Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Public Reading of Scripture

One of the commands which the Apostle Paul gave to his young, fellow minister Timothy is found in 1 Timothy 4:13:

Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture

In an age in which the text of the Bible is available in multiple formats (paper text, software, IPhone and IPod applications, etc), one might think that the need for the public reading of Scripture was a need for a bygone, illiterate age but not a need for English-speaking Christians in the early 21st century. I think we miss something when very little of our intake of Scripture comes from hearing rather than reading.

While private reading of the Bible remains a great opportunity and blessing for us, we might forget that the first recipients of the Scriptures were mostly hearers, not readers. In many evangelical churches today, the amount of time spent in the reading of Scripture is remarkably short. Conservative evangelicals have a reputation of defending the Bible. However, that reputation does not follow to its extended use in worship or other Christian gatherings. Michael Spencer, the "Internet Monk", refers to this as "the Bible-waving, but not Bible reading evangelical church." See the article on the Internet here

I find the public reading of Scripture intriguing. It is biblical (remember 1 Timothy 4:13). It is also something that my godson Anthony has helped to start on the campus of Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Except for Thursday nights (when other ministry functions are taking place), there is a public reading of Scripture for one hour between 10:30pm to 11:30pm every night. This is not a Bible study. This is not a prayer meeting (both are valuable and crucial but this hour from 10:30-11:30 is dedicated to something else). Started around the beginning of this year, the reading has started from Genesis 1:1 and is moving forward through the books of the Bible. A few days ago, the group was reading from the book of Ezekiel.

I highly recommend this practice if you are perhaps looking to start a biblical ministry and don't know where to start. There is tremendous biblical illiteracy...within the ranks of the Christian church. How better to overcome that than to take in Scripture as our first century counterparts hearing it.