I’m a strong advocate of the public reading of Scripture, so I’ve been following with interest the discussion that Tim Challies set off when he wrote about this ministry at his home church.
In his initial post he discussed how those who are to read scripture are trained and makes some suggestions for making one’s reading of scripture a constructive part of the worship service. These suggestions are helpful. I’ve often wished that people would prepare more. Often it is all too clear that the person doing the scripture reading never actually took a look at the passage before getting in front of the congregation to read.
I would add that I believe public reading of Scripture is an act of corporate worship, as is singing, praying, and the proclamation of the word through preaching. Thus there may be many different ways in which Scripture might be presented as part of worship. In my church, First United Methodist Church of Pensacola, we have had the scripture presented in music and in drama as well as simply read. In some cases we have had responses from members of the congregation, some of which are represented in the book A Living Psalter, which compiles art, photography, poetry, and other literature presented as a response to the Psalter.
In general, however, I don’t think we have much patience in the church today for listening to substantial amounts of Scripture. We can handle it when there is exposition between phrases, but not so much when large amounts are presented at once. I believe, however, that we need to both read and hear the scripture in larger portions and develop greater patience for Scripture itself.
This whole discussion has gotten largely sidetracked by the issue of women in worship. As an egalitarian, I obviously believe women have the same privilege and duty to read Scripture as do men. I find the fact that Grace Fellowship Church does not allow women to read Scripture publicly rather odd. For me, however, it’s hard to respond to this issue considering that I believe women should be allowed to be pastors, in fact, should be allowed the privilege and duty of every office of the church for which God gives them the necessary gifts. Thus debating about whether women can read Scripture publicly gives me this sort of surreal feeling.
Tim Challies further explained his view (and that of his church) on women reading scripture. I don’t find the equation of Scripture reading with teaching at all convincing, but again, I must note that I also don’t accept the idea that women should be restricted from teaching.
None of that, however, prevents me from appreciating the emphasis on Scripture reading, something I believe is sadly neglected in many churches.