Even as we come to an understanding that reading the Word aloud is an important aspect of gospel-centered worship in our groups, many of us struggle with how this works.
To help, let us walk through a few common – or not so common – questions:
Do I have to sound like James Earl Jones?
Please don’t. You needn’t adopt a deeper voice, Hamlet pose or British accent when reading Scripture aloud in your group. But preparation is important.
In an attempt to sound “authentic,” far too many of us choose to not look over a text prior to reading it. This failure will leave your reading bland and disconnected, which is opposite the goal of reading the Word aloud.
The goal of reading Scripture is to let the hearers (and yourself) experience the Word spoken by a heart that has been captured and entranced by its message. So let the text speak to you personally. Live in it for the days approaching your group meeting.
Leaders, give your group time to faithfully prepare. Let everyone know ahead of time what passages you will ask them to read. Remind them to personally engage the text with the question, “Lord God, what do have to say to us here?”
Is my leader going to say, "Once more...with feeling!"?
Not unless that theatre bug is still biting him. But he would be correct to tell you that feeling is important when reading the Word aloud. You must be personally invested in what you are sharing, invested in a conversation with the Word and with your hearers.
While you pray for the particular passage to arrest your heart, use your mind to identify the arc of the passage. Paragraphs help because they are usually complete thoughts. As you look at a paragraph to read aloud, look at the paragraphs around it. Where is the author coming from as you enter your text? Where is the author going in the following paragraph?
What is the scope of the book? Where are the verbs? Are there any commands in the passage?
For instance, reading Galatians is going to feel different than reading the Psalms or from a narrative like Nehemiah. Always consider the genre you are reading. Is it an instructional letter? Prayerful poetry? A story?
Such considerations will help as you seek to have the Word first penetrate your own heart. Out of that, you may be used by the Holy Spirit to grant greater insights into God’s own words, both for yourself and for your hearers.
What if I don’t like reading out loud?
Few of us are natural orators. But we have each been given a voice with which to worship our God. A major aspect of gospel-centered worship is repeating and recalling His very words. We do this when we read the Word aloud together, so consider how the Lord would use you to lead worship as you read in group.
To paraphrase Max McLean, no matter your level of comfort with reading aloud, remember that you have the Holy Spirit’s help. He is the Author and Interpreter of the Word. It is He who opens hearts to see the Lord’s original intent of the passage and guides us to apply that meaning to our own situations.
As you prepare and read aloud, remember that these are the words of the God of all creation. You are saying what He already said. What a joyful and sacred trust! Your only goal in reading the Scriptures aloud is to make public your own worship with the text, leading others to taste and see and be reminded that the LORD is good.