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Guide for Public Scripture Reading

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Why is scripture reading important?

We affirm in our Statement of Faith that, “the Bible is God’s written revelation to man, consisting of the Old and New Testaments. We hold the Word of God to be an objective, propositional revelation verbally inspired by God, error-free in the original documents, and the supreme authority of faith and practice for the believer in Jesus Christ.”

Because we have this high view of Scripture, we desire that the people of God should hear it. Scripture reading is the direct communication of God’s Word to the hearer’s ears. Public Scripture reading is, then, a crucial way in which God speaks to his gathered people.

We believe that, as Hebrews 4:12 says, “The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Therefore, we expect that God can and will work powerfully through his Word as it is read in the church.

As the congregation hears the Word read well, we expect that members will grow in their desire to read the Word on their own. A good reader can show by the way he reads that the Bible is valuable, relevant, and worth reading.

For these reasons, we as a congregation desire to devote ourselves to the public reading of Scripture.

 

Why does it matter how we read?

There is no more serious subject matter than Scripture. Therefore, the responsibility to read publicly should not be taken lightly. We are speaking the words of God to God’s people in the presence of God.

To read without appropriate seriousness or preparation may communicate to the congregation that we think the Bible (and along with it, its message and its Author) is not really all that important.

On the other hand, to read well, with appropriate seriousness and expression, seeking to communicate clearly and powerfully God’s words to his people demonstrates that we believe that God is a God whose Word is both important and powerful. We express what we think of God by the manner in which we read his Word.

How we read matters, because our goal is for people to hear what God is saying. We want to put no barriers between the hearers and the Author. We want to deliver God’s message faithfully, and that means we should desire to read clearly and well.

 

Prepare

Pray. Ask that the Holy Spirit would help you and pray that he would use his Word to do his work in the hearts of every hearer (including you!).

Realize that you will be a better reader if you believe and live what you are reading. You will read Scripture publicly much better if you are often reading it and applying it privately.

Seek to understand the passage. Look up words that you don’t know. Read study Bible notes. Ask an elder if you need to. If you don’t understand (at least at a basic level) what you are reading, you probably won’t read it well.

 

Practice

Read the passage aloud several times in advance. This will especially help in areas where the phrasing is tricky or sentences and thoughts bridge multiple verses.

If you don’t know how to pronounce a word or name, listen to audio of someone reading the passage. The ESV and Bible Gateway websites have the option to listen to passages.

 

Read

Read clearly. You are reading God’s words, so people must be able to hear and understand what are saying.

Read slowly (but not extra-slowly). People must be able to keep up.

Read naturally. A sing-song voice or rhythm will make it difficult for people to hear what you are saying as relevant.

Read with proper expression. If you understand what the passage is saying, you will understand that some phrases should be read slowly and some quickly, some quietly and some loudly, and some cheerfully, angrily, sternly, excitedly, etc. Emphasize words that should be emphasized. Don’t show off, though!
It is okay (and even good at times) to look up and make eye-contact with the congregation while you read. Make sure to keep your finger on your place.

If you realize that you just misread something, pause briefly and then restart the sentence.

 

Before and After

Come forward to read as the preceding song is coming to a close. The worship team will continue to play as you come forward--don’t wait for the music to stop! The final slide of the song will be marked with a small asterisk (star) in the bottom right-hand corner.

When you reach the pulpit, look at the congregation, and announce the passage you will be reading. Then pause for a bit to allow people some time to find the passage in their Bibles. After the pause, start your reading by again stating the reference. Something like, “As we continue reading through Romans, our Scripture Reading this morning is Romans chapter 9. [pause] Romans chapter 9: I am speaking the truth in Christ…”

Do not introduce the reading with an explanation of the text, suggestions of key terms to listen for, or any other introductory remarks.

When you finish reading, simply close your Bible, look up at the congregation, and leave the platform.

 

Comfort for the Fearful

Praise God for his grace! Reading Scripture publicly well is a skill that is developed over time. Everyone makes mistakes when reading, and God is faithful to take our broken, faltering attempts and use them powerfully for His glory.

If your reading does not go as well as you think it should at first, don’t give up. Thank God for his mercy and grace, pray, practice, and try again.