announcements, sharing a communion and offering mediation, leading prayer, and sometimes even leading worship.

Then he finally preaches, but not to the audience he has. Instead, he preaches to the audience he dreams of having.

That's because the dream of ministry stardom is his dream, not a shared dream of those comprising his audience.

The people in the pews make up a handful of families and singles. The devoted are more interested in seeing their neighbors come to Christ than the church reaching any kind of "mega" or "multi-" status, and the others are present out of a sense of duty or guilt.

God has a lot to say to this little fellowship of followers. The question is, will the preacher bring that message, or preach to the audience he wishes he had?

There's certainly nothing wrong with dreaming of being used to proclaim the Gospel to thousands. After all, Christ's commission to the church is to make disciples of all the nations. But to reach the whole world, you first have to reach and serve the people you're with.

You have to preach to the audience you have rather than the one you dream of having.

Which one are you preaching to?

Minister, clinical pastoral counselor, life and business coach, certified personal trainer, writer, leader, businessman James Scott has done a few things over the years, but being a servant of Jesus Christ is why he exists, and the greatest passion of his life is to help people better understand, and apply, God's Word to their lives.

Talk about it...

David Buffaloe avatar
David Buffaloe
0 days ago
Preaching to none right now - looking to God to provide a Church
David Nuhfer avatar
David Nuhfer
0 days ago
I must say that I don?t recall having had a conversation with any pastor who was preaching to the audience he/she wished was there. I agree with the need to consider this, but I also think that most of us don't spend a lot of time thinking about "ministry stardom." If we did, we would have left ministry a long time ago. We do spend a lot of time praying and trying to discern the best way to love and motivate the people we lead/serve toward a Christ-centered life, knowing that the best way for a church to grow is still one person reaching out to friends and family who need Jesus. We pretty much know we aren't Hybels or Warren or Stanley and, in many ways, aren't aspiring to that. Instead, we want to be faithful in sowing and watering, knowing that it is God who grows His church.
R.l. Wilson avatar
R.l. Wilson
0 days ago
Good article!
Leslye Haller avatar
Leslye Haller
0 days ago
Great article and one I think a lot of pastors struggle with. I too dream of a church full of worshipers; not because I dream of stardom, but because of the blessing it would be to have that affirmation that our church is truly reaching the lost for Christ! God bless you and your ministry!
Gene Escoe avatar
Gene Escoe
0 days ago
A very good article. I think our seminaries need to spend a whole lot more time on this reality, instead of training all these guys for "careers as gospel rock stars". I am currently a seminary student and a pastor. The only speakers I ever see brought in are the "rock stars", never the guy who God has sent to toil in some never heard of town and in some unheard of church. Because of this, many of the guys, especially the young guys, see themselves as the next big thing in the ministry world. Thanks for an article that brings us back to our reality.
Chris Surber avatar
Chris Surber
0 days ago
@James: Great word James! As a local church pastor I have found great grace and peace in living securely in the calling I have not dreaming about what God may have in store for me or this church some day. Good, Good word. @Gene: You are right on. At my website I have an article which touches a little bit on the heart of your comment. (http://chrissurber.com/articles/ChristianLeadership_visioninfluence.pdf) The truth is the Kingdom "happens" in local fellowship of between 75-125 people all across this country and the world.
Randy Miller avatar
Randy Miller
0 days ago
David, I just spent some time in prayer for you. The Father is faithful and sees your situation. Be encouraged that He knows of your need and desire. He knows it even as well as he knows the need of the Pastor of the mega church... You are no less significant. Thanks for your comment Gene Escoe, you are right on target.
Zachary Bartels avatar
Zachary Bartels
0 days ago
" or so goes the dream for many of today's church leaders. One of the problems with that dream is current reality." Sure, but the problems with that particular dream go much deeper than that! The rock band/fog machine/motivational speech dream is worldly and foolish.
Mark Thometz avatar
Mark Thometz
0 days ago
Zachary, why do you say those things are worldly and foolish? I can understand your meaning if the purpose of the tools is to create a big concert for the people, but I know for a fact that those things can be used for the purpose of worshiping God. There are so many ways to worship God including running the lights, fog machine or being a part of a "rock band" as you say. I say, do those things to God's glory. They can be great tools to use to bring people to a state of worship.
Terry  Frazier avatar
Terry Frazier
0 days ago
If you look at the economy of this country it is the big fortune 500 companies that most people know the names of but the real driving force behind the American economy is the small businesses that operate with less than 50 employees. They are the backbone of the economy and I say that to say this that it is the same in the church world too. The mega churches may be well known but it is the small to medium size churches that do a lot of the work. I am a bi-vocational Pastor of a church that has about 50 members and I love being the Pastor there and people have asked me if I would like to preach at a bigger church and I always tell them that decision is in God's hands and I will be faithful right where I'm at until He leads me to go elsewhere.
Thomas Sims avatar
Thomas Sims
0 days ago
I enjoyed this article although, I don't see myself preaching to a mega church. I enjoy more of the "homey" type church. But, for now, I preach at a little inner city church where the most attendance I had this year is 13. For the most part, the church is made up of 3 families and a single older gentleman. That is when they all come. Before, we had an attendance of 40; till the young people left and took all our Sunday school with them. We have one high school student and the rest being 40 and above. Still, I love the church and will stay as long as God will let me.
Thomas Sims avatar
Thomas Sims
0 days ago
I enjoyed this article although, I don't see myself preaching to a mega church. I enjoy more of the "homey" type church. But, for now, I preach at a little inner city church where the most attendance I had this year is 13. For the most part, the church is made up of 3 families and a single older gentleman. That is when they all come. Before, we had an attendance of 40; till the young people left and took all our Sunday school with them. We have one high school student and the rest being 40 and above. Still, I love the church and will stay as long as God will let me.
Zachary Bartels avatar
Zachary Bartels
0 days ago
Mark, turning worship into a show is exactly what happens when you bring "lights and fog machines" into the church. Why else would you create a rock concert/entertainment atmosphere unless your purpose was to entertain? This is a complete biff of our calling as ministers.
Jimmie Tempano avatar
Jimmie Tempano
0 days ago
Zachary, I think you are right. In fact, I don't think you go far enough. We need to get rid of the hymnals and the overheads, the apostle Paul didn't use those. Why don't we get rid of the pulpit, that just separates the preacher from the people. While we are at it, why don't we sell the church and preach from a hillside, Jesus did. We don't need all these modern contraptions.
Mark Thometz avatar
Mark Thometz
0 days ago
Jimmie, no need for sarcasm. I can understand his point. It's not that it's new, it's that it has always been used for a concerts and shows. However, why can't we use it to glorify God? Why can't we use those as worship to God? I have been skeptical before but I have since seen people worshiping God with how the run lights and create that type of atmosphere. If someone has a gift in running lights or fog machine or playing an instrument, why can't they use that to worship God?
Zachary Bartels avatar
Zachary Bartels
0 days ago
Ah, Jimmie. The obvious (albeit lazy) response would be to go to equal/opposite extremes, since you're employing the Fallacy of Extension. I suppose I could say something like, "No, your sarcasm has convinced ME! But I don't think YOU take it far enough! How about we use Porno and Cage Fighting and Pole Dancing to 'to the glory of God' so we can entertain goats instead of feed sheep..." But the problem is, my sarcasm would be lost, since "churches" have already gone far enough down the road you propose so as to have done all of the above.
Mark Thometz avatar
Mark Thometz
0 days ago
The difference, however, is that the things we have brought up are not sins. They are tools that can be used for the glory and worship of God.
Zachary Bartels avatar
Zachary Bartels
0 days ago
Mark, the strange fire Nadab and Abihu offered up wasn't sinful in and of itself. Probably would have been awesome pyrotechnics at a rock concert. But when used to debase the worship of the one true God, the context makes it less than desirable to say the very least.
Mark Thometz avatar
Mark Thometz
0 days ago
I can understand that it can be used (when used improperly) to distract, but it can also be used to create a deep atmosphere of worship. If it is all too God, then there should be no problem. I do very strongly agree that if they are using those things for their own glory or because they think it's cool then it is wrong. However, if you're offering them to God then I think that's great. There are plenty of people who worship best in that atmosphere. Not everyone but I know plenty who do. I truly feel that if God has blessed you with a talent like that, you should use it for His glory. Like Romans 12:1 says. Offer up our bodies, everything we do, to God.
Mark Thometz avatar
Mark Thometz
0 days ago
I looked up Nadab and Abihu. Thank you for that story, I had not heard of them before. However, it seems to me that this story was about obedience to God. They were given specific instructions on what to do and they chose not to follow them. Since we are under the New Law, we do not have those specific ways in which we worship God. We no longer have to worship with animal sacrifice, but with our own life as sacrifice (Rom 12:1; Col. 3:17).
John E Miller avatar
John E Miller
0 days ago
Zachary Bartels' reference to Nadab and Abihu is very good in the context of this discussion. If we bear in mind that all the offerings of Leviticus through chapters 1-8 have a typical application for us referring to the death of Christ, we read in chapter 6 that the fire on the altar was never to go out. For us that surely means that the death of our Saviour has an eternal glory and significance to it, both for the glory of God and our eternal assurance of salvation. That fire alone, the all consuming judgement of God upon the spotless victim confers on us by faith, His perfect righteousness. Anything else is an insult to God. Nadab and Abihu insulted God and disobeyed His explicit instructions in presenting "strange fire" to use in an offering. It brought on them His immediate fiery judgement. We have the very same thing in principle today. The utter foolishness of persons who claim the Christian faith and then bring to God as an offering anything else than that which speaks to Him of Christ is strange fire. The excitement of entertainment that panders to the flesh has no place in Christian worship. I agree with Zachary except in his remark that the strange fire was not sinful in itself. It was a direct challenge to the instructions that God had given as to His service and what was suitable to his presence. One other thing, how anyone can bracket Rick Warren together with Charles Stanley is beyond me.
Mark Thometz avatar
Mark Thometz
0 days ago
John, how is using a talent to worship God wrong? Where in scripture does it say playing an instrument or running lights cannot be used to worship God? Or that it is sinful? I agree, Nadab and Abihu sinned because they completely disregarded what God told them to do. They disobeyed God. But as Romans 12:1 clearly states, our whole life should be worship to God. We do this because (as Paul mentions at the end of chapter 11) God is great beyond comprehension. As a result ("therefore" 12:1) our lives should be a living sacrifice, which is our true worship to Him. So why can't we use our unique talents and abilities as worship to God?
John E Miller avatar
John E Miller
0 days ago
Mark I never suggested that there was anything wrong in playing an instrument during the service of God and as I don't know what running lights are I am not in a position to comment on them. I was surprised that a youth pastor as you are should not have been acquainted with the biblical account of Nadab and Abihu which is referred to several times in scripture. I wish you well in your service and would counsel you to immerse yourself in scripture. Paul's comments to Timothy about the knowledge of scripture are good advice to every young man who aspires to be useful to God in any service to which he is called. May God bless you in his service.
Mark Thometz avatar
Mark Thometz
0 days ago
Mr. Miller, I humbly admit that I do not know every story presented in scripture. I recognize I have a ton of room to grow in my knowledge of scripture. I apologize if I seemed arrogant to you or anyone else reading these comments, for that is not my intention. I do take seriously Paul's words to immerse in scripture. I graduated from Bible college just 3 months ago and I am currently in my first full-time ministry. 4 years of Bible college taught me many important lessons. One of them being that I will never stop learning. I was not familiar with their story previously, but I am now. I immerse myself daily in scripture but I am only 22. God has a lot more to teach me. My knowledge of scripture will grow as I grow as a man of God. I humbly recognize this. I apologize if I gave off the idea that I already know it all. I do not. I imagine that if I do live well into my 80's or 90's I will still not know it all. But I am earnestly trying to serve God with the best of my abilities by the strength of God in work in me. I am thankful for His grace that covers my lack of knowledge and I work daily to bring more and more of His word into my heart. He has been faithful to me in my strengths and I know he will continue to work through my imperfections. I have seen your others posts on other articles I respect and admire your knowledge of God's word. I pray that I too, with the help of God, will become as knowledgeable as you one day. With all of that said, I am wondering what it was in my previous post you disagreed with? I am very aware of my imperfections but I am wondering what that has to do with this discussion. When I referred to instruments and running lights, I was responding to Mr. Bartel's comments. Nadab and Abihu sinned because they disobeyed God. They paid with their lives. So I ask, what does this story have to do with our worship of God today under the New Law based off of His instructions on worship?

So, what did you think?


Thank you.