At times we (I say we because I don’t want to be alone in this) read or hear something that draws our attention because we know someone that “needs to read/hear this”. We know that this person, by our assessment, is struggling with a problem, a sin, a weakness, an attitude that would be instantly solved if only they would read this new book we found or would listen to a particular teaching. With that in mind, I direct you to Porn and Paper Pastors by Dan Phillips at Pyromaniacs. In this case, though, the person that needed to read this post is me. It hits a big nail on the head with a bigger hammer. Read it and see if it might also help you and your pastor.
Dan Phillips over at Team Pyro writes about the public reading of the Bible in church. Because that was one of the topics of our recent deacon meeting, the post stuck out to me. After qualifying his concern for obedience to 1 Timothy 4:13 and the manner in which the public reading is carried out, he lists some helpful pointers (included below) for those wishing to do better reading God’s Word in church.
1. Always practice reading the passage aloud. This may be the most important single pointer. What works inside your head may not get out your mouth, intact. So give it a go, at least once.
2. Make sure you understand the passage. That’s why, given the option, I always do my own reading. Ostensibly I’ve studied it, pored over it, marinated my soul in it. I should be ready to read the passage with thought and meaning and proper emphasis. Of course, it isn’t a necessity that the preacher also be the reader. But the reader of the passage should first have been a student of the passage.
3. Don’t rush it. It is an important part of the service. God is speaking to His people. It’s not a box to check on the way to the Real Deal. This is the Word of God.
4. Read it with life. The last thing a Bible reading should feel like is lifeless and bloodless and monotonous. “Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet” (Isaiah 58:1) would be good counsel to the man who reads stirring, passionate passages in assembly. No need for histrionics; but no excuse for soporifics. These are the words of God! Our readings should never sound like Ben Stein (“Beulah? Beulah?”).
5. Know how to pronounce difficult words or names. There are plenty of dictionaries. Or, you can ask an authority. Zurishaddai, Kiriath-jearim, or Magor-missabib are just as much part of the inspired text as grace, forgiveness, or love. If they’re in the portion you’re to read, that’s your ministry today. Say them with equal clarity.
6. Read the psalm titles. If your assignment is to read Psalm 32 or 51 or 90, read the title. I was cheered to hear the great Bruce Waltke say (far better) what I’ve also said for years: the titles and ascriptions (and notations) are as much a part of the text as the rest, and there is no historical reason for rejecting them. They’re part of the text we have as the word of God. In Hebrew, the title often is verse one. Skipping the title isn’t reading the psalm. Don’t leave off part of the Word.
Certainly this is not exhaustive, but it is a good start. Read the complete post “Bible Reading–In Church”.
I read two different posts regarding organized sports for kids and decided to take the opportunity to pile on. Jim Elliff at CCW Today writes “When Ball Becomes Baal” and Steve Maxwell at Titus 2 writes “Sports” in his Dads Corner section. Both men recognize the increased emphasis children’s organized sports receive. Jim Elliff recommends appropriate limits that put the worship of the Lord first. Steve Maxwell goes further by saying that “If my readers can be open minded, it is seen that sports are the antithesis, the exact opposite, of the Christian faith.”
Before I go any further I must confess I like sports. I like to watch and I like to play (what little I can). I played organized sports growing up. I now play pool (is that a sport?) after work in the company lunchroom. I always play to win. That requires me to play for my opponents defeat. I never really had a problem with that thought process until I read Steve Maxwell’s article. He presents the biblical principles that we should be applying in our lives, then demonstrates how a “sports” focus generates an opposing attitude. He does qualify his statements by first identifying his audience:
“written to families where Dad is:
-striving to raise his children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord
-deeply committed to leading his family consistently with Scripture
-sincerely desiring God’s best for his family
-not simply avoiding sin”
Once identified, though, he addresses this group head on. I believe his comments and the biblical application are worth considering.
Some of the reasons, I’ve heard, for participating in sports are to learn discipline, teamwork, and commitment. The social aspect including camaraderie is also mentioned. What I never hear offered is the biblical answer for those things. Anyone ever hear of children being a reward from God (Psalm 127:3). If everyone took that seriously, families on average would be much larger and the teamwork, commitment, discipline and social atmosphere would be found in great supply in the home. Also if we, as Christians, would not forsake meeting together (Hebrews 10:25), there would be more opportunities for the same experiences with a straightforward biblical influence in the local church. The Bible is not an all-you-can-eat buffet. You can’t take some Deuteronomy, a smidge of Ephesians, a scoop of Titus and then cover it with “Judge not, and you will not be judged;” (Luke 6:37). The Bible is complete and inerrant. When read, believed, and acted upon from cover to cover, there is no need for man centered substitutes. That to me is the greater issue.
The two questions: “What should be preached?” and “How long should the preaching be?” have been answered many ways. But two posts from Pulpit Magazine give a clear and direct answer to both. From “Let Us Preach Christ!“ Charles Spurgeon is quoted,
“You [as preachers] have nothing else to employ as the means of good, except the salvation of Jesus, and there is nothing else worth telling.”
“[T]o hope ever to bring sinners to holiness and heaven by any teaching but that which begins and ends in Jesus Christ is a sheer delusion. None other name is given among men whereby they can be saved. If you have to deal with highly learned and educated people, nothing is so good for them as preaching Jesus Christ; and if the people be ignorant and degraded, nothing is better for them than the preaching of Jesus.”
Answering the length of the sermon question, John MacArthur in Preaching and the Clock states:
“As long as it takes to cover the passage adequately! I do not think the length of the sermon is as important as its content. At times I have preached fifty minutes and it has been ten minutes too long. Other times, I have preached an hour and twenty-five minutes and it has been just right. The important thing is to cover the main point so that people are convinced of its truth and comprehend its requirements.”