Editorial: The art of reading

Wednesday night is a highlight of my week.

Around about 7:30pm some 15-20 young adults descend on our place. (Actually, they’re all university students, so it’s usually a fair bit after the ‘official’ start time.) I fire up my coffee machine—I have an industrial-grade behemoth for just this reason—and we sit down together to share our lives around God’s word.

From time to time, usually when we’re starting a series on a new book, we’ll spend the night reading through a whole New Testament letter (or at least a substantial portion). Sharing the reading amongst the group, we let the whole thing flow over us, seeing the progression of logic, hearing the repeated themes, grasping at the big picture. The details will come later, but at that point we’re just reading and listening.

As great as this is, I’ve never been game to do it regularly. Nor have I been game to have us read big slabs of the Old Testament—we usually dip into representative sections here and there. Pete Woodcock, on the other hand, is game. He’s recognized that there are people in his congregation who are fairly ignorant of the stories of the Bible, so they’re sitting down and just reading it together. Out loud, in groups. (Check back here on Thursday and Friday this week for a look at what he’s been doing.)

A few issues ago (#390) Scott Newling challenged us to consider how we approach reading the Scriptures publicly—indeed, whether we actually do it very much at all! The November issue is a bit of a follow-on from that. Apart from Pete’s program of reading big chunks of the Bible together in his church, we’ve got a conversation that Tony Payne had with Russell Powell on reading the Bible publicly, and his thoughts on doing that well. The church I’m a part of has the exact problem that Sandy Grant addresses in his article on the Bible—we’re going to have to work out what translation we replace our NIV (1984) church Bibles with. Plus, later this month we’ve got an article by Gary Millar on how we can make the (legitimate) jump from those Old Testament narratives to Jesus in ways that aren’t just exactly the same pattern time and time again.

You probably noticed from the cover that this issue isn’t just about reading the Bible aloud. I was recently at Oxygen, a conference for pastors, and I noticed the bookstall had three tables piled high with books written by the keynote speaker, John Piper. He’s one of those people who have had an enormous impact on Christians all over the world, and now many thousands on the east coast of Australia have heard his take on the purpose of our lives. David Starling has written a gracious, thoughtful, and humble article on John’s teaching and impact, and had a conversation with him during his visit.

And you know what? Maybe Pete has given me some steel for my spine: perhaps next year on Wednesday nights we’ll spend a few months reading through big swathes of God’s word, and just listen to him speak.

2 thoughts on “Editorial: The art of reading

  1. When I was a student at Moore College the late Clifford Warne was invited to preach in the college chapel. On this memorable occasion, rather than preach, Clifford gave a very short introduction, explaining that he wanted us to hear the all important news of Jesus, the Son of God, through one God appointed to record this news. He then began reading from John’s gospel. From memory he read 6 chapters.

    There is a place simply to hear the word of God. Of course, preaching is vital, but the word of God has primacy.

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