Saturday, April 12, 2008

"Will you turn with me to...": To Wait or Not to Wait?

image I have usually been taught that it is important to allow the congregation to turn to the scripture you are reading (at least the MAIN text) in their Bibles so they can read along with you.  Often that is prefaced with the words, "Will you turn with me to..."

Robert Shannon, formerly of Atlanta Christian College has a different perspective on that.  Here is what he says: 

Don’t use the opening line: “Will you turn with me….” Half of the people aren’t going to do it. Of the half that do, half of them are not going to find it until you are well into your first point. Another third are going to keep reading after you have finished reading you text and are going to miss your entire sermon introduction.

Let people read the Bible on their own time. I only have 25 minutes. Why should they take MY time for their Bible reading? Don’t you find it disconcerting when you have come to the end of your text and you are preaching and there is some person out there who is reading on into the next chapter?

I guess I am not sure that I would KNOW that someone was reading into the next chapter.   I have always found it important to reinforce people bringing their scriptures to church, and if they are going to bring them, they should use them. 

But I guess it is fair to ask the question WHY?  Why is it important that they bring them?  Why is it important that the look up the scripture along with you?  Do they suspect that you are lying; that you are changing the words of scripture? 

For many years, I put the text of the main scripture used (and often the text of ALL of the scriptures used) up on the Powerpoint screen behind me.   That way I could just jump into the text without delay and they could read along from the screen. That also helped with the problem of numerous translations being read all over the sanctuary. To have one thing read and people trying to note all of the differences between you are reading and what they are reading has got to be distracting.  But after having people complain that I wasn't giving them time to turn in their Bibles to the scripture and that I was not encouraging people to bring their Bibles, I have drifted toward just putting the scripture reference (along with the page number in the pew Bibles) on the screen. 

What has worked best for you?  What do you think of Bob Shannon's comment?  Go ahead and chime in!


Milton Stanley said...

For centuries each congregation of believers typically had, at best, one copy of the Bible. In that environment, as during biblical times, the Word was not typically something that each member read with his eyes but rather something he heard with his ears. That distinction is significant.

After the coming of the printing press in early Modern times, Bible reading not only changed from an auditory to visual process; more significantly it changed from a community to an individual activity. That change is significant and has, in general, fueled the idea that faith is simply a matter between an individual believer and God. Within that concept, in turn, the church is little more than a vehicle for facilitating the individual's faith. Gone is most of the richness of community in Christ.

We should certainly thank God for the great privilege of each having our own Bible, but we should not give in to the sanctification, if you will, of Modern thinking that is implicit in the idea that every Christian should bring one to the worship assembly.

This is, of course, a minority view in Bible-focused churches. The generations-long insistence on every Christian bringing his own Bible to corporate worship has always struck me as a function more of Modern individualism than Christian faith. The fact that so many Christians are so adamant about the practice suggests how very deeply Modern thinking has intruded into thinking of Christians over the past 500 years.

Why, after all, do we each need our own copy of Scripture in the worship assembly. Can we not, as the early church did, learn to listen to the Word proclaimed publicly? If we were to return to that paradigm, it would by necessity encourage us to pay better attention to the reading of the Word, as we would not simply be able to ignore the reading and go back to the textwhile the preacher moved on to the next point. We would also have the joy, as did the first Christians, of listening together to the Word of God being proclaimed.

Cal Habig said...

Amen. There is a lot packed in what you say, and it is all very true & helpful. Thanks for your good insights.

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