Recently, our eldership, which ordinarily leads the public worship services has decided to encourage men in our congregation to participate under our oversight in the public reading of the Bible. Subsequently we have organised this seminar on a Saturday morning to prepare men for reading the Scriptures. With the help of periodic evaluation we have also committed ourselves to practically help each other to become better readers of the Word of God. Below is the sum and the substance of what was shared at this seminar , followed by a time of application.
“Until I come , devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching…” (Paul to Timothy – 1 Timothy 4:13)
“ … man does not live by bread alone , but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Deuteronomy 8:3 and quoted by Jesus in Luke 4:4)
The Bible is the very Word of the Living God. It is breathed out by God and given to us to train us in all that is necessary for life and godliness (2 Tim. 3:16). As God’s people we are deeply reliant on Scripture, since the Bible is the only means through which God speaks reliably by His Holy Spirit to us. For this reason the Scripture ought to be central to our worship services. We ought to read it, sing it and preach it every Sunday, trusting that this is a means by which the Lord blesses, instructs, pursues, convicts, heals and draws us to Himself.
Because of the importance of the Word of God, we desire to help people to read the Scriptures well. The reading of the Bible, is in fact a teaching ministry since the reading of the Bible imparts to us the knowledge of the Word of God, which means that in public worship this is a ministry reserved for men. Having said that, all would benefit from reading the Bible well, whether it is in a Sunday School setting or at a women’s bible study or simply reading the Scripture to someone in hospital.
HINTS AND HELPS FOR READING THE SCRIPTURES
1. PRAY! Pray for the Spirit’s illumination on the passage that you are asked to read.
2. UNDERSTAND! In order to read a passage well, you first need to understand it. You need to understand the message, the genre, the tone, the purpose for which this specific portion of Scripture was written. You need to have a general comprehension of what the passage says so that you can reflect the tone which the specific Scripture message bears. Is this a triumphant passage proclaiming the glories of God?
· Is this a poetic, meditative passage reflecting on pain and persecution?
· Is this God speaking to man or man speaking to God?
· Is this a story or a letter?
· What is God seeking to communicate to us in it?
Use a commentary to help you understand the text better. Although we use the English Standard Version in our public worship, it may be useful to read the passage in a couple of other translations for further help and clarity. It may be useful (but not necessary) to give a very short introduction or explanation to the passage you read. Remember however that you are not called to preach, but to read the Bible at this stage.
3. PRACTICE: Once you have a basic understanding of the passage, you will need to practice reading it. As you read you will need to understand its flow, and to take notice of any natural divisions. You need to ensure that you know how to pronounce every word. Because you will be reading out loud, will need to practice by reading out loud. Read the passage from beginning to end until you are confident that you will be able to capture its flow. As you practice, learn which words or phrases you will need to emphasize, find natural places to pause and look for places where you will need to increase or decrease volume. Practice varying your tone and pace, but be careful that people do not become more overawed by your skillful presentation than the Word of God. Your task is to read the Scripture in a way that aids understanding without drawing attention to yourself. You have succeeded well if people are drawn to the Word of God and take no notice of you!
If you encounter any difficult names, places or other words, you can visit websites like http://thebibleworkshop.com/category/bible-pronunciation/a-words/ to help you in your pronunciation. Make sure that you practice those difficult words enough times that you will not hesitate or mispronounce them when you read.
4. BEFORE THE SERVICE: Dress appropriately and according to the front-of-the-room dress code. Shorts and T-shirts are casual wear, and whilst not expecting you to wear a tie, be sure that you look presentable to all. Make sure that the passage you will be reading has been bookmarked in your Bible so you can turn to it without wasting time in finding your passage. Adjust your microphone to your height. Make sure that the microphone is switched on. Keep a distance of at least 30 centimeters from the microphone.
5. READING: At the appropriate time in the service, walk to the front without hurrying, turn to face the church and open your Bible to the relevant passage. We like to preface our readings with these words: “This is what Holy Scripture says.” Stand tall without slouching. If possible, try to make eye contact from time to time with the people you are reading to. Use your hand to guide your reading, if necessary.
Here are a few common mistakes that you should be aware of when reading.
a. Too Fast! Do not be surprised if you find yourself a little bit nervous at the beginning. This nervousness typically causes people to read too quickly. This is why preparation is important. Preparation provides confidence. Try to keep a good, natural pace. Your natural tendency will probably be to read a little too fast. Slow down, and read with emphasis. Through it all, remember that you are reading for the benefit of the church, and so serve your brothers and sisters by reading God’s Word to them with love and care.
b. Not Enough Preparation: Let us make this point again ! Do all you can to prepare properly for the reading of God’s Word. God’s Word deserves our best efforts. If you are constantly stammering and mispronouncing words, you may be irritating those who know how to read, and thus you are not serving your brothers and sisters as well as you could.
c. Voice: The key to good vocal projection is to take a good breath before your first word and then to use your diaphragm to push the sound forward out of your mouth. Read clearly and loudly (without shouting) as if you were trying to help the man sitting at the back wall to hear you without amplification. Keep your voice constant and practice clear pronunciation throughout. One bad habit is to project well in the first part of a sentence, but then drop off to a near-whisper by the end of the sentence.
d. Emphasis : Here are two dangers: (i) Reading without feeling or (ii) reading with too much feeling. By all means do all you can to “feel” the text as you read it. Having prepared well you will understand the text, and you will allow the truth impact your own soul and cause you to interact appropriately with the text as you read it. Now, while you want to “feel” the text as you read it, be careful that you do not become an actor performing a dramatic recital, drawing attention to yourself rather than the Word of God.
e. Lack of Authority : God’s Word is read publicly to call people to listen and to act, so learn to read as a messenger or as a town-crier. You are a messenger of the King and you have something to say and you must expect those before you to give it attention. Let this frame of mind accompany you when you take up the Bible to read to the congregation. Much public reading of the Bible fails at this point, because the reader does not carry the authority of God with Him.
6. ENDING WELL! At the end of the passage pause for a moment, look at the congregation before saying your words of conclusion: “This is the Word of the Lord. Amen.” Thereafter, go back to your seat, but do not rush.
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Town_crier : in England, town criers were the means of communication with the people of the town since many people could not read or write. Proclamations, local bylaws, market days, adverts, were all proclaimed by a bellman or crier. In Goslar, Germany, a crier was employed to remind the local populace not to urinate or defecate in the river the day before water was drawn for brewing beer.