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.
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.
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?
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…”
b. 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.”
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.
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).
a. By all means, do not be monotone!
b. Read like we speak. Don’t be mono-paced either.
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.