It has been said that God is in the details.
Beginning with the cleaning of the sanctuary or meeting place, preparation and distribution of bulletins and related materials, adjustment of lighting and heating/cooling, sound checks, and timely arrival of those in leadership along with volunteer or ad hoc greeters, everything that goes into making a Baptist church service honoring to the Lord is important.
The opening choir number has been carefully rehearsed so that the notes, chords, lyrics, harmonies and overall message will minister to the hearers.
Announcements are given with detailed attention to places, names, dates, times, and all information pertinent to events and activities, lest anyone arrive late or at the wrong place, or forget to bring a shower gift in the correct color, or neglect to provide a covered dish for an after-church social.
(When it comes to celebrations involving gifts and/or food, Baptist churches tend to give very precise logistical directives.)
A soloist or special group has sacrificed time and energy in order to provide additional music that will edify and encourage the hearers.
In due course the preacher approaches the podium, opens his Bible, and begins to read.
But instead of reading the words on the page, the preacher skips some here, adds some there, flubs a line, and generally bumbles his way through the Scripture reading. In short, he paraphrases as often as he reads each and every word as inspired and preserved by Almighty God.
For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. ~II Peter 1:21
Unfortunately, the preacher's mode of reading Scripture makes it difficult for those following along to concentrate on the words, phrases, truths, and concepts contained in the passage.
Let all things be done decently and in order. ~I Corinthians 14:40
Leaving one to wonder if the preacher never learned to read properly, or if he does not comprehend what he is reading, or if he is suffering from a case of nerves, or if he is for some reason distracted, or if -- worst case scenario -- he merely does not consider it important to read the Bible with explicit attention to each and every word.
Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. ~Deuteronomy 4:2
Think about it: In most situations for which relevant printed material is critical to the success of the activity, reading carefully is crucial.
In the workplace, no matter what type of task is being performed -- from changing a flat tire to brain surgery -- strict attention to reading before, during, and even after the project's completion can be a matter of life and death.
In everything from nouveau cuisine to nuclear energy, proper concentration on written instructions can make all the difference in outcomes small and great.
Why, then, would a preacher read sloppily from the Word of God with the congregation potentially hanging on his every utterance?
Why -- when God's words are not only THE TRUTH but a light unto our path, a lamp unto our feet, the way to salvation, grace to the hearers, balm to the wounded, living water, the route to sanctification -- yea, providing the answers to all of life's problems -- wouldn't the pastor make it top priority to read every single word as written?
Even if he is merely preoccupied or nervous or distracted or has misplaced his glasses, why would he not train himself to take a deep breath, slow down, locate his lenses or keep a pair in the podium, focus, tune everything else out, and purposely give the reading of God's Word the respect it deserves and demands?
So many questions. Now for some answers.
It has become popular to adopt a casual approach to church, which has led -- even in churches that remain traditional in their attitude and mode of worship -- to a devaluing of the most serious and important aspects of church.
Casual is fine when reading a magazine, but when it comes to treatment and handling of the Word of God -- that sacred text being our GPS on the road to faith and beyond -- casual is ill-advised.
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. ~Romans 10:17
If we are truly thankful for the Word of God and cognizant of God's provision through its blessed preservation, we will be sticklers for accuracy when we have the privilege of reading it aloud to others.
For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. ~I Thessalonians 2:13
Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. ~John 17:17
As it is a book for which men and women have died, the Word of God should be opened and read with the most sacred reverence.
And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held. ~Revelation 6:9
The precious words should never be bandied about like just any sort of writing on just any sort of page in just any sort of book.
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. ~Hebrews 4:12
If we are saved, the Word of God gives us constant assurance of our eternal destination. As such, it is a precious lifeline worthy of our respect and protection.
Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever. ~I Peter 1:23
Baptist preacher, if you believe the Bible is the Word of God, every time you open its pages to read aloud to your congregation, you will take care to read what's actually there.
And Jesus answered him, saying, it is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. ~Luke 4:4
All Scripture quoted and referenced in this article is from the King James Bible.
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