Yes, Scripture Reading Really Does Change People

I grew up in a typical evangelical church of the 1960s and 70s. Specifically, it was the First Baptist Church of Dominguez, a Missionary Baptist Church nestled between Carson and Long Beach, California. It was a Bible-believing, gospel-preaching, altar-call-featuring church connected denominationally with a number of churches in Southern California and the farm-rich California central valleys. These congregations initially consisted of families that fled the Dust Bowl and the hardships of the Depression to start anew in the West. Ours was a good church, an evangelical church, a faithful church, as were its sister churches.

And yet, I don’t recall ever hearing the Scripture read during a church service aside from the few verses upon which the sermon was based.

Evangelical Neglect
What was true of my neighborhood church was true of all of Southern California’s large evangelical churches that I visited at one time or another during my teens and early 20s: Swindoll’s Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton, Chuck Smith’s Calvary Chapel, Ray Ortlund’s Lake Avenue Congregational, David Hocking’s Grace Brethren of Long Beach, MacArthur’s Grace Community Church, and Lloyd John Ogilvie’s 1st Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. Substantial Bible reading simply wasn’t a feature of evangelical churches of that time and that place. Neither, I suspect, has it become a feature of typical evangelical churches today.

Anglican Contrast
I spent two years attending an Anglican theological college, Trinity, in Bristol, England. This meant attending a plethora of local Anglican churches: low church, high church, liberal, and conservative. They all held one thing in common: the Prayer Book and the substantial Bible reading as mandated by the lectionary. These readings ran the gamut: Old Testament, New Testament epistles, Gospels, psalms.

The irony was rich and continues to be.

By and large, evangelicals in the United States do not read the Bible in their public services. Anglicans, some of whom are liberal skeptics, few of whom believe in inerrancy, do. Strange.

Why don’t evangelical churches read the Bible? I could come to only one conclusion: they don’t think it’s important. Considerable time in their services is given to singing and preaching and announcements and perhaps even to informal chatter. Yet Scripture reading is omitted, apart from the verses to be preached. Why? I repeat: They don’t seem to think it’s that important. They don’t see value in it. It might be or is likely to be boring. And so, Bible-believing, inerrancy-defending evangelical churches don’t perceive enough value in simple Bible reading to give it a place in their public services.
Posted in
Tagged with ,