The day they almost “retired the pulpit”

There is no distinction between Jew and Greek, because the same Lord is Lord of all, who gives richly to all who call on him. All who call on the Lord’s name will be saved. So how can they call on someone they don’t have faith in? And how can they have faith in someone they haven’t heard of? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the good news. – Romans 10:12-15

1-IMG_4202Here’s a post that – unlike that pulpit – is definitely on he lighter side.

My lead photograph features our elder for facilities, Jon Gutekunst (along with Bill Seymour and his son Braedon) moving the pulpit in the sanctuary at WFPC. It’s a heavy behemoth piece of oak that doesn’t go anywhere without a lot of effort.

“What are y’all doing?” I asked.

Jon (ever quick of wit) didn’t miss a beat. “Rebekah’s sermon was so great Easter Sunday we’re retiring the pulpit,” he said.

Counting Career Stats?

Preacher Hall of Fame!!!

They were actually rearranging for a special worship service, but it’s an interesting concept, thinking about a sermon like a well-played game, or keeping track of a preacher’s statistics or retiring the number (or the pulpit) after a great career.

Don’t laugh too hard because stuff just as crazy as that actually happens, it really does. I knew a preacher who was called to a proud tall-steeple congregation. The church had a vital and solid downtown witness but constantly compared themselves to our church (the other big Presbyterian Church in town). We had grown from being a hundred members smaller to a few hundred members bigger and the tall steeple folk were not happy.

So, in a separate (secret, unofficial, supplementary) “terms of call” document the new pastor was offered an annual bonus tied directly to growth in membership – cash money, under the table, “per-head” – in addition to his salary.

I imagine you can guess what happened. That’s right, the church experienced a significant decline in membership, and less than two years later the preacher moved far, far away.

I don’t think that word means what you think it means…

The point is that “growth” is not always a simple numbers equation, “success” comes in all shapes and sizes, “membership” is not the same as “discipleship,” and growing “faithful witnesses to the Gospel of Love” is more than a number that can be stenciled to a jersey and hung from the rafters of the church.

Over the years Rebekah and I have seen and continue to see God move in countless unpredictable, creative and transformational ways. Such growing (in grace, or numbers, or discipleship, or witness…..) is impossible to quantify, replicate, or adequately describe. But I can say this much:

  • We witnessed God at work in Pensacola to the extent that the city itself became a different place because the people of Trinity Presbyterian Church followed Jesus;
  • We watched The Holy Spirit refresh and animate First Presbyterian Church of Brandon with such life that the congregation became a renewed and vibrant center for discipleship and mission;
  • Here in Wake Forest Jesus is quietly and patiently building a church defined by such a passion for reaching out with love that in this town WFPC has become synonymous with Christ’s grace-laden message of invitation and reconciliation.

1-IMG_4065So don’t retire that pulpit quite yet, Jon! I’m pretty sure Rebekah’s not done with it… and I know for a fact that God has a whole lot more to say.

Now if you want to replace it with something lighter and more accessible, now that’s another conversation….


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