Monday, November 30, 2009

The Impact of Reading God's Word Aloud

When you hear Scripture read aloud, how does it affect you? When was the last time you heard the Bible actually read aloud? If you're a church-goer you probably hear it read at some point in the service. Do you hear it read any where other than there? If you do hear it read in the service, how is it read? Is it the entire congregation reading it together? Is the Pastor or someone else reading the passage to you? If so, how do they read it? Does it sound exciting and engaging? Or, does the reading sound fairly plain...like it's being read to simply set up a sermon?

Over the last few weeks I've been reading Max McLean's book Unleashing the Word and it has had a strong impact on me. McLean who is best known for his recorded readings of the Bible makes the case that too many churches do not value the public reading of Scripture. He makes a strong Biblical and historical case to show the great power of the public reading of God's Word. For centuries much of humanity was illiterate and they were dependent upon God's Word being passed down orally. With this in mind, much of the Old Testament was written to be read aloud in story form. Many of the New Testament letters were written to be read aloud when the church gathered corporately. Yet, when I hear Scripture read in services it is usually read only in short segmented verses and it often lacks very much passion or zeal. Certainly we don't want to go too far and make our corporate Bible reading a performance every Sunday morning, but shouldn't there be something that grabs our attention as we hear God's Word read? I know there are times when I view Scripture very differently after I've heard it read aloud rather than when I've read it silently. To a greater degree the Bible comes to life when I hear it read aloud.

Think about those questions listed above. Let me hear from you. I wonder if you think much about the impact of hearing God's Word read aloud.

5 comments:

Maria said...

I like hearing scripture read out loud in church services and I think it would be a good thing if the congregation joined in some reading, too. There is better retention of what is read is heard and even better retention when spoken.

Sometimes at home when I do my daily Bible study I read out loud to my poodle, Zeb. He looks intently at me the entire time I am reading. He is my captive audience and I do think I retain more of what I read by speaking aloud. I don't know if what I am reading helps him or not, but he sure does pay attention.

Ben said...

You've got a good point here, Brandon. It's incredibly important for the Scripture to be read aloud. We as Baptists are poor at this aspect of worship in both quantity and quality. We do it very little, and when we do do it, it's done poorly. The more liturgical churches certainly are better in quanity in that every Sunday they have readings from the Old Testament, the gospels, and the epistles, which are ends in themselves. In other words, they aren't setting up any other part of the service, such as a sermon. However, I've been in some of those services, and it seemed that they have the same problem with quality that we have.

So again, I think you're really on to something. If we could up our game, so to speak, and excel in both quantity and quality, I believe our worship and our souls would be better for it.

Here's an idea that I've had for some time but never instituted. I've strongly considered taking maybe one Sunday night a month and, instead of preaching, simply taking the entire time to read large sections of Scripture. No exposition whatsoever. I've thought about calling it "The Word Speaks for Itself" series. What do you think about that idea?

At any rate, you've certainly got me thinking here. Thanks!

Brandon Porter said...

Maria,
I'm glad you are already reading aloud in your devotions. I know that is beneficial to you!

Ben,
I think the Sunday night idea is a great one. The Christmas season might be an excellent time to try it out!

Thanks for the comments,
Brandon

Sarah said...

I will say that hearing you read the Bible outloud on Sunday mornings does sometimes make me chuckle because it is like the movie preview voiceover guy reading the Word. And that is somewhat funny in my head.

Mostly, I have heard scripture read aloud by a pastor in a service to set up the sermon that is to come. I have been a part of a congregational reading of Scripture a few times. For the most part, it is read like any other text- methodically and properly but not with conviction.

I think there are lots of reasons Scripture is not read or spoken aloud more often. Laziness, not wanting to be redundant, saving time in a worship service. However, thinking about all that you wrote and reflecting a bit, I think that one of the main reasons that people don't want to hear Scripture spoken aloud is that it makes it more real. More present and in your face. It is the same reason why I believe alot of hard or uncomfortable things are said through text, email and fax these days. It is one thing to write or even read something truthful and tough but it is so much more difficult to speak those things outloud because that makes it even more truthful and real in a sense. I hope I have explained myself clearly enough!

Background Information said...

Thanks, Sarah, I think your insights are right on. (About the conviction...not so sure about the movie announcer stuff!!)

There is great power to hearing God's Word come from our own mouths or from the voice of a reader. The Holy Spirit testifies to God's Truth and the heart of a true believer cannot help but be stirred!

Thanks!
bp