Renewing Our Worship: Scripture Reading

Many churches precede the sermon with a scripture reading from the pulpit. It’s usually done badly. I didn’t used to think so — until I’d heard it done well, and then I knew.

Good reading requires practice and an understanding of what’s being said. And an emotional attachment, not only to the fact that God is speaking, but the fact that this passage matters to this church right now.

Sadly, it’s done well so rarely that few of us have any concept of how well it could be done.

Some time ago, for Easter, I believe, we gave microphones to men and women to read one of the resurrection passages, with women voicing the women’s parts and men the men’s parts. The participants practiced — and they were chosen for their voices. It was riveting (and no one complained that women were speaking in the assembly, but then, they were sitting and facing the front).

Practice. Choose people with the right voices who respect the scriptures.

Pronunciation. Look up the hard words. It’s really distracting and inappropriate to read a passage without bothering to know how to say the words.

Passion. Read it like it matters — as though God charged you with saying these very words to these people at this time.

The following example videos are not professional, and they aren’t perfect, but they have passion — and passion matters more than anything, I think. If you’re going to read God’s word, read it like it’s God’s word.

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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8 Responses to Renewing Our Worship: Scripture Reading

  1. Tim Archer says:

    Yes, yes, YES!!! We've got to see that Scripture reading is not a "throwaway" moment in the assembly.

    Thanks Jay.

  2. Maybe the video viewer on my computer is having trouble, but I didn't detect any "passion" in the scripture reading videos. At first I thought you put them here as examples of poor scripture reading. I had to go back and read the blog again to see that they were examples of good scripture reading.

  3. Matthew Robert says:

    Where I'm working, we typically don't do the scripture reading very well, and we do it before every talk…even if its just a two minutes invitation. We do, however, have on man who has the most amazing voice I have ever heard. He reminds me of James Earl Jones. When he reads, its pretty phenomal. Otherwise, we have a lot to learn.

  4. Joe Baggett says:

    I remember we went to a play one time in a very well known theater. There was an actor there who always recited Psalms 23. But one evening there was boy in the audience who requested to recite it aloud instead. When the boy has finished reciting the 23rd psalm there were people in the audience who were crying. The well known actor asked the boy where he had learned to read like that and the boy simply replied you know the psalm but I know the Shepherd. You can tell when a scripture is actually “hidden” or “written” in someone’s heart and when it is simply memorized or read.
    Scripture is meant to be recited aloud such as prose with emotion, inflection, strength and conviction. You know I remember at a very young age I spoke on Joy. Afterwards a man named Graham Patterson a very personable friend approached me and told me that the content of the speech was excellent and well laid out but that the actual words were only 7% of the message the rest was body language, emotion and passion. There is a way to read God’s word as a liturgical requirement part of a religious ritual and then there is a way to show that his word is hidden and written on our hearts.

  5. What could be more important than the reading of God's message for man? Thanks Jay

  6. Jay Guin says:

    I've heard of churches that have had great success with replacing the sermon with a scripture reading for a service — having a truly talented person read the Sermon on the Mount or all of Philippians, for example.

    By the way, for what it's worth, when I teach Bible class, I read the scriptures myself, rather than having the class do it. People can hear it better from in front, I've had a chance to figure how to pronounce the hard words, and I've studied the passage so I can better voice the writer's intent. And I can pick the translation that suits the lesson best. I just think that approach works better than the customary practice of having different students look up and read the passages.

  7. Jay Guin says:


    If he ever is in West Alabama, let me know. We'll find a slot for your reader on our program!

  8. I loved the scripture reading … that was awesome

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