I was preparing to preach every week, which was different than what I had done in the past. I knew I quickly had to find what was comfortable for me. Sunday comes with amazing regularity, so finding a setup that allowed for me to preach the Word of God unhindered was of first importance. I had been preaching for nearly 15 years by that point, but most of the time I preached without a pulpit. When I arrived at a venue to guest preach I would have them remove the pulpit; I would just stand with Bible in hand to speak.
The weekly regime of preaching was going to require more notes than I preached with prior to that point. I had to have space to lay out my notes, Bible, clock, and iPad (for control of my slides). I also wanted a space that I could call my own. So I decided to make the stage feel more like a comfortable coffee shop than a lecture hall or old church (hence the high-top table and chair). I have spent many hours in a coffee shops, and I wanted the stage to feel as comfortable as I was in those places. I wanted to invite others to join me for a proverbial warm beverage and heartfelt conversation. With those things in mind, I decided that I would preach with a table and chair ongoing.
Though I have people question this from time-to-time, I have had many people tell me how comfortable they feel with my preaching. I’ve had people say, “It was like we were in my kitchen…” or “… it was like we were just having coffee…”. While the work in their lives can only be attributed to the Holy Spirit, the setting is an important environment for God to work without hindrance.
Here are the main reasons I preach with a table:
First, it conveys authenticity. I want people to know that I am just like them, striving to sit with God’s Word and apply it to my life. This can be done with a pulpit (my favorite preachers use pulpits) but I believe that for me, it is best if I have a place to sit with my Bible open in front of me. I also want it to feel like they could grab a chair and sit down with me, and nothing would change. We are just real people seeking out a real God.
Second, it conveys approachability. I also use a table to clearly demonstrate an attitude of “Come join me in life as we find God’s will and voice on how to live.” I want people to be able to come meet with me, talk to me in the grocery store, or counsel in my office. For my life, the image of approachability can be greatly supported by preaching without a pulpit but having a “pull up a chair and stay awhile” look.
Finally, it conveys humility. I have had some people tell me I lose power and authority when I sit at the table. I disagree. If I have to show power and authority by body language or not sitting, then I have not correctly understood how Jesus showed power and authority. I believe a table can convey a humility that is necessary—to God and toward others. We are here to serve, not be King (that position is already taken).
There is a lot of thought which has gone into where my table is placed, what kind of table I use, the height and look of the chairs. I also practice (and sometimes mark in my notes) when I stand and sit in the sermon. Choosing to preach with a table and chair was not a “one-time decision and call it good” but it is a constant awareness of how to use this personal preaching space for the greatest effort.
If you preach or teach in any way or at any frequency, I recommend that you find the setup that is best for you. Think through what you are trying to convey, what your pulpit or table says about you and how you will best use it ongoing.