Why should we practice the public reading of Scripture?
1. Because it’s a biblical, timeless practice
In Scripture we see over and over again how God’s people come together to receive God’s Word as a community. This serves as a model for us.
2. Because reading the Bible should be like eating food
We should enjoy our spiritual food the same way we enjoy our physical food.
- We eat regularly at set times
- We consume healthy, substantial portions (not just snacks)
- We enjoy eating with our families and communities
Jesus says the Word of God is our food in Matthew 4:4, “Man does not live by bread alone but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” It’s important to notice that Jesus said every word of God is our food. That means not just our favorite parts. We can’t just keep eating our favorite food and never taste anything else. To properly nourish our souls, we need to be consuming the whole Bible, again and again.
By listening regularly together at set times, we can consistently receive the whole Bible joyfully, just like food.
Our souls hunger for the truth of God’s Word. Many of us want to read more of the Bible. However, we need a good strategy to succeed.
We can’t just rely on our pastors, either. Many churches only read a few verses during the weekly service.
In 1 Timothy 4:13, Paul exhorted Timothy to “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.” Today, we do a lot of preaching and teaching. These are vital aspects of Christian learning, but it is not the words of men and women that ultimately make us grow. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:6, “I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.” Man’s words can be like planting and watering, but only God’s words give true spiritual growth.
Studies show that we need a better strategy:
- Millennials have less biblical literacy than previous generations.
- People are becoming less engaged with the Bible and more preoccupied with other life responsibilities.
- Christians get more excited about a famous pastor’s teaching or a popular worship band’s song than about listening to God’s Word. (79% [of megachurches in America] say the church’s most dramatic growth occurred during tenure of current senior pastor.)
- Churches have many listeners but few workers/doers. (The Pareto Principle seems to apply to churches—only 20% of the congregation does 80% of the work.)
4. Because it provides benefits such as:
If you try to read through the whole Bible on your own, it’s easy to get sidetracked. Listening in community provides natural accountability.
This is an easy, accessible way for anyone to get into Scripture. It’s not like a small group Bible study that might require you to do homework or participate in a discussion. All you have to do is listen.
Hearing the Bible read aloud offers a different perspective than reading the Bible silently in text. Listening to the words allows us to slow down and absorb the content more deeply.
Today’s culture has more urgent needs and more immediate opportunities to practice the public reading of Scripture.
- We need it more than ever. (Just look at what the studies show in the sidebar above.)
- With modern technology, we have access to high quality audio drama Bibles. This makes it even easier and more effective (e.g. Audible, dramatized audio Bibles).
- We need to establish healthier cultural trends (communal instead of individual; committed instead of unattached; extended instead of instantaneous).
- We need to reach today’s generations, which are becoming more secular. (Millennials and Gen Z are skeptical of Christian teaching. If you tell them to read the Bible, they won’t. But if you invite them to come and listen with others, they will. They want what the public reading of Scripture will give them: relationships.)
Why do we listen to the Bible?
- To hear God speak
Love starts with listening. If you love someone, you take the time to listen to them. If we want to deepen our love for God, we need to let Him speak.
- To live out God’s Word
In Luke 11:28, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” By listening to our Father, we can understand how to do His will.
- To grow closer to God
We need God’s Word in order to grow spiritually. In Hebrews 6, we are told not to get stuck on the elementary principles of our faith, but to pursue maturity. In order to grow and mature, we need to feast on good food.