Redeemer Fellowship’s mission, “To Make Disciples As Disciples”, is unpacked in three environments we call The Table, The Pulpit, and The Square. Yesterday I explanined what we mean by The Table (be sure to check that out before moving on to this post). The Pulpit is the environment of our large gathering of corporate worship on The Lord’s Day. Here we gather as one people to worship one God in spirit and truth. We call this environment “The Pulpit” because this gathering is characterized by the revelation and rule of God’s word. This environment leans more upward in that we are all directing our attention to the Lord who reigns above.
The Pulpit, as an environment, is not merely highlighting a sermon, but the supremacy of God’s word expressed in various forms: the word read, prayed, preached, sung, and communicated.
The Word Read
The New Testament is clear in the command for the public reading of Scripture to be a norm in our worship gatherings. 1 Tim 4:13 says, "Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching." In a previous post I discussed the practice of responsive reading. There I explained that most churches focus on the preaching and are content to show Scripture on a screen during a sermon, but at times the actual reading of the Word is neglected to the detriment of the church body. The absence of the reading the Word is a lost opportunity for the growth of the believer as they read, ingest, process, and respond to the grace of God shown in Scripture.
The Word Prayed
Along with being read, we spend time praying the Word. This takes place throughout the service in a variety of ways. All prayer in the service is either reflecting the truths of Scripture, directly formed by it, and often becomes the actual substance of our prayer. From the opening prayer, to the prayer of confession, to the offertory prayer, to the benediction, when we pray in this environment we are praying the word.
The Word Preached
The preaching of the Word is what comes to mind for most when discussing The Pulpit. It certainly has a central place in the liturgy. Through the preaching of the Word members are encouraged to abandon sin and cling to Christ. Through the preaching of the Word, members are confronted with their need of our glorious Savior. A Savior that loves and calls them to Himself. A Savior who lovingly came, lived a perfect life of obedience, suffered, died, rose, ascended, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father interceding on our behalf. This is the glorious God whom is to be the focus of our preaching. When the word is preached we hear both law and gospel and respond n faith and repentance.
The Word Sung
Today much of what passes for worship in song is focused on ourselves and our emotions, generally at the expense of doctrine. I believe when we sing to the Lord and each other (Ephesians 5:18-21) it can and should be focused on our triune God and expressed with deep faith-fueled emotions. Look at the Psalms, there we see heart-felt, emotional cries of joy, pain, and need, yet focused on the glory of God. Worship, informed and formed by Scripture, speaks to our hearts and gives us a language to respond to our glorious Savior.
The Word Communicated
While the Word of God is communicated through all these forms, there is a special way it is communicated through the ordinances (or sacraments). The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith discusses the two ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper.
Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be to the person who is baptised - a sign of his fellowship with Christ in His death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into Christ; of remission of sins; and of that person's giving up of himself to God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life. (LBC 29.1)
The Supper of the Lord Jesus was instituted by Him the same night on which He was betrayed to be observed in His churches until the end of the world for the perpetual remembrance, and showing forth of the sacrifice of Himself in His death. It was also instituted by Christ to confirm believers in all the benefits of His death; - for their spiritual nourishment and growth in Him; - for their further engagement in and commitment to all the duties which they owe to Him; - and to be a bond and pledge of their communion with Him and with their fellow believers. (LBC 30.1)
The word communicated in the sacraments ought to be a frequent experience. For us at Redeemer we celebrate baptism as often as needed and the Lord’s Supper every week.
The Pulpit is central to what we do. Even the image we use to share our mission and vision depict it in the middle. This was intentional. The Word of God read, prayed, preached, sung, and communicated is vital to the life of the church. Not only vital, but it identifies her as the True Church. As Calvin wrote, “Wherever we see the Word of God purely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to Christ’s institution, there, it is not to be doubted, a church of God exists.” (Institutes 4.1.9)