Warning About the Pew Controlling the Pulpit

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It is one thing to equip the pew, but it is quite another to over-empower the pew. We all know what happens when the pew controls the pulpit. On this regard, listen to the words of Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

Far too often the pew has controlled the pulpit, and great harm has come in the Church. The Apostle warns Timothy that a time is coming when people ‘will not endure sound doctrine.’ This is frequently the case at the present time, and has been so during this present century. So it is important that every member of the Church should have a true conception of the Church and the office of the ministry in particular.

There are churches in the world today which appear on the surface to be very flourishing. People crowd into them and they display much zeal and enthusiasm. But on closer examination you will find that most of the time is taken up with music of various types, and with clubs and societies and social activities. The service starts at 11 a.m. and must finish promptly at 12 noon. There will be real trouble if it does not! There is but a brief ‘address’ of some quarter of an hour’s duration, twenty minutes as a maximum. The unfortunate minister, if he does not see these things clearly, is afraid to go against the wishes of the majority, his livelihood depends upon church members, and the result is that everything is made to conform to the desires and wishes of the pew. I have been told on excellent authority that there is a church which is attended at certain seasons of the year by most distinguished personages, in which instructions are given to the preacher that he is not to preach for more than seven minutes. It is almost important, therefore, that every member of the Church should understand that the purpose and the function of the ministry is ‘for the edifying of the body of Christ.’ The history of the Church shows clearly that it is when the pew, the listeners, exert such powerful influences and when ministers lacking courage have been so bound, that the Word of God has not been truly preached and the Church has become dead and lifeless. The pew does not dictate to the minister as to what he is to do” (Christian Unity: An Exposition of Ephesians 4:1-16, 201-2).

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