What is Most Needful in our Pulpits?
First, we need to know which pulpits we are talking about. The world is full of “pulpits” that are filled by men and women who are missing the most important thing- the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. That is, the pulpits in mainline churches are not truly “ours” for they are marked by fundamental unbelief. This is why J. Gresham Machen wisely titled his great work Christianity and Liberalism, affirming that they are two different animals, and that there is no such thing as liberal Christianity.
So perhaps we would be better to ask what is most needful in evangelical pulpits. The first most needful thing, of course, is the evangel. And our pulpits will be filled with the evangel when they are filled with the Bible. We need sermons that are expositing the book of the good news of the work of Christ on our behalf.
There is, however, yet one thing lacking- courage. It is safe to say that most church members in most evangelical churches have at least heard the good news that Jesus came to save sinners. It is even more certain that everyone attending the preaching of the Word in an evangelical church is well aware that he is a sinner. It is absolutely certain, however, that no one at the service is sufficiently aware of the depth, the scope and the power of his sin, nor sufficiently aware of the depth, the scope and the power of the grace of God. We know not what we have been saved from nor to what we have been saved.
Which is why we need courage. We need shepherds who walk into their pulpits having seen and used the Bible as a mirror to his own sin. We need shepherds who by God’s grace come to see their own sin for what it is, and who preach confident in the knowledge that his flock is neither more nor less sinful than he is. Knowing his sin, he preaches against his sin. He does not shy away from it, but lays it out for all to see. Because he is speaking to his own sins, others can hear him. Because his sins are the same as those under his care, he speaks to the sins of others.
The courage to speak to our sins, however, is grounded in gospel confidence. A pastor is able to look straight into his own heart of darkness because of the light of the gospel. He can face what he is insofar as he is able to embrace the fullness of the gospel promises. We need pastors who are not merely relieved that their sins are covered, but that are overjoyed to know that they have been adopted. We need pastors who not only know they have by His grace escaped the fires of hell, but who know they will see Him like He is, and so will become like Him.
The church needs preachers who have the courage to believe not only the glories of the gospel, but the sufficiency of the gospel. We don’t need more word studies. We don’t need more scholarship. We don’t need more stories. We don’t need more homiletic genius. We need more courage to preach more gospel. Because Jesus changes everything.