Thoughts on Reading the Scriptures in Public Worship

Dr Benjamin Shaw has some helpful thoughts on reading the Scriptures in public. He writes:

On Reading the Bible to the Congregation

One word–preparation. First, you should look over the passage. Are there any words you doesn’t know? Then you need to look them up and learn how to pronounce them. Are there names? Ditto. (On this point, I would recommend that anyone who is going to read Scripture in public should purchase a “self-pronouncing” edition of the KJV and learn how to use the diacritical marks for the pronunciation of names.)Third, look at the punctuation of the passage. Where are the commas, the semi-colons, and the periods? These tell you where the pauses are. Fourth, practice. Read it aloud to someone. Try to follow the rhythm of the text, pausing and stopping where the punctuation indicates, and stressing important words and phrases. Have your listener critique your reading. Then you are ready to read the passage to the congregation.One further note on names. If you mispronounce them, do so boldly, with certainty in your voice, and without stumbling. The one or two people who know how the name is pronounced will value your lack of stumbling, and the rest won’t know the difference.

I would add just a few suggestions to these. First, Listen to men who read and preach the Scriptures well (e.g. Sinclair Ferguson, Eric Alexander, John Piper, Derek Thomas, Iain Hamilton, etc.). Second, Ask men who know more about Scripture than you to help you know how to pronounce names–especially Hebrew names. I had the privilege of asking Phil Ryken, on several occasions, about pronunciations. These men can help us know what is the best pronunciation.

This may seem like an insignificant issue but there are many who will notice the way you pronounce biblical words and names and will be critical if you mispronounce them. I am not sure that the words of the apostle Paul are accurately applied when I quote this verse, but he did say, “We give no offense in anything, so that our ministry may not be blamed.” I think there is wisdom in the advice given above, while at the same time recognizing that “the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation.”

Public prayer is another aspect of leading in worship that is often overlooked. For helps in public prayer I would recommend Samuel Miller’s Thougths on Public Prayer, and Terry Johnson’s Leading in Worship. Terry’s talk at Twin Lakes Fellowship is also very beneficial. You can listen to it here. It was the third seminar lecture toward th bottom of the page. There are also transcripts next to the audio link.

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