Just two short months ago I preached my first sermon as the senior pastor of Mission Road Bible Church. Many emotions competed in my heart that morning. Joy, excitement, fear, and thankfulness were a few. I will never forget that day. But there is a memory of that morning that will always be “engraved on that pulpit.”
As the music finished our executive pastor, Bob Taylor, gave me a very kind introduction. It was an emotional moment for him. His care for our church and me was evident. At the end of his remarks he informed me that there was a surprise waiting for me on the pulpit. Turns out he had done some research with my former secretary and friend Patti Schott in Los Angeles.
I’ve read of Puritan pulpits that had John 12:21 engraved on them. This is an account of an event that took place the week before our Lord’s crucifixion. He had arrived in Jerusalem and His fame and presence were causing quite a stir. There were some Greek men who had come to worship at the feast who had heard of the amazing Man from Nazareth. Finding Philip, Jesus’ friend and disciple, they made a simple request, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” The simplicity of that desire is astounding. And this entreaty captures the demand of the Christian pulpit.
In conversations with Patti, my desire to somehow place this verse on my own pulpit someday leaked out. She in turn passed along my secret wish to Bob Taylor and the MRBC elders. It should be obvious by now what happened.
When Bob called me up to the pulpit, he removed a notebook that had been conspicuously lying on it. There, in the upper corner of the pulpit, one of the church members had beautifully engraved those words, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
This gracious gesture will serve me well. It is a constant reminder that when I stand in that sacred real estate behind the MRBC pulpit, there is nothing more important than preaching with the aim of displaying the glory and wonder of Jesus.
Here is a picture I took of the pulpit with my phone right after I closed that first service…
For those interested, I have written a chapter in Evangelism: How to Share the Gospel Faithfully (ed. John MacArthur, Thomas Nelson, 2011) on what it means to preach Jesus in every sermon, even though He is not in every text.