This past week, as a congregation, we experienced something profoundly simple, yet deeply, spiritually impactful. It sounds silly to say, but…we read the Bible, out loud, in our sanctuary, and streamed it to the world. We read together in groups. We read as families (including a 1st grader!). We listened to others read, while sitting in the sanctuary, walking in the hallways at church, and from our workplaces and homes via live-streaming. Simple, yet profound – the Public Reading of Scripture. From 5am on Wed (April 10th) through 11:10am on Sat (April 13th), we read nearly non-stop, from Genesis to Revelation. There was no master plan or strategic intent. I honestly don’t think that any sermon or leadership message could have adequately described, ahead of time, what kind of impact this would have, in and among us.
Almost 150 of us took a turn (or 5!) sharing the privilege of reading during an hour-long slot. I call it a privilege, not because I alone felt that, but because so many of you shared with me how surprisingly significant your experience was, after you read for the first time. Some of our children asked for the privilege of reading again. Some of our members had to be encouraged to go home in the middle of the night, and let others carry the torch. And when 60-70 of us gathered in the sanctuary on Saturday morning to cross the finish line together, reading Revelation 22 in unison, it became an emotional and spiritual milestone in the life of GRC.
Why this response? Many read incredibly obscure or disturbing passages. Many would admit that you read portions of the Bible that you’ve never come across. Many read chapters containing long stretches of strange-sounding names or places, and though we butchered most of them, we still felt richly encouraged by the Word of God! Each text is equally the inspired and authoritative Truth spoken by God. And as the Spirit led, we were left wanting MORE of God.
In my 15 years as pastor of GRC, I can’t think of a more meaningful church-wide effort. In my handful of years on social media, I’ve not found any better use for Facebook than this: the people of God connecting online, listening to God’s Word and interacting over it.
So what now, GRC? If you didn’t get an opportunity to take part, Staff and Elders’ debriefs both affirmed that we should hold this Public Reading of Scripture again next year. But until then, let me suggest some ways you can respond:
- Choose a Bible-reading plan. Invite some friends to commit to reading Scripture on the same plan, hold each other accountable, and talk about what you’re reading. This past week, the shared experience contributed to the richness. For those of you who participated, you now KNOW you can focus on God’s Word for an hour. Over the years, I have heard from many, many people: “I just can’t focus. I try to read the Bible, but my mind drifts, so I give up.” Well, why did every person “successfully” focus on the Bible for an hour at a time? Perhaps it was simple as carving out deliberate time in your schedule. Maybe reading out loud was helpful. Consider your posture and your environment; lying in bed, late at night, to do your Bible-reading, has predictable results!
- Start a Bible-reading group in your home. Invite an elder or a pastor or a lay leader to join you to help guide discussions. Whether you read a little or a lot at a time, make the Word of God the ‘star attraction’ of your gathering, and then trust the Lord to speak powerfully to you!
- Consider the truth of Hebrews 4:12: “The Word of God is living and active…” These are not merely words of inspirational literature. English-class assignments would never drag me out of bed to read at 3am as I did with my oldest son! (No offense, teachers). I marveled at the common dynamics among children and older adults: sitting quietly, reading along, waiting for their next opportunity to stand in the pulpit. It was powerful and spiritually-impactful precisely because the Bible IS the revealed, inspired, life-giving Word of God which we NEED to feed on, daily – in private and in community.
Let this unique experience be a jump-start to increased spiritual vitality. And please do share testimonial stories with me about your personal encounter with the Word of God in this Public Reading of Scripture!
Grace be with you,
Peter Wang is our Senior Pastor.