In Exodus chapter 20, the children of Israel had recently been liberated from slavery in Egypt, and they gathered at Mount Sinai to hear the word from the Eternal One. They were not assembled to hear the voice of Moses – even to hear God’s voice through Moses – but rather the whole community was ready to hear God’s voice for themselves. And while the experience of having God speak directly to the people was too terrifying for the people in that moment – they asked Moses to go hear from God and come back and deliver the message – God’s first intention was to speak to all the people.
This vision revives with the fire of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. We see all of the disciples of Jesus empowered by the Spirit to go out and share the word from God in ways that people from a score of people groups could understand. The word from God was shared in many languages, from many perspectives, in many tongues – this is the inauguration of the church.
But here in the modern day, we have too often kept to the model of the single intermediary – we return to the Moses model. A man (and yes, too often a white-cisstraight man) goes and hears from God and goes back and speaks to the people. While people often hear messages from God in this way, we (at Redeeming Church) don’t believe that this is God’s intention for the Holy Spirit quickened community.
Instead, we share the pulpit. We have three pastors from three different social locations plus lay speakers and special guests that fill our pulpit with many different perspectives on what it means to hear from God in any particular moment. Even within our services, different pastors lead conversations, teach about history, lead communion, and give the benediction – we even have a time of open discussion in many of our services where we interact in groups of two or three about how our experiences reflect upon what we’re hearing from God during the service.
In this postmodern world of many voices and many perspectives, God calls us once again to embrace the Sinai–Pentecost moment, where everyone is invited to hear the voice of God for themselves. We can no longer pretend that any one voice has a monopoly on hearing from God. When our pulpits don’t reflect the diversity of our congregations – and even our communities – we run the risk of upholding the systems of privilege and oppression that Alliance churches have historically worked against. The Holy Spirit is still speaking to the assembly; let’s hear God together.
Adam Gray is the lead pastor of Redeeming Church in St. Petersburg, Florida. Redeeming Church is an Alliance-partnered new faith community where everyone is welcome and everyone is loved. Adam lives in St. Petersburg with his partner of 11 years, Lauren Gray, and their four-year-old son, Elias.