Good tips from Simon Roberts to promote powerful Scripture reading.
So you thought your job was simply to read the Bible passage? That’s easy—you check you have the right passage, you look over it a couple of times and then you get up and read. Surely that’s all there is to it. But I’d like to suggest that there’s a whole lot more to reading the Bible than simply standing up front and saying the words. Just as we are no better off if we haven’t understood the Scriptures we have read, we’ve wasted our time reading the Bible aloud if no one has understood what we have said.
Here are three big ideas for people who read the Bible aloud:
- your job is to communicate, not just read;
- you can’t communicate what you don’t understand;
- meaning is not conveyed through words alone.
Your job is to communicate, not just read
It’s possible to read every word from a passage perfectly and clearly, but in such a way that no-one understands what the passage actually means. Worse, it’s also possible to read a passage in a way that gives people a wrong understanding of the Scriptures. Take 1 Corinthians 14:26: “What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church” (NIV). I once heard this verse read with the emphasis as, “All of these must be done …”. The speaker was trying to convince me that Scripture commanded us to speak in tongues and that, if we didn’t do so, the church would not be strengthened! Thankfully, every other time I’ve heard this verse read, the emphasis has been where it should be—on the words, “for the strengthening of the church”. Reading the same words differently completely changes their meaning. Your job as a Bible reader is not to ‘just read the words’ but to communicate what those words mean.
You can’t communicate what you don’t understand
If you’re going to communicate the meaning of a passage, it stands to reason that you have to understand the passage yourself. Before you even think about getting up to read the Bible in church, you need to have a sound understanding of your allotted passage. You will need to have answered questions such as, “What type of writing is this—narrative, law, prophecy, poetry, letter? Are there any words that seem particularly important? Are there any significant connecting words? What is the main point of the passage? How does the writer make that point—with logical argument, humour, metaphor or irony?” Comparing a couple of good translations will help stop you making major mistakes in interpretation. Once you know what a passage means—what it’s getting at and where it is going—then you can start to think about how to read it aloud.