I find the phrase “filling the pulpit” to be an interesting one. I am really not sure about the history of that phrase, but, I think that most of us realize that it refers to the man who is doing the preaching.
What TO Fill With…
Whatever it means, it is my prayer that “filling the pulpit” does not merely mean “we’re good as long as there is a warm body up there.” Hopefully, among other things, the following things are true about the man who “fills the pulpit” – including me:
- Time has been spent filling his sermon with scripture.
People can be entertained, motivated, challenged, and/or encouraged in any number of ways. The one to whom we look for the development and/or enhancement of our faith, though, needs to know and use scripture. The reason for that is very simple: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17).
- In order for sermons to be filled with scripture, a preacher needs to have filled much of his calendar with a study of God’s Word.
Bible knowledge does not happen by osmosis. It takes a significant amount of time and effort to know God’s message to mankind, to properly understand it, and to apply it to the lives of individuals.
- Proper application to the lives of people means that the preacher needs to also fill some of his calendar getting to know people.
I remember reading about a presidential candidate years ago who did not do himself any favors when he delivered a “canned speech” about what he and his advisors saw as the evils of Social Security. While the speech may (or may not) have had some merit, it did not help his cause at all that the speech was delivered to an audience composed primarily of recipients of Social Security benefits.
Not surprisingly, he lost the election. That one speech did not “do him in,” but it certainly did not help him.
A preacher will lose (or never have) credibility if he merely “spouts out something” with no regard for the needs of those who will be listening. In my opinion, a preacher needs to do everything within his power to keep from being a stranger talking to strangers.
Those are just a few of the things that come to my mind as I think of the man who “fills the pulpit.”
What NOT to Fill With
There are also some things I think are important goals for that same man. It seems to me that the following need to not be among them:
- Filling the time.
All of us have probably had the experience of sitting and listening to somebody who rambles, “re-preaches the sermon,” etc. merely because he somehow thinks he has to “fill up” a certain amount of time allotted to him. This thought is not original with me, but I like it: A sermon does not have to be eternal in order to be immortal.
I think it may have been brother Guy N. Woods who said, “If you can’t strike oil in twenty minutes, quit boring.” I may not be right about that, but I do remember hearing brother Woods preach. Each time I heard him, his sermon was memorable – and short!
- Filling heads.
It is true that there are definitely a huge number of facts in the Bible. It is also true that those facts can lead to and bolster our faith.
At the same time, it is also true that facts are not the same as faith. There are any number of atheists who know many facts from God’s Word and deny every one of them.
- Filling his wallet.
Any man who is “in it for the money” needs to quit – immediately (if not sooner). There are other ways to make just as much (if not more) money. They would not involve incurring the wrath of God and destroying or weakening the faith of precious souls.
- Filling a resume.
In the worlds of sports, business, politics, and entertainment (among others), fat resumes are necessary in order for a person to “climb the ladder of success.” True followers of Christ, on the other hand, are more likely to be seen with a dirty towel as they stoop to serve (cf. John 13).
Please Fill Us With…
Finally, as I now have a little more opportunity than has been the case in previous years to listen to some other men who “fill the pulpit,” I would like to make the following requests:
- Fill our hearts…
- with a love for God.
When our Lord was asked about the greatest commandment in the Law, His answer was, “…You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all “your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37).
- with a love for one another.
After all, didn’t Jesus say that love for one another would be how people would identify His followers? (cf. John 13:34-35). In that conversation recorded for us in Matthew 22, He also said, “And a second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39).
- with a love for the lost.
Matthew 22:39 does not say “brethren.” The word is “neighbor.”
What if that neighbor is lost? Do we love him/her enough to try to teach them? Will the man filling the pulpit fill my heart with a disdain for the lost or a love for the lost? Will he remind me that “…God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8)?
- Fill our imaginations.
- Help us to imagine what heaven will be like.
- Help us to imagine how much can be accomplished by one congregation or one person when that congregation or person is completely devoted to the Lord.
- Help us dream, plan, implement, and accomplish!
There is much more that could be said. There is much more that probably should be said.
I guess I will end these thoughts with an old adage that I’ve tried to keep in mind whenever I’ve tried to “fill a pulpit.” I haven’t always accomplished what the adage suggests, but I’ve tried to remember that…
It is better to have something to say than it is to merely have to say something.
AUTHOR: Jim Faughn
Photo background credit: waferboard on Creative Commons