Skip to main content

A Pastor’s Reflections: Publicly Reading Scripture

February 7, 2017


A pet peeve of mine is when ministers stand in the pulpit and read the Bible and do so with no inflection. It sounds like the pastor is reading entries in a dictionary—they don’t inflect, run sentences together, ignore punctuation, and mispronounce words. Despite the fact that the Bible is a living book, some do everything they can to make it lifeless! If you give thought to the idea, as sad as it might be, when you read Scripture to the congregation, this might be the only time they hear the Bible all week! Even then, when you read the word of God to the church you are the mouthpiece of God. These facts should encourage ministers, interns, licentiates, parents, or anyone who publicly reads the word of God out loud to give thought to how you read the word.

If you’re a pastor, then ensure you practice reading your passage before you mount the pulpit. Don’t read the passage silently in your office—read it out loud so you can hear yourself. Note the punctuation, special words, or names. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve blown the pronunciation of biblical names in the pulpit because I didn’t practice them ahead of time. When you read the passage, moreover, give attention to its nature. Is this Paul’s rebuke of the Galatian churches at the opening of his epistle? If so, your inflection should indicate his anger. I’m not saying that you have to give a Masterpiece Theater performance—you’re not acting. But at the same time, your reading inflection and voice should reflect what’s written on the page. If you’re doing family devotions chances are you won’t have the opportunity to prepare beforehand, and that’s understandable. But at the same time, read the biblical text with care. Read the text well. While God can and most assuredly does use bald readings of the Bible, there’s no sense in placing an unnecessary obstacle before your listeners.