Summary: How do we read the Bible aloud with dignity and appropriate drama?
Very few of us read the Bible aloud well. Yet, the most important words we will ever say in our entire lifetimes are those we quote from the Bible. Public reading of the Holy Scriptures in many churches needs an upgrade. Too often preachers rush through words inspired by God, so that they can get to the “important” stuff – i.e. what they have to say.
These biblical words will still be around when every word we have ever said will be long forgotten, at least on earth. So, let’s consider carefully how we quote the words of Scripture in preaching.
What is our Goal?
Let’s improve the reading of Scripture aloud in churches.
What is our Lesson Plan?
This chapter proposes to teach the importance of reading the Bible aloud and how to do so with dignity and drama, so that the Bible comes alive in the minds of those who hear it. It is designed not only for preachers who will read the Scriptures aloud in their sermons, but also for those who are lectors, who are involved in the public Scripture readings of their church where that is used as an important part of the church's liturgy.
Why is Reading the Bible Aloud Important
Throughout church history, the public reading of Scripture was deemed so important that a special office of lector was designated for that purpose and it still exists today in some churches. There are simply no more important words in all of history than those which were recorded in the Bible. If in the worst case scenario, when God can't get through to a local church because the words of the music are self-centered and egotistical, the preacher prefers Amway-style philosophy or catchy sounding mnemonics like the Five P's of Power instead of Scripture, and the prayers are for health and wealth and influence and not grace and humility and repentance, then if at least someone during the service reads the Bible, God can be heard.
If on the other hand, the music is filled with Scripture and people are moved to tears because it really means something to them, the office of lector is resurrected and the Bible is read with deep respect and significance, responsive readings (if that is your practice) are Scriptural and responded to with conviction, prayers are Scripturally based and the sermon expounds the Scriptures, wow! Let me know. I would love to visit that church and bathe in the Word of God!
However, even if the Bible is read aloud, it is read with dull lifelessness. Forget it! I'm not interested! I dream of a church where the Bible is not only read weekly, but where people are taught how. That's what I hope you will begin to learn here.
How to Prepare
If you are a lector, doing the Scripture reading at your church, it is best to know ahead of time what you are reading, rather than arrive at church and be handed a Scripture reading. If you are preparing a sermon, you will want to spend time thinking about the passages of Scripture you will use and which words to appropriately emphasize.
...you shall love the LORD your God with ALL your heart, with ALL your soul, with ALL your mind, and with ALL your strength. This is the first commandment. (Mark 12:30)
Some Reading Exercises
Try the verse we just read. The first time through, read the word love loudly. Second time through read the words heart, soul, mind and strength loudly. Third time through read the word ALL loudly. See how the emphasis changes.
Now try some words loudly, some slowly and some softly. Again, see how the emphasis changes. Be careful when you read words quietly. Don't be like some speakers who say certain words quietly and quickly in a semi-mumbled fashion. This makes it very hard to understand what they are even saying. You are beginning to learn how to read aloud. Note that words can be read loudly or softly, slowly or quickly, or even certain syllables.
If you stumble over some words, break them down into syllables. Try it slowly at first. For example, how well do you pronounce Nebuzaradan? Try Ne-bu-zar-a-dan gradually speeding up until it becomes easy. If you prefer the Hebrew or Greek pronunciation, that is fine unless it makes you sound odd.
Commas and periods (full stops) also have a purpose. Pause slightly at both, a little longer at the end of a sentence. Raise your voice slightly at commas. Do not let your voice drop too much at the end of a sentence, as some speakers do. It is very difficult to understand what they are saying.
Reading aloud in private is an ancient practice and also recommended today by educators. It helps us in two dimensions instead of just one – visually and audibly. It is also essential for anyone who wants to be a first-class preacher. Read aloud several minutes a day perhaps during daily devotionals, especially if you need to improve. Most of us do.