Part I - The Platform

For this week’s and next week’s ministerial I have chosen to repeat a two-part article by Merle L. Mills that was printed in a November 1955 edition of the Ministry Magazine. Though many years old, I believe, like I did, you will find the article interesting and relevant in some respect. Part I relates to the Platform and part II to the Pulpit.

Part I - The Platform
platform

“Decorum on the platform and in the pulpit can do much to set the tone and establish the mood for the church service. It is important that the ministry as well as others who participate in such services observe the ethical conduct that should prevail under such circumstances.
“Because those who are on the platform are under constant observance, their mannerisms should be such as not to offend the worshiper or to detract from the service. While an ostentatious display is to be deplored, one's conduct before the public should not be considered lightly.
“Let us consider some of the essential points of this subject and ascertain whether we are doing all that is expected of us to inspire a reverential atmosphere and to establish a setting that will contribute to the efficacy of the service of worship.
“Those who are to go on the platform should meet in a designated place, usually the pastor's study, in sufficient time to become acquainted with the order of service, the arrangement of seating, and the part each one is to have on the program. Such a practice will avoid confusion, embarrassment, and awkwardness. It should be made certain in advance that there are a sufficient number of platform chairs, that they are properly arranged, and that the right number of church hymnals is available.
“The pastor can plan with the organist or pianist to be given a signal when the prelude is about to be concluded, which, incidentally, should not infringe upon or delay the worship service. If there is no choral introit, the ministers at the close of the prelude should step onto the platform and bow in unison for silent prayer. This genuflection of the ministers on the rostrum should be done in order and with grace. The austere and clumsy way in which some kneel for this part of the service is to be deplored. Each should kneel on both knees and at the same time. It would be well if the one in charge of the service would say Amen just loud enough for the platform group to hear if there is no choral Amen. This is a signal for all to rise together with grace and dignity. If the ministers kneel toward the platform chairs, as in some places they still continue to do, it should have been agreed before that all turn in unison either to the right or to the left in facing the congregation.
“If the congregation has been seated during the silent prayer and it is the plan to rise to sing the doxology, either the choir director or the pastor may make a gesture for them to rise for the song. The one designated to offer the invocation prayer should be in the pulpit by the time the singing is completed and should either gesture with the uplifted hand or say, ‘Let us pray.’ Many times one begins to pray without informing the congregation. This encourages irreverence on the part of the stranger or those unfamiliar with the order of service, and they are not properly prepared to enter into the prayer.
“The platform chairs should be so arranged that the speaker's chair will be directly behind the pulpit. The platform chairman is seated next to the speaker. The one who is chosen to speak should occupy the center chair regardless of what responsibilities or positions are occupied by any who might be invited onto the platform for the service.
“Inconspicuous and conservative dress is essential to good platform etiquette. Bright-colored ties, socks, and suits, and sports apparel are definitely out of order. ‘Carefulness in dress is an important consideration. The minister should be clothed in a manner befitting the dignity of his position.’—Gospel Workers, p. 173. A mirror in the pastor's study aids one in making a check of his personal appearance before going onto the platform.
“Proper dress for local church officers who are called upon to participate in the services can be stressed by having a meeting with your elders and deacons at the beginning of the year in which is discussed with them the importance and necessity of dressing on the Sabbath day in an attire that would be in keeping with the dignity of the service. Even then there may be times when an officer will come to church without a coat or tie, or be attired in a suit and loud tie that make him conspicuous and out of order on the platform. In a few cases, I have refused to take a person dressed in this manner onto the platform, and have in a kind way explained to him the reason. Another suggestion that has been helpful in solving this problem, especially if there are a number of elders, is to give them advance notice of the time they are to go onto the platform and the part they are to perform. Not only does this alert them as to how they should be dressed, but it enables them to be prepared for what is required of them. This is especially important for the one who is to offer the public prayer. He should be notified beforehand.
“Posture is also an important factor to be considered with platform manners. One should sit erect with both feet on the floor. To sit in a slouched position with the legs crossed is a gross impropriety. To encourage interest in and attention to the speaker, the eyes of all those on the platform should be kept on the speaker. To allow the eyes to wander about the auditorium, sizing up the beams, scrutinizing the light fixtures, looking out of the windows, et cetera, during the preaching is a breach of good platform manners. The same can be said of closing the eyes and dozing. No matter how soporific the sermon might be, this is inexcusable. It is indecorous for anyone on the platform, including the pastor, to whisper. This can no more be condoned there than in the congregation. Whispering and talking on the platform are disrespectful and irreverent.
“The speaker and those who share the platform with him should sing with the congregation. Singing is as much a part of worship as praying and preaching. How strange that people go to church for the ostensible purpose of worshiping the Lord and yet refuse to do so while there, by not singing with the congregation!
“All those on the platform should participate in the offering. This too is a significant part of our worship to God. It may be true that the pastor or the visiting ministers have contributed earlier that day in another church they have visited. But this cannot be explained to the congregation. Even if it means that one must divide his offering, or sacrifice more, in order to give when he is required to be on the platform several times in one day, he should give willingly.
“Those seated behind the speaker can set a good example of supporting him. As the pastor makes a solid point or enunciates a solemn and pregnant truth, why not express approbation by a hearty Amen! It is to be lamented that in many of our churches this practice has become almost extinct, and the Amen corner of the church has become silent. It is recognized that this could be carried to excess, but a few Amens during the sermon will not give cause for offense and could do much to contribute to the inspiration and fervor of the speaker.
“Admittedly, one of the prevailing sins in our churches today is irreverence. What is seen and heard often times in the house of prayer is an insult to God and must cause the angels to hide their faces. We stand indicted, and, as conference workers and leaders, we ourselves have been guilty of contributing to this laxity by our personal example. Realizing our solemn obligation, could we not improve our platform manners and by example help to develop an atmosphere that will dignify our church services so that they will inspire awe and reverence in all who come to worship God in His sacred presence?”