Any Christian community can fall victim to the pernicious pandemic that can attack worship and teaching. This virus doesn’t merely destroy the public reading of Scripture, but rather displaces its rightful priority with other elements. Scriptural reductionism in worship destabilizes all of the Great Commission enterprises of the Church and severs the essential, Spirit-conducting lifeline between God and Man.
These things should not be.
This is a posting for pastors to return to plenty of Scripture in worship as a remedy against pastoral burnout, congregational coldness, and the decay of the spiritual fabric of the local, denominational, and, at length, national communities of Jesus Christ.
The Public Reading of Scripture was given by the Apostle Paul as the remedy for the formidable challenges in Ephesus.
The Apostle Paul urges Timothy to—what?—brush up on your history? Read more widely? Practice your preaching? No. While each of these exercises is vital to the shepherding work of the Christian pastor, none rises to the level of priority given to one component of ministry. Listen to St. Paul,
“Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13 NKJV).
Ephesus had many problems, serious division, and rising threats to the mission of God among them. Paul’s response may seem surprising. “Read well,” seems, at least, counter-intuitive, and, at worse, mentoring malpractice! How in the world could the public reading of Scripture contribute to the spiritual health of the Church at Ephesus?
Well, to get to that answer, we begin with the expository idea drawn from the holy text. Let us say it like this:
The public reading of Holy Scripture is an unrivaled priority in services of Christian worship.
Why is this so? Look carefully at the passage and its context and we shall see at least six reasons why the public reading of the Scriptures must remain an unrivaled priority.
- The public reading of Scripture is a priority because Scripture is a Word from Another World.
- The public reading of Scripture is a priority because the movements—the liturgy—of worship are established on the Word of God.
- The public reading of Scripture is a priority because preaching, prayer, and the sacraments (the other public ministries in common worship) are shaped by Scripture as inextricably linked. Preaching, prayer, and the Sacraments can never be independent of Holy Scripture.
The public reading of Scripture constitutes one of the three exegetically-understood means of grace for Christian growth.
- The public reading of Scripture is a priority because other activities will compete for its necessarily predominant place in worship.
- The public reading of Scripture is a priority because souls are saved and lives are transformed by the mere experience of the Word of God. Sermons follow Scripture; not the other way around.
We have provided some resources to help you with the public reading of Scripture. Thanks to Seedbed resources for the Church and to David Suchet for his work in reading the New Testament.
The Public Reading of Scripture, Christine Burkette: https://youtu.be/jHmPPwc1aLA
Advice to Scripture Readers: Christine Burkett: https://youtu.be/u23SEQ6cpNU
The Effect of Public Reading of Scripture, Christine Burkett: https://youtu.be/wLs8a7x-4R0
David Suchet Reads the Gospel of Mark (NIV): https://youtu.be/JjOgcMQXvSc
Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 NIV) by David Suchet: https://youtu.be/bu5FAQzN1DY