*Christopher Casoni is the Associate Pastor of Worship at Calvary Bible Church in Derry, NH. He will be presenting at Simply Worship 2014. You can connect with him on twitter @theChrisCasoni
In preaching through books of the Bible, our church has found it profitable to conduct a reading service to start a new book series. We take an entire Sunday service to read through the book or large portions of the book, depending on the length of the text. We structure the service around the reading of God’s word using multiple readers. The church reads a few chapters and then responds to the text through worship by song, with a song connected to the themes we just read. After singing, we resume reading.
Our pastoral staff at Calvary Bible Church believe this is a valuable and important exercise for our church body and decided to write and share the purpose and rational for reading services within the local church. Our reasoning is as follows:
1. We have reading services because we want to obey the Word when it says to pay public attention to the reading of His Word
We are told in scripture to devote ourselves to the public reading of Scripture (1 Timothy 4:13). Our reading services give a great opportunity to demonstrate obedient hearts before our Almighty God! We have people at our church who simply don’t like our reading services. Nonetheless, we continue to do them. Why? Because we must understand our goal is not to do things that everybody likes. Our goal is to glorify our God making much of him in all we do. We read his word corporately because he tells us to and that should be enough.
2. We have reading services because the word of God is powerful by itself.
The Bible has its own power. We believe that the Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation (2 Peter 1:3; 2 Timothy 3:15). Scripture is Truth and helps us define what is true in the world and in our own lives. Out of the bible we build our sermons, structure our churches, write our songs of praise, and experience the special revelation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Why not use the living and active source of truth to restore, renew, and open our minds? The Bible is all we need for faith and practice and that is why we read it together as a church.
3. We have reading services because we want our people to see the continuity of Scripture
In our reading service we ensure that our body has read the book we will be preaching from in its entirety. This allows us to see the big picture of the text before examining its smaller parts. Our approach to studying Scripture is to let Scripture determine what we believe rather than allowing what we already believe to influence how we read, interpret, and understand the Bible. We don’t want simple proof texts. We want the true message of the letter. Themes and issues flow throughout each individual book of the Bible. We don’t want to get hung up on the side issues and miss the larger and more important issue the author is trying to address.
4. We have reading services because we want to model the discipline of reading the Word.
Reading God’s Word is not only essential but necessary for spiritual growth and maturity. This truth leads us to place a high value on our people reading the Bible together and individually. Reading the Bible can be challenging for some and often people are not accustomed to reading entire books of the Bible in a sitting. Reading large portions of Scripture can be a struggle for those with short attention spans, young believers, and those who regularly struggle to understand what Scripture is communicating. We often read a couple of verses and feel that is enough to get us through the day. These readings services help our people experience that they are capable of reading the Bible this way and that they can enjoy it.
5. We have reading services because Scripture leads our response in worship and shapes the songs we sing.
As a worship pastor, I am often thinking on how to lead our people in magnifying the greatness of God in Jesus Christ. I have found that the best way to accomplish this is through God’s Word. Nothing captures who God is better than His Word. If we are truly worshiping God we should want specific, accurate, and complete ideas about who He is. The truths of the Bible move us to faithfully acknowledge our daily need for God to intervene in our lives and lead our hearts to a lifestyle of worship beyond our Sunday Morning services. This belief that God’s Word is our fuel for worship has developed our strategy in selecting the songs we sing as a congregation. I work closely with the senior pastor, or whoever is preaching, to select songs that have rich connections with the message of the text that is being preached. This helps our congregation connect with the main ideas that are being taught from the text and gives an avenue to emotionally respond to gospel truth that is read and preached.
In conclusion, taking an entire service for scripture reading may not work in all churches. I offer our model and rational as a talking point or idea for your church to serve your local body in its pursuit to glorify God. I would ask you to prayerfully consider using the reading of God’s Word as a focal point for developing the culture within your church. For the Word of God is the bread that we must live by (John 1:14; 6:35-59).0