In my preaching class as a student, the professor required us to stand before the class and read a Scripture passage. He critiqued each of us for our reading. At the time, I thought the exercise was an unnecessary, if not demeaning, one. Now many years later, I’m convinced the professor took us in the right direction. Here’s why we need to practice reading the text aloud before we teach it publicly:
- The Word of God is the Word of God. That simple truth ought to make us think deeply about how clearly we read the Word aloud when we’re teaching or preaching. We must handle the Word with care.
- We often spend much more time on preparing the sermon than on reading the text aloud. That makes sense, but many of us devote no time to reading the text aloud. It should not be that the first time we read the text aloud is when we stand before God’s people.
- We sometimes stumble over hard-to-pronounce words in the Scripture when we don’t first practice reading the text. In some cases, our congregation then hears our mispronunciation more loudly than the rest of the reading. Practice may not result in perfect pronunciations, but we’re much less likely to stumble if we’ve already worked diligently on reading the Word.
- Different genres and stories of the Scriptures lend themselves to different reading styles. For example, how I read proverbs in the book by that name is different than how I might read warnings in the prophetic books of the Old Testament. Likewise, I would not read the serpent’s words in Genesis 3:4-5 the same way I would read God’s words of judgment in the same chapter.
- The Scriptures are filled with emotions, and we can help hearers enter those emotions by the way we read the text. Think about it—wouldn’t we read the grief-stricken words of the prodigal son in Luke 15:21 differently than we read the celebratory words of the waiting father in 15:22-24? Too often, I’ve heard scripture reading—unpracticed, I suspect—in such a monotone, dispassionate style that the speaker misses an opportunity to communicate the Word well.
- Knowing and reading the passage well can help us avoid the common mistake of reading the Scriptures too fast. We don’t genuinely think this way, but it’s almost as if we want to rush through the Scriptures so we can get quickly to the words we think really matter: our words. When we practice our reading, though, we can watch for natural pauses in the biblical text that give the speaker a break and the hearers a moment to let the Word sink in.
- We model for our listeners the practice of reading the Word when we do it aloud. Sure, they’re much more likely to be reading to themselves in their own quiet times, but they nevertheless learn how to read the Word as they listen to us.
What are your thoughts about practicing reading the Word aloud? What other reasons would you add to this list?