Lesson 13 – In Relationship to the Environment

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The Preacher in His Present Relationship to the Physical Environment of His Preaching

We readily acknowledge that the Scriptures and Church history teach us that God can bless and has blessed the preaching of His word in very uncongenial circumstances.  However, what God can and may do in His absolute sovereignty, is not to be the standard by which we seek to provide as congenial an atmosphere as possible for the preaching of the Word of God.
1. We are not preaching to disembodied spirits or insensitive bodily creatures. 

Mk. 8:1-3

2. Whenever the Word is preached Satan will use any means at his disposal to hinder the understanding of that Word. 

Mk. 4:14-15

3. In all things we are to seek to reflect the beneficent character of our Heavenly Father. 

Ps. 103:13-14

In the light of these perspectives, I trust you see the importance and the biblical roots of the subject matter of this lecture. The person who is so spiritual as to be willfully ignorant or indifferent to the principles related to the act of preaching in relationship to the physical environment of that preaching, is more spiritual than God! In reality such a man’s willful ignorance of and indifference to these things is not true spirituality at all, but a distorted piosity!! Further, it has overtones of what Paul describes as the doctrine of demons in 1 Tim. 4:1 ff.
A. The pulpit and its setting 

1. The pulpit itself

Neh. 8:4 – See Matthew Henry’s comments on Neh. 8:4 “His post was very convenient. He stood in a pulpit or tower of wood, which they made for the word (so it is in the original), for the preaching of the word, that what he said might be the more gracefully delivered and the better heard, and that the eyes of the hearers might be upon him, which would engage their attention, as Luke iv. 20. 3. He had several assistants. Some of these stood with him (v. 4), six on his right hand and seven on his left: either his pulpit was so contrived as to hold them all in a row, as in a gallery (but then it would scarcely have been called a tower), or they had desks a degree lower. Some think, that he appointed them to read when he was weary; at least his taking them as assessors with him put an honour upon them before the people, in order to their being employed in the same service another time. Others who are mentioned (v. 7) seem to have been employed at the same time in other places near at hand, to read and expound to those who could not come within hearing of Ezra. Of these also there were thirteen priests, whose lips were to keep knowledge, Mal. ii. 7. It is a great mercy to a people thus to be furnished with ministers that are apt to teach. Happy was Ezra in having such assistants as these, and happy were they in having such a guide as Ezra.”

a. Its structure

b. Its placement

c. Its visibility

1) Proper height

2) Proper lighting

2. The setting of the pulpit

a. It should be a setting that allows for easy and safe accessibility.

b. It should be a setting that permits adequate and unrestricted mobility.

B. Seats and their arrangement 

1. Aim at optimum physical comfort.

2. Secure optimum visual access to the pulpit.

3. Aim at optimum avoidance of visual distractions.

4. Secure optimum use of space in terms of need.

C. Acoustics and voice assistance where needed 

1. You ought to have as your goal an audio acoustical situation which allows for the full range of your voice being heard with comfortable audibility.

1 Cor. 14:8-9

2. For this reason you are strongly urged to consider using no voice assistance until your congregation grows to well over 200 to 300 people.

a. You will keep voice support.

b. You will develop the necessary commandingness as the congregation grows.

3. Practical implementation

a. In an existing building you may need to add sounding boards, or you may need to subtract sound by using absorbent materials such as drapes or an acoustical ceiling.

b. In constructing a building a mixture of materials should be used.

c. When the time comes for a voice assistance system, contact a sound engineer who knows the difference between a voice assistance system and a P.A. system.

d. Avoid systems which allow for no movement in the pulpit.

D. Ventilation and temperature control of the place where you preach 

1. Observations

a. When people gather in a closed room, each person becomes an oxygen consumer, a humidifier, and a radiant heater.

b. If the brain is oxygen starved, it will make you less than efficient and your listeners sleepy.
c. If heat and humidity are excessive, concentration is a labor.
d. Often the place of preaching is out of line with the environment, being under intense lighting, etc.
2. Practical counsels

a. Ventilation and movement of air

1) Quiet overhead fans may be needed.

 2) Installation of an exhaust fan and air intake louvers may be in order.
3) Appoint one of the deacons to watch the temperature, adjust the thermostat and open windows, if necessary, in the middle of the sermon.

Charles H. Spurgeon, “Attention” in Lectures to My Students, (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2008), pp. 148-149.

b. Temperature control

Once again, in handling this very practical area of pastoral concern, we see the constant and delicate interplay between nature and grace – between special revelation and general revelation.
May God be pleased to make you men to be men of the highest biblical piety, and of the most intense practical sense in such matters as these. If this is true of you, then as surely as your sermon preparation will be marked by arduous labor in exegesis and homiletics, so your consideration of the setting in which you preach will be one marked by a conscientious and meticulous attention to such matters as the pulpit, the pews, the acoustics, and the ventilation of your meeting room.

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