The Church begins with a sermon, “But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them” (Acts 2:14). The pulpit is the primary engine of discipleship. It is the place where instruction of the assembled believers takes place. The preacher stands in the position to instruct and encourage, exhort and correct the congregation. Thus, the pulpit will either lead or retard the assembled people. One of my students put it well, The preacher puts a cap on the congregation. Rarely will anyone be able to mature past him. It can happen, but it is hard.
Therefore, as Lloyd-Jones explains, if the congregation is adrift, if trouble begins to stir, dissension breaks out, people begin to leave, we must first look to the pulpit. While numbers are not everything in a congregation, they can tell a story. If true believers have trouble coming to service, then we must look to the pulpit:
If the people are not attending places of worship I hold the pulpit to be primarily responsible. The tendency is, of course, to blame other factors…The moment you begin to explain away these things in terms of circumstances you always land yourself ultimately in some ridiculous position. My contention is that the pulpit is ultimately responsible, and that when the pulpit is right, and the preaching is true, that it will attract and draw people to listen to its message. (Preachers and Preaching 63).
Now when one looks at some abysmal pulpits, it may cause one to shudder for the sake of the Church and the Gospel. But while the pulpit can ruin a congregation, it is also the “foolishness of preaching” which can transform the people of God:
I have simply skimmed the argument, the statement of it, in the New Testament. All this is fully confirmed in Church history. It is not clear, as you take a bird’s-eye view of Church history, that the decadent periods and eras in the history of the Church have always been those periods when preaching has declined? What is it that always heralds the dawn of Reformation or Revival? It is renewed preaching. Not only a renewed interest in preaching but a new kind of preaching. A revival of true preaching has always heralded these great movements in the history of the Church (Preachers and Preaching, 31).