Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Suggestions for Reading Scipture in Gathered Worship

The reading of God’s Word is one of the most important things Christians do when they worship together. Listen to the Apostle Paul’s encouragement to his friend and young pastor, Timothy: “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching”(1 Timothy 4:13). Below are some thoughts that we use at our church to help readers prepare to read Scripture during our times of corporate worship. Reading God’s Word publicly is as an important ministry as the preaching of God’s Word. It is when we, the people of God, hear from God himself through his Living Word.

1. Examples in Scripture

a. Exodus 24:4-8; Deuteronomy 31:9-13; Joshua 8:30-35; 2 Kings 22:1-20; 23:1-3; 2 Chronicles 34:1-32; Nehemiah 8:1-18; 9:1-3; Jeremiah 36:1-21; Acts 13:13-27; 15:19-21; 2 Corinthians 3:12-15; Colossians 4:15-16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27; Timothy 4:13; Revelation 1:3.

2. Translation

a. Normally, use the translation that is used by the preacher/pastor. (Here at WBC the New American Standard Bible is preferred.)

b. Guest speakers/preachers are also encouraged to also use the same translation normally used at WBC.

c. When different translations are used, the reader ought to tell the congregation which translation is being used.

d. In addition to the NASB, good translations for reading Scripture publicly include the ESV and NIV. Paraphrases such as the Message and interpretative translations such as the NLT ought to be used thoughtfully and sparingly.

3. Script

a. Be sure the Bible you are reading from is easy to read from.

b. Is the text and/or print of the Bible too small, too big?

4. Preparation

a. Read, read, read!

b. Read the text aloud to yourself, your family, your cat or dog!

c. Read the context before the chosen text. Perhaps read the whole chapter that the selected text is found in. This will help you trace the author’s argument.

d. Read several other translations to better understand what the text is really saying.

e. Pray. Ask God to open your heart to his word and his word to your heart.

5. Verbal Cues

a. Before the Scripture reading, prepare the congregation to hear from God, through His living Word. “The authority for [Pastor Mark’s] sermon comes from [Galatians 1:1-6].” or “Please turn in your Bibles to [Book chapter: verse] for this morning’s Scripture reading. Hear what the Spirit of God is saying to the churches…”

After the Scripture reading, remind the congregation that we have just received words of life; we have just encountered the Living God through His living Word. Leader: “This is the Word of God.” People: “Thanks be to God.”

6. Silence

a. After you announce the text to be read, wait until you hear most of the page-rustling stop.

b. Don’t be afraid to endure silence as the congregation turns in their own Bibles to the text that you will read.

7. Gestures

a. Be familiar enough with the Scripture reading that you can look at the congregation while you read. Make eye contact (at least a little).

8. Voice

a. By all means, do not be monotone!

b. Read like we speak. Don’t be mono-paced either.

c. Smile!

d. Put yourself into the text you are reading.

e. Your emotion should match the content and topic of the passage: serious, joyful, encouraging, etc.


Josh said...

Wes @ said...

"Good post by Josh Otte over at Eucatastrophe with some tips for scripture reading in corporate worship. (Thanks for the recommendation, JD.)

Though he does address it in point 4 when he talks about preparation, I would emphasize that your reading of the text (meaning out-loud) will depend heavily on your understanding of the author's argument. The way your voice inflects will change depending on how you understand what the author is saying. So I'd say it's important for those who read scripture to have a basic exegesis of the text in mind before they get up to read--perhaps the preacher could give this to the scripture-reader in a phone call during the week.

Regarding the monotone reading of God's word, I'd say a church needs to carefully choose who's reading publically just as they do with those who preach and sing. Some people read aloud well, and some don't. I guess erring on the other extreme would apply as well--you wouldn't want someone who's distractingly theatrical."

Josh said...

Thanks for the comment Wes.

Definitely. Public reading of Scripture must be Expositional Reading!!! Our reading must communicate the ideas and emotions that the Spirit led the author. And this communication must be verbally and non-verbally in agreement with the text.

Excellent idea about the preacher giving the reader some notes. Perhaps emailing a short commentary on the passage.

I wholeheartedly agree that we need to be careful whom we choose to read publicly. We don’t want it to be “background noise” or worse “airplane safety directions” that we either don’t notice or purposefully ignore.

No doubt. We don’t want the Scripture reading to be one of those “as seen on TV” commercials that are so plastique and canned. All the more reason for Jesus-follower leaders to be actively pursuing the public reading of Scripture in ways that glorify God and encourage God’s people.

One Salient Oversight said...

A few extra ones for you.

1) Never read the titles in the bible as part of your reading - they are not part of scripture. (eg, in Jeremiah 52.12-23, the section is named "The Temple Burned" by the ESV editors. Don't include that title when reading)

2) When reading a Psalm, never forget to read the introductory statements - they are part of the Bible. (eg, in Psalm 90, the introduction says "A prayer of Moses, the Man of God". That is part of the Bible.)

3) Don't overdramtise narrative.

Anonymous said...

This is a great help and good comments too. Thanks for posting this. One point I would add is to never use the Amplified Bible for public reading. (Yes, I've seen and heard it done in a church service.)