Monday, March 19, 2012

A humble suggestion for fellow SBC preachers

This morning I heard something from the pulpit that I had not heard in almost four months of visiting churches and listening to my colleagues preach.

What I heard was Scripture reading...done well.

There are a lot of ways to mess up a Sunday sermon. You can :
  1. Ignore the text.
  2. Butcher the interpretation of the text.
  3. Sniff at the text and focus on the latest issues du jour.
  4. Overwhelm the text with your wonderful illustrations.
  5. Preach too short and leave people wondering what you were saying.
  6. Preach too long and leave people why you took so long to say it.
  7. Be too loud.
  8. Whisper it too softly.
There are more...give me time. I've tried them all.

But one thing you cannot mess up is to simply read, aloud, in worship God's Word.

So why is Scripture read so poorly from Baptist pulpits? I confess to being flummoxed by my fellow inerrantists who, of all people, ought to be attuned to doing this and doing it properly.

How so? Glad you asked:

1. For crying out loud, bro, slow down when reading. You're not trying out for speed reader.  There's no credit if you get 'er done in record time. And, not to denigrate an explanation and application of a text, don't you think that the reading of what God has written is ipso facto superior to  whatever you say about it? Put the brakes on, with both feet.

2. Con gusto, por favor. Put something in it. Act like you not only believe what it says but have some enthusiasm and appreciation for it. You can drone on when you do announcements, not here.

3. This may be a personal preference but there is a limit to the length of a Scripture reading. You simply cannot read several chapters, maybe not even a single entire chapter, of 1 Samuel to set the background for your stemwinder sermon on David.

4. OK, so we all can't be Alexander Scourby and we don't have the silken resonance of Adrian Rogers, but put the most gravitas into it that you can muster.

5. A little voice inflection, please. It is painless and you're not reading the menu at Olive Garden.

My humble suggestions.

Your pal,



Tim Dahl said...

Reading scripture to quickly is my most prevalent, though not only, mistake when reading before the congregation.
I've found that asking people to stand not only gives a feelig of (shall I say) seriousness to the occasion, but helps to ground me in the present moment. I.e. It helps me slow down.
I've also started using the "audible" option from and the youversion bible app when I forget how to pronounce some random OT name/place.


cb scott said...

Another good post, William Thorton.

The reading of the Scripture from some "pulpits" I have observed is as if a necessary nuisance is occurring before the "main event" can take place.

It's just kinda sad, I think.

Jon L. Estes said...

Sheltered from stuff as a pastor who only attends one church where they read the bible. I find it a sad wonderment that any Christian would not read the bible but then it may be a reflection of the Christian outside the church.

I am trying to get used to the people using their cell phone apps for bible reading, especially the man who can't see well and seems to never find where we are at until we have finished. At least he is trying, I guess (sigh).

The day I asked him to read a passage was a humorous moment for all but him I think.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this important reminder!


Jonathan said...

To Jon's point about using smart phone bible apps.

I like to take notes during every sermon I hear (especially the live ones...yes, I sometimes take notes while listening to podcasts). The notebook that I use for this note taking is about the same size as the thinline size of bible that I've used in worship for the past 10 years or so. Not being an excellent penman (mostly thanks to my almost exclusive use of keyboards since the early 90s), I have to focus to write clearly, using the old style capital letter font that I learned during drafting course my first year of engineering school.

When I got a smartphone, I discovered how convenient those bible apps were. Now, instead of having my bible opened and balanced on my right leg with my notebook opened and balanced on my left leg, I can use my smartphone app and my notebook together.

After a few months of using my thinline bible to follow the pastor during the opening standing and reading of the Scripture, I started using my smartphone app for that as well.

Seems to work fine.

foxofbama said...

Fleming Rutledge honors the text with every sermon I have read of hers. I commend to you her collection Help My Unbelief.
And I do hope you are by now reading Giberson and Stephens The Anointed.
You can honor The Anointed and the Pilgrimage they report of the young Fellow at Prince Avenue SBC in Athens, Ga; and the Biblical text at the same time. I hope you are reading The Anointed.
Also click over to my blog and read about my Town Hall Exchange with US Bama Senator Richard Shelby Saturday. Love to see your comment there