In all three Sunday services Pastor Ryan Whitley came to the platform and said, “Every Sunday this year we’ve been reading from the gospel of John. It’s hard to believe we have only three sections left.” Then he asked the people to stand as he read John 20:1-18, the story of the resurrection of Jesus. People either followed along in their Bibles or they watched as the text flashed on the big screens. After he finished, he said, “This is the Word of the Lord,” and the people responded, “Thanks be to God.”
It all started about two years ago when Ryan felt the need to emphasize the role of the Scriptures in public worship. There are various ways to do this. Some churches read the sermon text. Others read from the lectionary. At CrossPoint they decided to take the gospel of John and read through it in 2008, taking small sections so that they will finish on the last Sunday of December.
When Ryan introduced the reading, he gave a sentence of explanation, asked the people to stand, and then he began reading. It was incredibly powerful to hear the Word of the Lord being spoken–and not just three or four verses but eighten verses.
I told the congregation that I had never been to a church that read through a book of the Bible during the public worship services. Starting in January they will read through another book. And of course they could do several shorter books during a year.
I like this because it emphasizes the unique nature of God’s Word. There is something powerful about listening to an extended passage being read from the pulpit, one that stands alone and isn’t necessarily the text of the Sunday sermon.
Evangelicals like to say that we are People of the Book, yet in too many of our churches we sing, pray, give and preach, and take no time for the public reading of God’s Word. If our faith really comes from the Bible, why don’t we read it more often in our worship services?
I think the answer in most cases is that we are pressed for time. American churches, especially suburban churches, tend to live and die by the clock. And if we have multiple services, we have to keep things right on schedule. True as that is, I wonder if we aren’t hurting our own cause by neglecting the Bible in our worship services. When Paul wrote to Timothy, he instructed him to "devote yourself to to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13).
For a movement that claims to be Bible-based, most evangelical churches
could do better in this area. So here’s a question to ask yourself. How
much time and attention is given to the public reading of Scripture in