I love the public reading of Scripture. Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, Epistles, all of those big names in the book of Numbers… I love it all.
Apparently, so did the Apostles. In writing to Timothy, Paul said, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture” (1 Tim. 4:13). John goes so far as to tell us that there is a special blessing for a person who performs the public reading of Scripture (and the listeners!): “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near” (Rev. 1:3).
Here are ten practical suggestions to keep in mind when asked to read the Scriptures publicly.
1) Read to the glory of God. Nehemiah 8 is model passage on the public reading of Scripture. It is a glorious thing to read the Word of God before the people of God. Beyond the ability and gifting to read, as part of the body of Christ, you bring something important to the gathering that will build people up in the faith (1 Cor. 14).
2) Is there is a particular Bible translation that the church is accustomed to using? If so, it is best to read from that translation unless asked to do otherwise. The public readings at RBC are read from the ESV since this is the translation that we project on the screen.
3) Be sure to know when the reading comes in the order of service and, if possible, sit towards the front. This allows you to be ready to read the passage with less distraction between the elements.
4) I cannot stress this one enough. It is best not to read from a smart phone. From time to time, we all struggle with our reading: mispronounce a few words, unintentional pauses, skip a word, miss a line, etc. (I’ve done these dozens of time!). However, in my observation, this is far more common when reading off of a phone or small device versus a page.
5) If you need reading glasses, you may want to consider printing out the passage with larger font.
6) It is a good idea to read through the passage a few of times before reading it in front of the congregation. Read and reread any difficult words and names, working on pronunciation.
7) Most of us read too quickly as opposed to too slowly, especially when we get nervous. There are times when I put a little sticky note on my page that reminds me to “slow down.” Plan to read a bit slower than normal during the actual reading time.
8) When you announce the text, be careful that you are not inviting people to read along with you, unless it is your intention to do so. Better to say something like, “Please follow along as I read” as opposed to “Let’s read together.” The latter is an invitation for the congregation to read aloud with you.
9) If you have an idea to do something out of the ordinary, in most churches it is best to share it with the elders first to see if it fits well into the flow and tone of the service.
10) Think about an appropriate way to close the reading. Some common expressions are: “This is the Word of God to us”; “May God bless the reading of his Word”; or “May God help us to apply these words to our lives.”