Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tips for Corporate Scripture Reading

If the Bible really is God’s Word, if it is His authoritative self-disclosure, and if it is the only source of faith and practice, then reading the Bible in our corporate worship services is one of the most important actions on any given Sunday.

Here is what Paul commanded a young church planting pastor:
“Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture” (1 Tim. 4:13).

The reading of the Scripture is a corporate act of worship. It is not an option. Failure to read God’s Word to God’s people is disobedience to God and unloving to the church.

So, here are 5 important tips for corporate Scripture reading (in no particular order):

Read the Scripture:
1. Prayerfully
As you read, ask God to use His Word to accomplish His purpose in people’s lives. If God’s Word is as powerful as it says it is (Ps. 19:7-11; Heb. 4:12), read it with as much expectation as you would have if you were throwing a grenade into the congregation.

2. Accurately
By this, I mean two things: (1) labor to read the Bible with the correct pronunciation and (2) read from a reliable translation. If we believe that every word of the Bible is inspired by God, then we must try to read it accurately. Also, it could be distracting to people if we fumble through pronunciation. If you don’t know how to pronounce a particular person’s name or place, listen to someone read that passage from an audio Bible as you prepare.

3. Affectionately
Does the Bible bring joy to your heart? Has God spoken to you from this passage? Read the Bible with joyful passion. Communicate through your tone and facial expressions that you love this book. Often, reading the Bible with affection will challenge God’s people to listen attentively to God’s Word. However, we must guard against being overly dramatic in our reading. If we are trying to manipulate the text, thinking that we are making it interesting, we are denying its intrinsic power and authority.

4. Seriously
Corporate Scripture reading is not a time to clown around. This is God’s Word we are handling. We should read the text seriously. We are in the presence of God and He is addressing us. The people need to sense your reverence and awe as you open God’s Word.

5. Clearly
What good is it to read God’s Word if we read it in a way that no one understands us. We need to be careful to articulate the words and phrases clearly. We should not try to speed read the text so that we can move on to something else. We need to slow down and communicate as clearly as possible. Don’t mumble God’s Word.

Here are a few other random tips for corporate Scripture reading:
  • Prepare to read God’s Word to God’s people. Read the text over and over throughout the week before you are to read it corporately.

  • A brief introduction to the passage is often helpful in getting people ready to hear it. Set up the context of the passage or alert the people to what they should listen for.

  • Introducing the reading with a declaration of the power and authority of the Bible adds weight to the reading (for example: “This is the infallible and inerrant Word of God”).

  • Introducing the reading with an invitation or admonition to hear or pay attention to the Word could be useful in snapping someone out of just drifting along (for example: “Listen carefully to God as He speaks to us from His Word”).

  • Having people stand while you read the Scripture is a good way to ensure that all attention is focused on God’s Word.

  • Read from an actual Bible. Don’t make a habit of reading from a screen or from just a printed piece of paper. You want to make clear to everyone that you are reading from God’s Word.

  • Don’t apologize for reading long portions of Scripture. It’s ok to prepare people for a lengthy passage, but never feel like you have to justify reading the Bible.

Mark Dever says, “Carving out time in our Sunday morning service to read Scripture aloud, without comment, every week, makes a statement about the value we place on God’s Word. It says we are eager to hear the Word of the Lord—we desire it. It acknowledges that the life and growth of our local churches depend on the power of God’s Word, and that we really believe that “man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). It acknowledges our own weakness in that we continually need to be reminded of what God has said. It says we’re willing to listen to God’s Word, to sit under it in order to be instructed, assessed, and evaluated by it. It says we’re willing to agree with its presentation of reality and with is estimation and judgment of us. It says we’re willing to submit to its verdict and commands without qualification. Yet if the regular public reading of Scripture says all this, what are we saying if we neglect it” (The Deliberate Church, pp 81-82)?


JCRandolph said...

Thank you, Justin. Good stuff for us at Crossway.

Brian said...

Great article. Thanks for helping us in this way.