It is one of those commands that the mentor gives the mentee that needs honest consideration. The mentor has left his protégé to care for a community of folks, and there are a number of important commands given, but one could make a case that the one we consider today is the bottom line.
“Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.”
-1 Timothy 4:13
Paul’s words of advice to Timothy are well known, but I don’t know that they are well followed. Paul says to Timothy and to all who follow after in Timothy’s footsteps, feed your flock through three things: public reading of Scripture, preaching (proclaiming and applying the message of the Scriptures), and teaching (helping others understand Scripture to obey it completely).
If we were to assess how well our churches do in balancing and practicing these three legs of Paul’s advice to Timothy, would our stools stand? Pure anecdotal evidence from my wanderings and attendance at an abundance of different churches (most of an Evangelical Protestant persuasion), I suggest that two out of three are practiced and given attention, but the first part of Paul’s admonition is often neglected. In many churches, I observe little if any attention given to the public reading of Scripture.
And my involvement in youth ministry activities and retreats finds that they follow suit. Public meetings are predominantly worship through singing, a prayer to open and close, and the preaching or teaching of the Scriptures—with no concern given to obeying Paul’s advice to allow the Scriptures to be heard through the simple act of reading God’s Word.
Let’s correct this oversight. Let’s have the faith to merely read the Scriptures and trust that, as we hear God’s Word, it will have its intended effect. What follows are some ways to begin to practice and show our devotion for the public reading of Scripture.
- When your family gathers for a sit-down meal, consider ending the meal by feeding on the words of God; listen to a passage of Scripture being read.
- Carve out a time in your youth gathering for reading of Scripture. Consider time for a passage from the Old and New Testament. You can do this creatively by having each passage read in two different translations or read in a Reader’s Theater style.
- A prayer for prior to the reading of Scripture:
Almighty God, may we read and mark in the holy Scriptures the tale of your loving purposes—from the beginning of our disobedience, to the promise of your restoration, to the coming of your holy child, who made it possible to become your adopted daughters and sons. Soften our hearts and minds to hear afresh these words; help us honor them in our words, actions, and attitudes. Amen (Dawn to Dark p. 111).