There is an increasing amount of churches that no longer include reading Scripture as a regular part of the public gathering, aside from a passage read during the sermon. Even in many churches I would closely align myself with who have a Christ-centered focus and a high view of preaching, still divide their public gatherings into 2 halves: The singing portion and the preaching portion.
I have a growing concern with this trend as it often squeezes out the public readings of Scripture as a separate, essential role in our services. Here are a few reasons I want to encourage pastors to continue to see the public reading of Scripture as a needed part of your public gatherings:
1) God commands it. Paul writes to Timothy and writes, “Give attention to the public reading of Scripture…(1 Tim. 4:13). Regardless where you fall in discussions about the Regulative Principle, it is hard to deny this clear instruction about what should be included when the church gathers.
2) It can help prepare people for the preached Word. Reading other Scriptures during the service that connect to the sermon passage that will later be preached can be a very effective use of Scripture in a service. However, there are others who simply take a slot in every weekly service to read through the Bible chapter by chapter. How else will the strange, hard to understand passages ever be publicly read, heard, and known?
3) It affirms the power of God’s Word. Do we really believe there is power in simply the Word of God being read? Is it so living and active that in just the hearing of it, God can work, convict a sinner, and meet with his people? I submit to you it is a powerful experience when God’s people gather to hear God’s Word read well by someone and allowing those words to effect the souls of people.
This weekend I heard the testimony of a man whose awakening to the gospel began as he heard God’s Word read publicly in a church service by a church and pastor that did not even believe the gospel. He since has gone to another church. There is a unique power in God’s Word as it is read publicly, a power I would contend is absent when it is neglected.
No doubt, nothing should compete in our services with the faithful exposition and application of God’s Word when it is powerfully preached. Yet, do not underestimate the power of God’s Word when it is publicly read. It is a pattern established with God’s people Israel (Ezra 8), carried on by the New Testament instruction for the Apostle’s letters to be read before the churches, and should be a practice that is viewed just as valid today.
What time and focus in your service is given to the public reading of Scripture?