At Emmaus we have adopted a more historic, Reformed Liturgy for our worship gatherings. At several points throughout the service the Bible is read aloud. In some of these times we include a responsive reading of the Scriptures. In this post I want to answer two questions that I often receive:
1. Why do we read the Bible during worship? 2. Why do we do responsive reading?
Reading the Bible during the assembly is a historic practice among the people of God. We see it in the Old Testament as well as the New:
Then Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel. And Moses commanded them, “At the end of every seven years, at the set time in the year of release, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, (Deuteronomy 31:9-12)
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. (1 Timothy 4:13)
As Bryan Chapel notes in his book Christ Centered Worship
…God now commands the repetition of a text as his immanent and permanent voice among his people. Thus, reading he Word of God becomes the very core of worship, affording each hearer an opportunity for ongoing, personal encounter with the divine. In essence, Scripture is God’s voice incarnate for the church in all ages. (Christ Centered Worship, p. 220)
In reading the Scripture we remind ourselves that we worship a God who has revealed himself in his Word and has specifically revealed how we come to him in worship. The reminder serves to refresh us with God’s worth and work. Little doubt why Paul, Moses, and others adamantly exhorted the public reading of Scripture.
We also read it responsively. If you are unfamiliar with the term it is when the leader reads a portion of Scripture and then the congregation joins him at a particular point. We display the Words of Scripture on our screen and underline the congregational portion. We might do Psalm 103:8-14 and underline verses 11-12.
Why do this? The goal is to have people paying attention to, reading, and thinking about the Scripture. When people know they are going to have to read they pay attention. In one sense then it is pragmatic and in another it is pedagogical. It is also a terrific witness. We gather on Sunday mornings and have a room full of people saying that they believe, worship, and strive to honor this God. This is good.
So why do we read Scripture during worship? It is biblical, historical, practical, and helpful.