We find a fascinating factor concerning preaching in Nehemiah 8. As the Israelites were involved in their own restoration, they demonstrated a hunger for the word of God that prompted them to ask Ezra to read the Law of Moses unto them (Neh. 8:1). Thus, to accommodate their request, he stood upon “a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose” (Neh. 8:4). In this manner, in proclaiming the word of God to the gathered assembly, he could stand “above all the people” to facilitate this endeavor (Neh. 8:5). The Hebrew word for “pulpit” better translates as “tower,” since all but three of the forty-five verses render it as such and this is the only passage in the Bible in which we find the term “pulpit.” Nevertheless, by purpose, it may remind us of the brazen scaffold that Solomon used in standing and leading the gathered assembly in prayer at the dedication of the temple (2 Chron. 6:13). Here in Nehemiah 8, this was no simple block of wood, but a rostrum that was large enough to accommodate thirteen other priests for a total of fourteen people, by which they would assist in causing “the people to understand the law” (Neh. 8:7) when “they read in the book of the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense” (Neh. 8:8). Hence, pulpit preaching was produced!
There is a definite need for pulpit preaching today! Statistics seem to indicate that more preachers are leaving the pulpit than are being produced each year. In fact, some statistics pointed to the fact that 25 percent of all pulpits among churches of Christ in the USA are empty. Moreover, since more and more Bible graduates shun pulpit preaching for other “specialized” forms of ministry, it seems to be robbing the pulpits from great and talented preachers. In addition, consider this quote:
The role of the pulpit minister has been somewhat de-emphasized in recent years as the church of Christ has placed more and more stress on the importance of personal evangelism. The research reported in this book, however, tends to support a view of the evangelistic process in which the preacher plays a very important role. The identification of the subject with the local congregation is a crucial part of the evangelistic process. The preacher is perhaps the most important single factor in projecting the image of the congregation. Furthermore, pulpit preaching provides the subject with exposure to a Christian personality in a more powerful way than almost any other means of evangelism. Dynamic, Christcentered pulpit preaching allows the subject to see the Christ who lives in the heart of the preacher. [Flavil R. Yeakley, Jr., “Why Churches Grow,” 3rd
ed., Christian Communications: Nashville, TN, 1986, p. 49]
According to his statistics that he presented just four years ago at Freed-Hardeman University, Yeakley showed that the church has only plateaued over the past thirty years, holding at a membership of just a bit over 1.2 million in the USA. Yet, in the same time, the population of our country grew by 30 percent. In other words, we are not keeping up! As Paul, we need pulpit preachers who are “not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believeth” (Rom. 1:16)! As Jeremiah, we are in dire need of pulpit preachers who look upon the word of God “as a burning fire shut up in my bones” (Jer. 20:9)!
Pulpit preaching is necessary because this is the method of God in declaring the good news of the kingdom of God and the church of our Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 4:23). Pulpit preaching is necessary because it is integral to the plan of redemption in heralding the news of salvation to a lost and dying world (Mark 16:15-16). Pulpit preaching is necessary because it is authorized by Jesus: “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name…” (Luke 24:47); in fact, Peter says that Jesus commanded it (cf. Acts 10:42). Pulpit preaching is necessary because our world needs “the word of faith” (Rom. 10:8). Paul summed up the necessity of preaching when he declared, “And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10:14-15).
Thus, proper pulpit preaching honors God because it follows in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ, who also preached (Luke 4:16-21), and proper pulpit preaching honors God because it resounds with preaching that centers on none other than Christ (Acts 8:5), which is why Paul declared, “But we preach Christ crucified…For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:23; 2 Cor. 4:5).