Have you ever seen a devotional book that has only a snippet of scripture for each day along with several paragraphs (or pages) of the author’s thoughts and reflections? Devotional books are a helpful, practical tool to consistently assimilate the Word of God into our lives—and for that I’m thankful—but could it be that having a partial verse excerpt along with greater amounts author’s content may not satisfy our RDA of scripture intake? Perhaps we need some more Word in our diet. Don’t throw out your new devotional, just make sure to also dig into the Word for yourself.
Here’s where I feel the Holy Spirit is applying this principle to the church: our corporate practice of Pentecostal spirituality often overlooks the public reading of scripture. It is very easy for leaders to take a “devotional book” approach to constructing a worship service, insomuch as the only scripture read in some church services is the preaching text.
Paul encouraged Timothy, “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching” (1 Tim 4:13). I think we practice the exhortation and teaching part with passion and diligence, but do we truly value the public reading of scripture enough that we “give attention to it” as much as teaching?
Rochelle and I were recently ministering at a church that valued publicly reading the Word so much that it was an essential part of each service—and not just an obligatory snippet. The leadership would either begin each service with or after worship read a pertinent chunk of God’s Word. They would typically read together out loud as a group off of the projection screen. How refreshing! The paragraph/s read were prayerfully selected, relevant to the direction of the services and had a noticeable effect on the spiritual climate in the room.
I would like to dare Pentecostal leaders to evaluate how much scripture is read in the worship contexts they lead. I would even suggest the occasional cutting back of other non-essentials to make room for longer portions to read.
I vividly remember a leadership retreat while studying for the ministry at Central Bible College. The speaker that night was Dr. Terry Bleek and his entire message was simply the reading of Psalm 119. At first—I must confess—I looked at my watch in disbelief, but in a matter of minutes the room’s spiritual climate changed. By the time Psalm 119 was read, the room was seized with a new passion for reading the Word. Some students spent hours that night digesting large portions of the scriptures, as the Word had become its own appetizer.
As Pentecostals, we are people of the Word. We believe in the inerrancy of scripture and in the transforming power of words inspired and preserved by the Holy Spirit. I believe we need to rediscover this biblically essential part of our public worship times; perhaps this would stir up a greater hunger for the Word in all of our hearts?