Nothing strikes terror in the hearts of churchgoers like being asked to do a scripture reading in a service, or even their small group. Some progressive, non-liturgical churches are trying things in the middle of the sermon which involve having the reader seated with a live microphone to jump into the middle of the sermon to read texts as requested by the speaker. (The change in voices might actually keep some from slipping into their Sunday slumber.)
Laypersons so asked to participate will often make a panic purchase of a resource like How to Pronounce Bible Names only to find the pastor saying the names with completely different vowel sounds and syllable emphasis than what they read to the congregation moments earlier.
And then there’s always the critical question, “What should I wear?” This usually transcends any consideration of the words being uttered.
Talking about this on the weekend however, we decided that what is usually lacking in these moments is passion. It’s not that the participant is unsaved or involved in gross sins. Rather, they just haven’t taken the time to examine the text and draw out its key elements in spoken form.
I loved the way a reader described this in comment to a piece we did years ago, A New Way to Meditate on Scripture, where he redefined this study process as: “…like walking down a highway that you drove on every day. Longer to look, to feel, to think about.”
So let’s cut to the how-to. Here’s how to slow down on the highway and consider the text so you that can read it with passion.
Photocopy or hand-write the verses you have been asked to read. Then go through and place EMPHASIS on the KEY WORDS you want to draw out. You can do this with:
- capital letters
- bold-face type (or retracing handwritten words)
- highlighting in yellow
In other words, whatever works for you; one, some or all of the above. This is what newsreaders on Top 40 radio stations would do to keep music listeners from tuning out during the newscast. Punch it out a little! Sell it! Make it sing! (Unless of course you’re reading from Lamentations.)
Drawing out the text can also mean critical pauses. If the Psalmist asks a question, be sure to raise your voice at the end. If the verse in Romans says, “May it never be!” say that as you would say it to someone in your own interactions.
In other words, short of doing a dramatic reading — which you probably were not asked to — communicate some of the fire and intensity in the passage.
Because, all scripture is God-breathed.
…There are two sides to everything, and of course public speaking/reading is not everyone’s talent. It’s important that giftedness determine areas of service. Thus the right people need to be asked. However, it’s important that the church not have a short list of the usual suspects. New people should be brought on to the team. That may involve some experimentation and a week where things aren’t ideal.