Fuel for the Soul—Part Two
Each generation, often each decade, new advancements and discoveries take place. We call it progress. But progress often creates unintended consequences.
Some consequences are responded to and resolved, while others are accepted as the cost of progress. One simple example is pollution related to industrialization with all its inventions.
In America, we’ve dealt with the plague of smog fairly well, but urban sprawl continues to encroach upon our landscape and environment.
In a similar way, the advancement and progress of the church brings unintended consequences for God’s people and kingdom on earth.
In Fuel for the Soul—part 1, I asked two questions—
What do you think is the best way to be nourished in the truth of God?
What role is the church to be involved with this?
In this post, I want to give you my thoughts on this based on the advice given to a young elder named Timothy by the apostle Paul—
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. (1 Timothy 4:12-13 NIV)
I highlighted two important parts of this advice—setting an example, and the priority of Scripture in the ministry of the church.
The role of the church
A lot of people have a lot of ideas for what the role of the church should be. Most of the ideas are subjective. That is, they are based on a personal perception or need.
Since Jesus is the founder and head of the church, it makes sense to go with His overarching purpose for the church. It’s called the Great Commission, parts of which are found in all four gospels and in Acts.
Paul’s advice to Timothy of setting an example is emphasized throughout his pastoral epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus). It was also the cornerstone of Jesus’ public and private ministry with His followers.
Importance of the Scriptures in ministry
In the text above (1 Tim 4:13), Paul sees public reading, preaching, and teaching of the Scriptures as a priority for Timothy setting an example for the believers. Are there other important elements in the church’s role of nurturing God’s people? Of course!
But the place of the Scriptures in the ministry of the church has suffered over the years.
This happens when the church tries to reach people by embracing the surrounding culture. It is not new to our time, but it’s a tactic that often has unintended consequences.
Foundation for our faith
In many traditional or liturgical churches, the lectio divina is used as a guide for reading and praying through the Scriptures. It can be a helpful guide.
Less traditional plans for reading through the Scriptures have been around for years, and digital reading plans have flourished via electronic or online Bibles. Just google Bible reading plans!
I shared my own experience, in a prior post, of my initial involvement with a church that continues to emphasize teaching through the Scriptures. This was foundational for my faith.
The Scriptures are a vital part of growing in the Christian faith. They can not be neglected. Neglecting God’s Word dishonors God, and is unhealthy for us and the church. As Christians, the Scriptures are fuel for the soul.
How can you incorporate the Bible in your own personal relationship with Jesus?
Let’s look at the three things Paul spoke of—public reading of Scripture, preaching, and teaching.
Public reading of Scripture
In most of the churches I’ve been involved with or led, public reading of the Bible was a regular part of the service.
Before we planted a church, my wife and I served in a church and retreat ministry in the low desert of Southern California. One of the pastors had a strong Lutheran background, so each Sunday he would read from the Bible.
He did it well. His voice was strong, yet he modulated his tone and volume to fit what he read. When he read the Scriptures it was engaging and understandable.
A lost art
I think public reading of the Scriptures is a lost art.
I cringe when I hear someone reading monotone through a Bible passage. It’s boring and uninteresting. Likewise, hearing someone rush through a text so they can share their own thoughts grieves me.
When I taught homiletics in the Philippines, I worked on this with the students. I would demonstrate reading with thoughtfulness, feeling, a natural pace, and reverence. Then I gave them an opportunity to do it.
I would critique and correct them when they did it poorly, and I encouraged them when they did it well.
Public Bible reading may be the only time someone in church hears the Scriptures. It needs to be done and done well.
Jesus our example
Again, we look to Jesus as our prime example. Reading the Scriptures was central to worship in the synagogue, and we see Jesus honoring it (Luke 4:16-21).
We also see Jesus giving people a correct understanding of the Scriptures, as He taught them in the open (Matt 5:17-20) and in the temple area (Luke 20:1-8).
One advantage of our digitized world is how many resources there are for listening to the Bible read by a good reader. Again, just google audio Bibles!
Many people neither read well or like to read. Today, if people do read it is often reduced to scanning. So, hearing the Bible read is valuable and needed.
But even for those of us who like to read, hearing the Bible can be powerful and a great aid to meditating on God’s Word.
What’s your experience with listening to the Bible?
Do you regularly listen to the Bible more than read it?
Next week I’ll try to look more closely at preaching and teaching—both the church’s role in these, and how both can be incorporated into our life of faith.