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Reading the Bible Publicly

If you sit in an average church service on an average Sunday you’ll probably hear an average reading of God’s Word. That’s heartbreaking. Lacklustre public reading of the Scriptures is a discredit to God’s people and a slight to God! An average reading of God’s Word isn’t good enough. When we read the Bible publicly we should read it well – very well! It is, after all, God’s Word. And God’s Word, invested with the life giving power of His Spirit; is dynamic, transformational, and alive. So let’s read it like we believe it. Let’s read it energetically, passionately, thoughtfully, dramatically, inspirationally, and motivationally. Let’s read it like it’s coursing through our veins and pounding in our hearts. And let’s make sure that we never ever read it in a boring, nondescript, half-baked way.

From its inception the Bible was given to us to be read aloud and heard. So how do we devote ourselves to the public reading of Scripture? (cf. 1 Timothy 4:13). Here are some pointers for reading the Bible publicly:

  • Prepare, practice and pray
  • Use a script and identify who is speaking
  • Become the character
  • Help the listener hear it for the first time
  • Read from your heart and then from your lips
  • Convey the meaning of the words (not just the sounds)
  • Use pauses and break up the text so that it’s easy to hear
  • Highlight the meaning of a text through tone, modulation and emphasis
  • Read with dynamism (the Bible is not a telephone directory!)
  • Bring freshness and vitality
  • Let the text inform how you read it

And here are some common mistakes that should be avoided:

  • Inadequate preparation
  • Reading too slow or too fast
  • Using a sing-song or preacher voice
  • Speaking too loud or too soft
  • Reading in a monotone
  • No feeling or too much feeling
  • Trailing off with words or sentences
  • Not looking up (use a music stand to get the right height)
  • Not reading like a town-crier or with passion

There’s awesome power in God’s spoken Word. When we’re reading the Bible publicly let’s read every passage like we’re hearing it for the first time. Let’s read the Scriptures believing that they’ll bring salvation, comfort, understanding, discomfort, remorse, joy and all manner of life-changing encounters with the living God. And let’s be done with the humdrum reading of the Word. Yes, we’re inadequate for the task, but God’s grace is sufficient for everything we do. So let’s go for it! Let’s ask God to empower us in our weakness. Then let’s read God’s Word with stirring voices and enthusiasm – expecting God to engage people’s hearts, minds, wills and souls.

Recommended books:

Max McLean and Warren Bird, Unleashing the Word: Rediscovering the Public Reading of Scripture, Zondervan, 2009.

Clayton J. Schmit, Public Reading of Scripture: A Handbook, Abingdon Press, 2002.

Jeffery D. Arthurs, Devote Yourself to the Public Reading of Scripture: Encountering the Transforming Power of the Well-Spoken Word, Kregel Publications, 2012.

Recommended articles and apps:

Glen J. Clary, The Public Reading of Scripture in Worship: A Biblical Model for the Lord’s Day

Scott Newling, Devoted to the Public Reading of Scripture

Bible Audio Pronunciations – Confidently Read any Bible Verse Aloud

Stefano Russello, Biblical Pronunciations

BibleSpeak

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5