Skip to content

Are we really devoted to the public reading of Scripture? (Scott Newling, Cambridge)

flickr: Sun Dazed

As evangelicals, we’ll often claim to believe that God speaks to us through the Bible. But do our public church gatherings actually reflect this conviction? This article by Scott Newling (currently in Cambridge), which appeared last year, is a salutary reminder to put our beliefs into action:

Many evangelical churches are today characterized by what we might call a ‘relaxed liturgy’ (the idea that we have no liturgy is, of course, a nonsense, since we all have habits and cultures of doing church, even if it isn’t ‘codified’ in text like a prayer book). Within this relaxed format, or so-called ‘freedom’, the church will hear one or two Bible readings of about 10-15 verses each. If they’re lucky. There appears to be a trend in some evangelical circles to adopt the habit of having one Bible reading—and this Bible reading is effectively set within the context of ‘preparation for the sermon’ rather than standing in its own right.

Let’s look at the wider church context. What if this church repeats the sermon across all services? And what if they pair their mid-week Bible-study groups with the sermon series? This means that, in any given week, church members will publicly hear 15 verses of Scripture (there are about 31,100 verses in the Bible, for those who are curious). In a given year, then, this church will publicly read about 780 verses, or (for the non-mathematicians amongst us) 2.5% of the Bible.

Scott goes on to compare our present reality with the pattern set out in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (a heritage which many of us claim for our own). In the Prayer Book,

with the assump­tion that public services would be held morning and evening every day of the week, the Old Testament and New Testament readings would mean that over the course of the year the whole Old Testament would be read publicly once, the New Testament twice, and the Psalms twelve times.

Scott not only offers a useful rebuke to our current practices; he suggests ways to change our practices and to learn to publicly delight in feasting on God’s word.

Published inMinistryRevelation

Publications by Lionel Windsor:

  • Lift Your Eyes: Reflections on Ephesians

All posts

Recent blog posts

  • Photo by Ruben Bagues on UnsplashLiving light (Ephesians 5:11–14)
    How should Christians relate to the world around us? Should we withdraw, or should we engage? How do we know which action to do when?
  • Photo by Ben Mullins on UnsplashThe test that matters (Ephesians 5:10)
    We live in a world full of tests and measurements. Believers in Christ should also test our lives. But when we do, we need to use the right standard.
  • Photo by Eric Patnoudes on UnsplashChildren of light (Ephesians 5:8–9)
    Believers in Christ have had their very identity changed: once darkness like the world, but now light. The challenge is to believe it, and to live it.
  • Dark tunnel coming out of the Amphitheatre, PompeiiWhat do you want to become? (Ephesians 5:5–7)
    Our dreams drive our daily actions. In 5, 10, 20 years, what will you have become? Living in grace as an imitator of God, or a partner with the world?
  • Photo by Jordan Beltran on UnsplashHoly talk (Ephesians 5:3–4)
    Often we try to fit in with others by the way we speak. But God calls believers to be holy, not filthy, in our speech, even if it sounds strange to others.
  • Holding child's handImitators of God (Ephesians 5:1–2)
    Christians are God’s dearly loved children, raised from death to life and secure with him, now and forever. This is what gives us the power to sacrifice.
  • Preaching sermons and shepherding the flock: What’s the connection?
    Lionel Windsor | 2 Feb 2015 | Priscilla and Aquila Conference | Moore College, Sydney I’m here republishing my 2015 paper, which originally appeared as a PDF and video. See here for more on the
  • Photo: NASA/ISS CrewThe Amazon Fires: A Gospel Response
    Unprecedented numbers of fires are now burning in the Amazon rainforest. How can the gospel of Jesus Christ be brought to bear on the situation?
  • Photo by Xan Griffin on UnsplashThe Victory of the Cross
    According to the Bible, Jesus’ death on the cross is God’s victory and triumph—a victory and triumph Christ shares with all who trust in him... (Audio)
  • Photo by Lina Trochez on UnsplashThe power of forgiveness (Ephesians 4:31–32)
    Believers are to forgive, as God has forgiven us. Forgiveness is not only possible for believers, it’s also powerful for our lives and relationships.

On this site

All content copyright Lionel Windsor