Readers' Forum: The Silenced Word

Why aren't evangelicals reading the Bible in worship anymore?
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One recent sunday morning, we drove to a Presbyterian church in Fergus, Ontario, where our son's Wesley Chapel Free Methodist Church choir was to sing. At the appointed time, the sexton entered from a door behind the pulpit bearing a large Bible and, with deliberation, opened it on the pulpit. This was a sign that the service could now begin. When the benediction was pronounced, the sexton went to the pulpit, closed the Bible, and carrying it chest-high in front of him so all could see, preceded the minister down the aisle to the door. The symbolism was clear: this service was conducted from beginning to end under the authority of God's Word.

As I watched, I thought of a different trend I and others have witnessed in evangelical churches during the past decade: I have seen the Bible given a less important place than it deserves in public worship. For example, my wife attended a service in the Midwest in which no Bible reading of any kind was a part of worship, and the preacher himself made casual mention of Scripture only a couple of minutes before the end of his sermon. My wife wondered if anyone else had noticed this glaring omission.

An isolated case? A minister friend on vacation attended a congregation that advertised itself on the front lawn as a "Bible church." He was surprised that at no time was the Bible read except for a few verses before the pastor preached. While speaking to a denominationally diverse class at Northeastern Seminary in Rochester, New York, I asked, "How many of you lead or attend a church where there is no separate Scripture reading as an act of worship?" Nine of the 19 raised their hands.

The first time I heard this trend explained several years ago, I was told that our worship services should ...

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