Are we devoted to the public reading of Scripture? Part 3: ‘Devotion’ in elders and preachers

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. (1 Tim 4:13)

This is the third post in Scott’s series on the public reading of Scripture. You may want to read the first part or the second part of this series.

In this third post, I would like to start exploring what ‘devotion’ looks like in general, but particularly for elders and preachers.

The imperative translated here as ‘devote’ is also regularly translated in Scripture as ‘pay careful attention to’, or, in a more negative context, that of ‘addiction’. We give ourselves wholeheartedly to what we’re devoted to: we are focused on it, we constantly think about, and we delight in it. Because it is such a fundamental part of our lives, it is what people readily and easily notice about us. Because it is so consuming for us, we don’t question the cost or the hardship involved—we find a way to make it happen.

In other words, a devoted person is a ‘maximum application’ person rather than a ‘minimum requirement’ person; they are always looking for more ways to do what God has told them to, rather than begrudging it, or asking how long a piece of string is, or finding reasons to do less.

In the evangelical circles I’m involved with, preaching and teaching are things that we are readily known for; we have such a strong emphasis on faithful preaching/teaching ministries that we are known to be devoted to them. But would anyone say we are devoted to the public reading of Scripture? That they notice that we take every opportunity we can to have the Bible read audibly for people to hear? They may see that we are devoted to the authority of Scripture, yes, but that is a different thing entirely being devoted to the sounding of Scripture.

For the elders and preachers amongst us, we in particular have the responsibility to lead the flock in this matter, to set the example, and to lead them where perhaps they don’t know that they need to go just yet. It is we who will help people see both the need and the joy of public Bible reading; it is we who will set and shape the structures of church to both guarantee and promote public Bible reading. To take up the last post, it is we who will make it possible for people to hear the whole Bible publicly once every few years rather than once in a lifetime.

If you’re an elder of a church, can I invite you to think through the importance of public Bible reading for church as church? Aside from all the benefits that reading the Bible brings, most importantly, being gathered around the word of God is at the heart of what it means for church to be God’s church in the here and now.

For the elders and preachers amongst us (who set the church liturgy/habits), can I invite you to stop conducting the ministry of the Word in such a way that Bible reading is only a prelude to preaching? Have Bible readings that stand in their own right. Both are important, so let’s make sure that we’re doing lots of both. This may mean spending the time to create a Bible reading program across several years/congregations/groups. Part of the joy of this, however, is that the reading of the whole Bible will be guaranteed. When I became a Christian, the first pew Bible I ever encountered explicitly reduced to three columns (along with an almost unreadable font) those bits of the Bible deemed ‘inappropriate’ for reading in church. Goodbye Leviticus! But before we despise such a godless attitude to Bible publication, do we have in effect the same attitude in our programming? When was the last time 1 & 2 Chronicles was read through in our churches? When will it ever be?

For those of us who are preachers, there are two habits I’ve noticed in preaching that bear on this. First, why do we only read what is being preached on? I’m not talking about the amount of readings here (I think you get that point already!), but the length of our readings for the sermon. The passage we are preaching on may only be Romans 1:1-6, but is there a reason why we can’t read Romans 1:1-17? Why do we live with the assumption that I can only read what I’m preaching on, and only preach on what is read?

Second, I’ve noticed a somewhat bizarre habit with narrative preaching. Take 1 Samuel 17 for instance. It has 58 verses in it, so more often than not the preacher decides to only read some of the passage, because “reading it will take too long” (i.e., another three minutes). As a result, the congregation is then treated to 15 minutes of scene-setting by the preacher. If length was the issue, I’ve yet to meet the preacher who retells the passage quicker than actually just reading it out loud. The sermon also suffers too—it becomes a re-telling of the passage rather than preaching (although there is a narrative-style form of preaching that is brilliant, but that’s not what I’m speaking of here).

Devotion is a matter of the heart, of course. It is possible to have all the Bible reading in the world and still not be devoted to public reading of Scripture. But there is no such thing as devotion to Bible reading that doesn’t actually have Bible reading in clear evidence. And until such admiration grows, we may have to content ourselves with guaranteeing the structure of public Bible reading, and pray for the affection to follow. The good thing is, God’s word is living and active … the more we hear it/him, the more we’ll love the taste of it/him.

18 thoughts on “Are we devoted to the public reading of Scripture? Part 3: ‘Devotion’ in elders and preachers

  1. I wonder if one reason that some pastors don’t spend more time reading Scripture is because they think it will bore their congregation.  I think this may be a result of some of the modern thinking of the need to organize the “worship service” to be comfortable and appealing to those “seekers” who my come.

  2. I have in the last few months been enjoying a complete reading of the Bible on audio book.  The thing I found most interesting was how reading aloud those ‘boring’, repetitive passages in the Pentateuch brings to life a rhythm & pattern in them.  When read aloud, they are not so boring after all!

    Truly the act of reading aloud the Scriptures is a great benefit.  How much would our churches benefit from longer regular readings, and our members by being taught how to read aloud.

    Thank you Scott for your thoughtful comments on this topic.

  3. Hi Tom,

    Thanks for your helpful comments. The issues of boredom and the outsider are certainly things that we should be considering in this matter, so I’ll reflect on each in turn.

    I mention boredom briefly in the fifth part of the series: that boredom is in almost all cases (if not all) a reflection on the listener/reader rather than the speaker/author. Let me explain:

    Even if we could point to some apparently objectively-boring pieces of literature (like what-his-name’s 22 volumes chronicling the life of a single king of Prussia), where the majority of the world would agree that it’s deadly boring, it is still a function of us rather than the text: one assumes that the author at least was interested in what he said. (I’m sure some people have gone out to write deliberately boring material, but that’s another kettle of fish entirely … and ironically has a perverse interest about them because of it!)

    The opposite of boredom is interest. And like so many emotions at the moment, the world believes and teaches that emotions largely ‘happen’ to us: that we fall in and out of love and it is beyond our control, and we must follow our heart in these matters, and no one can blame us if we do.

    Christians tend to realise the myth that this is for love, but we haven’t necessarily grasped yet that our other emotions are also products of the will. The amount of times I’ve had pastoral conversations with Christians who believe that joy is something that should happen to them, or be given to them – waiting for the zap – is sky high. This is despite Paul repeatedly commanding the Philippians to rejoice. It is a fruit of the Spirit too. In other words, joy (deep-seated delight) is something that we can and must pursue as an aspect of godliness, an active work, rather than a passive by-product we hope will happen to us. To rejoice is to take delight in something: a choice, and volitional.

    I’ve deliberately chosen love and joy as examples here, because in the end I believe that godly interest is a facet of love and joy (I’ll get to that in a moment). But suffice to say for now: interest, like any other emotion, is a product of the will, and is something that we can learn / gain / develop over time. In fact, we use the phrase without thinking, don’t we: ‘to take an interest’ in something.

    So what has interest to do with love and joy? I have three points to make here.

    First, in one sense, interest has nothing to do with love and joy. We can be interested in someone or something purely for selfish ends. I’m interested in a person in the workplace to further my own career. I’m interested in listening to what you have to say about your past because I can compare it to mine, or gives me an excuse to talk about mine. In this scenario, we get bored of something when we can’t see the relevance (pragmatic value – there’s that word again. I truly believe this is the disease of church life at the moment: its prominence is an outworking of the aftermath of postmodernism, an unfortunate by-product of having raised the standard of lay and clergy ministry, and has come in through the back door: a decade ago everyone in Sydney decried ‘Harvard business school’ models of ministry, yet how far along have we come on that trajectory since? Anyway, more of this in post 5, and I have some posts on this specifically next year)

    If interest is about us, then our boredom is about us too: I’m not interested in what someone has to say because I can’t see the relevance it has for me. You know the feeling of this in conversations don’t you, when you try to introduce yourself or tell a story, and people shut it down, move away, or talk over the top of you (as a BA in ancient history and ancient languages, I’m well familiar with the phrase ‘how interesting’ as being prelude for a topic change! smile ).

  4. Second, there is a type of interest that is ‘neutral’ if you like: it doesn’t emerge out of love / joy, although it certainly exhibits it. I’m sure someone can better categorise this than me. But here goes:

    Everything God has created is good and is to be received with thanksgiving. And there is an inherent interest in things that exists simply for the pleasure of it: bird watching is not my cup of tea, but it sure seems to interest some UK-folk! It’s just something that gives people great pleasure, and different people love different things. We usually use the word ‘hobby’ at this point, but it applies for all parts of life too.

    Yet even this, I’ve noticed, is still subject in part to volition and choice. I love Chelsea football club, but when I chose to support them 15 years ago, it was largely an arbitrary choice (I thought Zola was one of the few gentleman / noble players in the sport). But as I pursued that interest, I became more interested. But now that I don’t spend much time watching them, I’m less interested. That is, over time, where we choose to invest our time and energy shapes us, and we move along a trajectory. But reading books – it gives me a deep sense of pleasure and I love to read – and the more I pursue it the more I love it.

    In this context, and again this flies in the face of so much un-thought-out worldly practice (which has been imbibed by the church), interest, joy, love are habits. If we wait for spontaneous interest in things, we could be waiting a very long time.

    In this scenario, also, boredom comes when we are unable to find the thing that is inherently delightful about what we’re looking at. And how many times have we learnt to have an interest in something because someone has shown us the way: a teacher / guide / mentor? They’ve opened the object of study up for us to not just learn, but delight in?

    But in a more negative / ungodly frame, boredom comes in this context when we refuse to see pleasant aspects of a person or thing – a stubborn resistance to looking for something to be thankful for.

    For those in the know, the Romantics were well off the track – in part drug induced, but mostly because of their tendencies, from what I understand at least, towards pantheism (nature is God). But they did get one thing right: that everything God has created is to be rejoiced in, when considered properly.

  5. Third, there is a type of interest that is about love: my family support Chelsea too and are interested in it because I am interested in it: they love me. Our family has learnt to be interested in Jazz because Emma is interested in it.

    Boredom, in this scenario, is a failure to love. Take for instance a conversation with someone after church. We may not see the relevance of their story for my life, we may not perceive the inherent interest in it that they perceive, but the person who loves will continue to show interest because they love the person. They’ll ask questions and not try to move away or change topic. I may not understand the greatness of what they’re saying, but I’ll pursue it for their sake.

    Let’s move this towards Bible reading in church!

    I hope we can see that the idea of ‘being bored’ when hearing the Bible read is both at once a complex beast, but also never one that should stop us from actually reading it, and promoting a culture of reading it.

    If the minister especially is objecting to Bible reading in church because they can’t see the pragmatic value of it, of how it furthers their ministry goal, then they simply need to repent of such godlessness. Aside from everything else we need to say, God commands it, ministry and minsitry strategy is both his and his to determine. We’re not the shapers of a ministry. God is.

    If the minister is bored himself of Scripture, he’d also best get out of the ministry of the Word.

    If the minister is fearful of the boredom in the congregation, then he needs to model and teach interest. To silence Scripture – to silence God – because we’re afraid of boredom is a very bizarre step of logic when brought into the light of day.

    We need to move people from being bored (for whatever reason) to seeing both the inherent delight that it is to read Scripture (which, let’s face it, is saturated with glorious blessing), and to listen to Scripture because we love the one who speaks it. And of course, along the way, how glorious is the transformative power of that Word, as we become like God as we behold him.

    In the congregation that loves their God, they’ll delight to hear his voice (as a sheep the shepherd). They may not know why God chose to write what he did in the way he did in the first (or second or third) instance, but they’ll keep listening and want to keep listening, and will ask questions, and seek to find out more, because they love their God. They’ll ask others to show them the inherent delight of what they are hearing, so they can not just give thanks that God has spoken, but give thanks for what he has spoken.

  6. “I have in the last few months been enjoying a complete reading of the Bible on audio book.”

    Hi Jeannie.  That’s a great idea.  For several month now, I’ve turned off my car radio and listen to CD’s of the Bible.  So where ever I’m going I’m listening to the Scriptures.  It’s great.  We need all the reminding we can get.

  7. Personally, I would like to see a return of having a section of Scripture read aloud near the beginning of the Sunday morning meeting.

  8. Hi Jennie,

    Thanks for your encouraging words, and for the helpful comment too.

    There is a definite readability / listenability to Scripture, which, when read well (as audio books generally are), make things so much easier.

    I don’t know what translation you’ve been listening to, but I’ve noticed over the years a difference in audible readability in various translations too.

    I first noticed it a few years ago when switching from NIV to ESV.

    On the one hand, although the NIV is ‘easier English’ than the NIV, I found the NIV next to impossible to read out loud well in some parts. This is largely, in my experience, because they’ve removed conjunctions (And, For, Since, Then, Because, Therefore, But, etc). They’ve also / alongside this, adopted the policy of short sentences. The reading can therefore be at times stilted and ideas don’t connect well.

    The ESV I initially found more cumbersome to read out loud. But after a while I discovered that this was largely a transition from the style/vocab of the NIV issue.

    What I discovered about the ESV was exactly what you’ve helpfully raised here (although you’ll probably tell me that you listened to the NIV now and ruin my story wink ) … that the ESV has a rhythym to it that, once discovered, makes it beautiful to read out loud. I still remember when I became conscious of the rhythym – it filled me with joy, and made we want to read all the more.

  9. To return to the issue of boredom and viewing interest as an act of volition (rather than passive), we could bring our preaching into it too.

    The model of preaching that seems to have developed is one where we labour very hard at the beginning of a sermon ‘to get someone on the train’. Now, this could be rightly motivated, of just wanting to teach the inherent good of what we are about to preach from Scripture.

    But there is a danger in it as well, especially if incorrectly done. If it falls into the habit of week-by-week convincing a congregation to listen, the congregation will learn that they need to be convinced in order to listen. But listening / interest / delight is a choice, and is much the responsibility of the congregation as it is anything else.

    This sort of issue was first brought to my attention when I was preaching on the back half of Ephesians 1. I’d laboured so hard with my introduction, hoping to get people on board with the topic, only to finally realise that the topic was the power of God at work in us. Who doesn’t wan’t to know about that?!? And yet here was I labouring so hard to convince people that we need to be interested in this.

    I’m all for good introductions, but it made me realise that the congregation has a responsibility to listen too; more so, it made me realise that I need to interest people with what is in the passage, not something external to it.

    But it didn’t stick. I remember two years later, when John Woodhouse (the principal of Moore College) addressed the college community on the worrisome trend of preachers striving to be stand-up comedians (my words) as a means to get people to listen. That we felt the need to dress up the content of Scripture, or get people interested by some other means. Humour is fine, but not used like this.

    At the time, I really felt the sting of it (I’d preached a sermon just like that to part of the college community the week before), but I can’t thank John enough for showing me the danger and error that our habitual method of preaching was doing to our love of Scripture, God, and what God has to say in Scripture.

  10. Hello Scott,

    I don’t know about the ESV being rhythmical but there is no translation that has ever beat the poetic flowing of the KJV.  But it’s too antiquated in English to be able to enjoy anymore, even though I still love my 1909 Schofield edition because of his notes.

    The last I checked there were somewhere around 120 English translations.  One of my favorites today is the NIV Archeological Study Bible, because of the incredible historical information splattered throughout.  No Bible compares to the information they provide.  But there are tons of translations out there, some better than others but none perfect.

    Basically, I just stick to the NKJV for quoting and daily reading, and research troublesome passages in the original languages, occasionally checking other translations.  Some have said that the Amplified may be the best first Bible because it gives a range of meanings for problem words.  A real student of God’s Word should have several translations IMO.

  11. Wow, looks like I touched a nerve.  LOL

    I agree that those in the congregation must be taught to enjoy the public reading of Scripture.  In my church I recently (a couple months ago) suggested that we add public reading of Scripture at the beginning of each service.  It has been implemented but not to the extent that I had in mind.  I was thinking of at least 1 complete chapter and to systematically read through the entire bible but the pastor has chosen to read only a few verses from various places.  It is a bit frustrating at times.

    I personally love reading God’s word and have been using Prof. Horner’s bible reading system for about 1.5 years now (currently on day 532 I think).  You made the point that the more we do something the more interested we are in it.  I agree completely and can attest to it in my personal experience.

    I look forward to reading the other parts in your series.

  12. Hi Tom,

    Either a nerve (I just want people to hear God! I’ll tell a personal story in a moment) or I’m a rambler … actually all that has really helped me to formulate some ideas on boredom. I hope it’s helped us both and others too. And now for some more! … smile

    What about the non-Christian? To what extent should we shape our public Bible reading around them?

    First, this all depends on what we think ‘church’ is, and what church is ‘for’.

    If we think of church purely in phenomenological / social / horizontal terms (it’s what I see happening on Sunday), then we can come to think that church is something non-Christians are a part of, since they’re there on a Sunday. But they’re not churching at all.

    Church is the gathering of God’s people around him. It is the fruit of the gospel. It is a present heavenly reality (see the coming Briefing article on heaven), and our eternal reality too. The non-Christian is not one of God’s people, they aren’t gathered around God in heaven in Christ, and, should they not be saved, they won’t enjoy that eternity either.

    What we do when Christians gather together in Christ’s name around him (whom we meet in his Word – Scripture) is express the reality we already have in Christ in heaven. So when we meet, the non-Christian may be present in our midst, but they are observers of church, not members or participants in it.

    So in this sense, I don’t do anything in church that ‘caters’ for the non-Christian or make things ‘accessible’ for them. (We do as well, but more of that in a minute). I’ve seen the extremes of this, where all kinds of good things, from solid preaching through to communion and the Lord’s prayer, all get ditched because ‘a non-Christian would find that strange’. And some ditch Bible reading too.

    But this changes the very nature of what we think church is, and threatens church as church. It also has a shoddy view of evangelism too (that Bible reading can’t convert someone).

    The shape of the NT when it comes to church is therefore entirely geared towards expressing our reality in Christ (which, as I mentioned in previous comments, is also, secondarily, partipative in God’s purposes since we’re still growing to maturity: letting the Word dwell richly doesn’t just express our reality in Christ, but it brings it about too). I devote myself to the public reading of Scripture within that context.

    But the NT is also conscious of the reality that non-Christians do observe church, even if they’re not a part of it: they are present at our gatherings. And the weight of what the Bible says there is not for what we do, but for the conduct of what we do.

    For instance, our words are to be intelligible, so they can understand. Or we are to love one another, so the world can see that we are Christ’s disciples.

    How does all this relate to non-Christians and boredom with Bible reading?

  13. First, generally, a non-Christian usually has some form of interest if they are at church: it could be a whole myriad of reasons (some of which they probably don’t know themselves), from wanting to pray, loneliness, guilt, fear, answered prayer, curiosity, and, more often than not: a friend. For some, they’ve questions about God and the Bible they want answered.

    In light of that, I think we need to stop assuming in our meetings that we need to get everything in and everyone 100% satisfied in every meeting. Consumer culture is one thing, but if we gear our meetings around it, it’ll rapidly create a shallow Christian culture (more of that in a minute).

    There are lots of situations in life where people are very happy to keep doing something even if they don’t get all their answers straight away. Learning to drive a car springs to mind. No one is good at it first go (especially a manual!). But everyone is willing to take the time to become proficient (I hesitate from saying good wink ) because they are interested in it … they have a drive (!) to keep going. They have desire.

    One of the things I tried to do with the evening church I ministered in, especially for non-Christians but also teenage Christian youth coming to church for the first time, was to give them permission to not get everything the first time. If they get a few bits of the sermon, but not all of it, that’s okay. If they don’t get all the language first time, that’s okay. But to become interested and learn more.

    And they were fine with that. I’d preach 40 minute sermons and they were fine – they were the best note-takers in the congregation.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that we can develop a culture whereby no one expects for the solution first go, but be content to come along lots of times and learn. This is important for the Christian not just the non-Christian. This way we let the word (Bible/preaching/singing the words of God) provoke and develop an interest in Christ and the gospel.

    But the conduct of the Christian is crucial in this.

    I remember someone once saying that it’s Christians that teach new-Christians not to evangelise, and that it’s Christians that teach new Christians to not read the Bible. There is nothing like a bored Christian during an evangelistic talk to teach the non-Christian that the gospel isn’t that important after all.

    Rather, it’s our interest and delight and love, our passion and desire and longing for the very words of God that will teach them so much about the importance of what we are hearing. If every Christian apologised to the non-Christian for the reading from Numbers 3, the non-Christian learns that there is something that needs to be apologised for. If every Christian, rather, was excited by the reading from Numbers (even if they didn’t get all of it, but trustingly hope to get it soon – asking each other questions about it, praying for understanding, seeking to apply what they’ve learnt, rejoicing in the God who was revealed), then the non-Christian, even if they get nothing, will at least get that everyone else in the room believes it to be joyous life to hear God speak.

    But if the Christian is used to a ‘lowest-common-denominator’ style of ministry, where the treasure of Scripture is always glossed over in the sermons, and barely heard for want of reading, the eldership is making it a lot harder for the congregation to retain interest at that point – so no wonder they give off ‘bored vibes’ to the non-Christian beside them.

    But at heart it reveals a question of whether we believe the Bible is suitable for a non-Christian to hear. The moment we choose to avoid selections of Scripture, or minimise Scripture, because of the non-Christian, do we in effect tell God we know better? That his word isn’t mighty to save?

  14. So, here is my story … it hope it gives some encouragement to others.

    After a school Scripture class when I was nine (year 4), I decided I wanted to become a Christian. I never really found out what one was, but loved the Scripture class and prayed every night. When Scripture stopped for me as I moved into high school, I decided that I needed to read the Bible for myself. So, when I was 12 (year 7), I found my mum’s KJV at the back of her cupboard, smuggled it into my bedroom, and began reading … from the beginning. I didn’t know what a New Testament was, and Jesus figured nowhere in my understanding. I just read the Bible like any other book: from the beginning.

    For the next three and a half years I read Genesis – 1 Kings several times (before giving up and starting again). For those three years God kept me coming back to his word with a thirst for more, when I understood so little of it, and never heard of Jesus. But he kept me coming back to him, so that, when a Christian found me when I was 15 and took me to youth group, I was already believing in Scripture as God’s word, wanting to be a Christian, and just needed Christ explained to me. I know I live by the power of reading Scripture, and I keep hearing stories like this.

    In my case is was private reading, but will public reading do any less? It puts the voice of God in the ears of the non-Christian in our midst as much is it does the Christian. I just pray this series gives such enthusiasm to hear God all the more in all our churches. Because God’s word is so majestically and breath-takingly powerful; and in it we meet him.

    Thanks everyone for all the encouragement given thus far to this series. You have been very kind to read and reflect on my thoughts. Let’s make sure the conversation is had in our churches too, not just online. smile

  15. Its very intereting thinking through how this would apply at all our “churches” i.e. midweek biblestudy group, friday night youth.
    My mind gravitates toward christians meeting socially and how rarely that time is spent encouraging one another with the reading of Gods word. The most encouraging times have been when God’s word is included, and yet it is so rare.

  16. In the congregations I pastor we read through all of Leviticus as our most recent ‘stand alone’ reading of the Scriptures.  At first people complained, saying that they found the descriptions of various sacrifices to be distasteful and irrelevant to their lives.  But after some discussion with them their attitudes changed. 

    I share this because it can take time for a congregation to come to terms with a practice that they have not experienced for a very long time, if ever.  But let’s persevere.

    One other comment.  That many modern translations have sub-headings over blocks of scripture within the main text is a disaster for the public reading of Scripture.  The headings are often inaccurate, and break up the natural flow of an argument or narrative.  They should never be read out by the reader, and we need to explain to people that these headings are NOT scripture, nor are they even helpful. 

    Thanks for this series Scott.  I agree with your key point very strongly.

  17. Good clear public reading of Scripture makes a huge difference to preaching.  A poorly read piece of Scripture is more or less as opaque to hearers after it has been read out as it was before.  The preacher has a lot more work to do if his or her exposition involves actual interaction with the text in the pulpit.

    Those times I’ve preached and the passage has been read well, there was a notable difference in the dynamic of the sermon. I wasn’t explaining something no-one ‘got’, because everyone basically had a sense of the passage after it had been read properly.  I could work off the reading and focus on the ‘key’ bits – the difficult parts, the interesting parts, the parts that opened up the core of the message.  But I was expounding something already basically understood – a very different experience.

    And from that I realised that clear public Bible reading is a weekly workshop in the clarity of Scripture.  Just one Bible reading, done poorly, as the introduction to the sermon which then makes what had been unclear (the reading) clear is a weekly attack on the clarity of Scripture.  Week by week our congregational practice proclaims that the Bible is a closed book unless the preacher explains it.

    As a consequence I think churches need to focus on doing public reading well – because it is a way of making the clarity of Scripture an ‘experiential’ truth, something that is just part of our experience of doing church.

    So, I’d (as is my tendency) would go even more extreme in the application of what you’re saying.  I’d like to identify a sub-group of really, really good public readers (and training them up as well).  I’d then like to have five minutes of every service given over to reading several consecutive chapters of the Bible by someone who can read well, and has prepared that reading for weeks.  Possibly a very light introduction (three or four sentences) to guide people’s listening, possibly done dramatically, or with two or more people reading it.  But no gimmicks (so if they’re gimmicks, not those either), just holding people’s attention listening to the word of life spoken aloud at some length.

    I think it would do wonders for our biblical literacy, and our sense of the Bible’s clarity and place in our life.

  18. Hi Mark,

    I know the feeling with the reading / preaching dynamic!

    Just one Bible reading, done poorly, as the introduction to the sermon which then makes what had been unclear (the reading) clear is a weekly attack on the clarity of Scripture.

    When I first wrote this series, I felt a bit of confusion in myself as to what I was saying: was I writing about devotion to PRS, or was I writing about the clarity of Scripture again, since it kept cropping up? But the more I’ve gone on – as you say, I’ve realised that the two are intimately connected in our ‘experience’ of the doctrine (or its opposite). Thanks for putting it so succinctly.

    Teaching our churches that theology is not an abstraction from reality, but the correct perception, shaper, determiner of reality – you’ll have better words than me for this – is so important. (This ‘experienced doctrine’ is what finally convinced me of infant baptism, but that’s for another day! smile )

    Your suggestion about lengthy, very well preparted, readings is dear to my heart! Wait until my ‘extremes’ in the final post wink

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