The Scriptures are a revelation of the mind of God. Reading the Scriptures, therefore, provides an occasion for the words of God and a message from God can be heard. Accordingly, those who read the Scriptures in the assembly should want to read them correctly and effectively.
Scriptural Thoughts on Reading
- Joshua 8:34; Nehemiah 8:8; Luke 4:16-20; Acts 13:15 : Scripture reading was a common practice among the Jews when few, if any, Bibles were available.
- Colossians 4:16; I Thessalonians 5:27: Scripture reading, for the same reason, was common among Christians in the assembly.
- We hasten to observe that the need for reading the Scriptures is not minimized because most members have Bibles today. People learn in different manners, such as by sight, by hearing, or by manipulating. Reading gives people an opportunity to hear what they are seeing.
- Ephesians 3:4; Matthew 24:15: The purpose of reading the Scriptures is to give understanding. This is only possible when it is done properly.
- Revelation 1:3: Reading the Scriptures is intended to secure God's blessing through obedience.
- I Timothy 4:13: Let all brethren, therefore, "give attendance to reading."
- II Timothy 3:16-17: The Scriptures are inspired of God and should be treated with the same reverence shown to God.
- A Scripture properly read is, in many instances, half understood.
Suggestions for Improving Reading
Announce the passage you are about to read clearly and give people in the audience a chance to turn to the passage.
- Wait until you are facing the audience before announcing the passage. The audience can hear you better when you are facing them.
- Announce the verse in two different ways. Example: "Our reading today will be from Isaiah chapter 53, starting at verse 1. That is Isaiah 53, verses 1 through 12." People sometimes confuse two numbers that are said in a row, so put a few words between the numbers.
- Announce which version you will be reading from. This helps those in the audience who are trying to read along with you in their own Bibles.
Be thoroughly familiar with the passage.
- A thorough understanding helps you read fluently and keeps the attention of the listeners.
- Looking at the audience periodically during a reading also helps keep the audience's attention.
- To become familiar with a passage, read it at least five times; better still, read it ten times. After this read it aloud three times.
- While reading the passage, note who is writing, to whom he is writing, and what the general thought that is being presented. Observe the tone of the passage; is it a word of sympathy, rebuke, narration, joy, instruction, reverence, or the like?
- If you don't understand the point of the passage or a sentence in the passage, ask! It is difficult to speak with conviction when you are not certain what you are saying.
Be thoroughly familiar with the words of the passage.
- Being able to pronounce the words and know their meaning will help you read fluently. Hesitations and mix-ups will distract the audience.
- Look up any words about which you have doubt; assuring yourself of their proper pronounciation. Repeatedly say the words aloud until you can say them with ease. Mispronounced words not only distract, they can give a wrong sense to the passage.
- Be careful not to delete or add words. Be especially careful of the word "not". See Matthew 7:21 as an example.
Be thoroughly familiar with the punctuation.
- Don't run over the commas. A slight pause or a change of expression is necessary when a comma is reached.
- Don't ignore semicolons or colons. A pause longer than given at a comma is needed here. Semicolons and colons indicate that some additional thought, explanation, or example is about to be given.
- Don't overlook question marks. A pause even longer than one used for a semicolon or a colon is due here, but more importantly the last word or phrase should rise slightly in pitch as though the sentence is left hanging in the air. Use Job 40:1-14 as an example.
- Don't hurry past periods. The pause here is similar to a question mark, but the voice should drop in pitch. Notice: All verses do not end with a period.
- At times complete sentences are broken between verses. Don't pause just because the end of a verse is reached. Read as if the verse marks are not there. See Luke 1:1-4 as an example.
- When poetry is being read, sentences are sometimes broken between many lines. Don't pause just because you reached the physical end of a line. Select a Psalm as an example.
Be natural in tone and speed.
- Stand erect, but not stiff. Avoid slouching or leaning on the stand.
- If you are holding a Bible, hold it chest high and out a ways from your chest. This will make it more convenient to look at the audience.
- Do not read in a monotone. High pitch is usually associated with a feeling of excitement, alarm, joy, rage, or extreme grief; moderate pitch is used in narration, description, explanation, or teaching; low pitch is used with reverence, gloom, despair, or devotion.
- Avoid mumbling. Hold your head up so you don't squeeze off your throat. Read clearly, distinctly, and loudly.
- Make each word distinct. Sometimes we will blend the ending constanant from one word with the beginning constanant of the next word. Avoid doing this.
- Avoid reading too rapidly or too slowly. Some confuse good reading with the speed of the reading. Others equate slow reading with reverence. Neither is true. Read at a moderate pace.
- Vary the pace and pitch of your reading to indicate changes in who is speaking in the text. Use Malachi 1:6-14 as an example.
Preparatory and Concluding Remarks
This should not become a five or ten minute short talk. Simply set the scene or the context. State who is the writer and to whom is he writing. Give a general sense of what has lead up to this particular passage.
- Example: "The reading this morning is taken from Galations 2:11-16 which records Paul's rebuke of Peter for his hypocrisy."
- Example: "In I Corinthians 5:1-13, our reading for this morning, Paul severely rebukes the Corinthians for keeping company with ungodly members."
Concluding remarks can impress the lesson to be gleaned from the reading.
- Example for Galatians 2:11-16: "May these words impress us with the importance of sincerity in all our doings."
- Example for I Corinthians 5:1-13: "We conclude this reading witht he hope that we will, for the good of our brethren and the church, refrain from encouraging any brother in ungodliness."