Thursday, October 01, 2009

The Problem With...Bible Reading

An Excursus

I've been blogging about the problem with preaching. In my Australia evangelical context, I think this is a reaction to i. the polished "professionalism" of pentecostal churches; and ii. the sacramentalism of Roman Catholicism. And so in our preaching we've opted for something that is amateurish compared to the tele-prompted, "Britney microphone" kitted charismatic preacher.

This is also systematic of our church services. And nowhere is this more true than in the Bible readings at church. It can often feel like the first time the reader has looked over the text is when they're standing at the lectern doing the reading.

I want to share with you something I read when I first started leading church services etc. It inspired me, and hopefully it will inspire you too.
"There are times when I have felt that the Bible was being read with less preparation than the notices - and with considerably less understanding. I hesitate to use the following illustrations because of my part in it, but I do so a reminder to my own heart of the seriousness of the issue. A year or two after my conversion I was appointed as a Lay Reader in the Church of England , to Holy Trinity, Guernsey. There were two other, more senior Lay readers on the staff, with the result that on most Sundays the responsibilities could be evenly shared out. As it happened, the Vicar almost always asked me to read the Lessons, following a Lectionary which listed the passages appointed to be read each Sunday of the year. My wife and I lived in a small flat at the time, but I can vividly remember my Sunday morning routine. Immediately after breakfast I would go to the bedroom, lock the door, and begin to prepare reading the Lesson that morning. After a word of prayer I would look up the Lesson in the Lectionary, and read it carefully in the Authorized Version, which we were using in the church. Then I would read it through in every other version I had in my possession, in order to get thoroughly familiar with the whole drift and sense of the passage. Next I would turn to the commentaries. I did not have many in those days, but those I had I used. I would pay particular attention to word meanings and doctrinal implications. When I had finished studying every passage in detail, I would go to the mantelpiece, which was roughly the same height as the lectern in the church, and prop up the largest version of the Authorized Version I possessed. Having done that, I would walk very slowly up to it from the the other side of the room, and begin to speak, aloud: 'Here beginneth the first verse of the tenth chapter of he gospel according to St. John' (or whatever according the passage was). Then I would begin to read aloud the portion appointed. If I made so much as a slip of the tongue, a single mispronunciation, I would stop, walk back across the room, and start again, until I had read the whole passage word perfect, perhaps two or three times. My wife would tell you that there were times when I emerged from the bedroom with that day's clean shirt stained with perspiration drawn from the effort of preparing one Lesson to read in the church. Does that sounds like carrying things too far? Then let me add this: I was told that there were times when after the reading of the Lesson people wanted to leave the service there and then and go quietly home to think over the implications of what God has said to them in his Word." - John Blanchard, quoted by R. Kent Hughes, 'Free Church Worship: The Challenge of Freedom', Worship by the Book, ed. D.A. Carson, 2002.
Extreme? I wish I could read the Bible in church like that.

1 comment:

Mike Bull said...

A singular death always brings a plural resurrection. Same goes for preachers and lay readers. You have to let the text KILL YOU before it will bring life to others.