The Assembly Bible Reading: How To Kill It

The assembly Bible Reading is important for the systematic teaching of the Word of God. “I didn’t get anything out of the Bible reading,” and “it wasn’t profitable,” are common complaints by young and old alike. We can’t ignore or deny the fact: all Bible Readings are not profitable. Why is that? What is the source of the problem? How can it be remedied?

Believers of all ages, from pre-teens through to the oldest, should look forward to and derive profit from the Bible Reading. What characterized teaching in Ezra’s day should be the same today. When the book of the law was opened, it was read distinctly, the sense was given resulting in their understanding of what was read (Neh 8:8). Unfortunately this cannot be said of many of our Bible Readings.

No individual is the repository of all truth or knowledge. We learn and benefit from interacting with others. Without this we can become one-sided, lacking balance in our understanding of the Scriptures. This is the principle of which Solomon spoke. “Iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend” (Pro 27:17). Just as iron is sharpened by contact with iron, so mutual help should be the result of the exchange of thought in Bible Readings.

Lack of preparation can be a major hindrance to effective Bible Readings. Going over the section for the first time just minutes before the meeting commences hardly constitutes preparation. The assembly should know well in advance the passage that will be under consideration. This provides opportunity for each believer, young and old, brother and sister, to read and study the section. Maximum benefit will then be received from edifying contributions and questions. We can’t blame others for getting nothing out of the meeting, if we put nothing into it.

Selection of the passage is important. It should be of a length that is reasonable to cover in one session. It may also mean that, while verse-by-verse exposition is desirable, it may not be possible to cover every verse in detail. The discussion should stimulate the believer’s interest resulting in more detailed personal study.

A Bible Reading will be ineffective if we are communicating in terms that are not readily understood by the believers. Clich�s should be avoided; not everyone knows their meaning.

Lack of consideration in a Bible Reading is a sure way to put a damper on it. It can take different forms:

Lengthy introductions.The most beneficial are generally those that are concise, providing an overview and an outline of the verses under consideration. If the opening encompasses a verse-by-verse exposition of the section, believers feel that there is little left for them to contribute. Ample opportunity needs to be given for others to make helpful comments or ask questions.

Revisiting last week’s passage. Missing the previous week’s meeting is no reason for one to go back over what was already covered, thereby taking up valuable time intended to be devoted to the present passage.

Turning the Bible Reading into a ministry meeting. By default this happens when preparation is lacking and the meeting is left for one or two to carry the load.

Ignoring questions. Questions deserve an answer. No question should be ignored or put off as unimportant. If we do not know the answer, admit it. Commit to giving it further consideration with the assurance that it will be answered at the next Bible Reading.

Not speaking up. Let’s remember believers of all ages attend the meeting. Everyone needs to hear.

Body language. Signals are frequently given by body language. Showing one’s disagreement through smiling, smirking, or shaking the head is out of place. Be courteous and listen actively.

There is nothing that can undermine Bible Readings, discourage participation, and negatively impact attendance like the lack of courtesy towards fellow believers. Graciousness should always characterize the believer in interacting with others. The Lord Jesus exemplified it (Luke 4:22). Paul exhorted it. To the Colossians he wrote that their speech should always be gracious (Col 4:6). Too frequently believers have been stumbled and participation stifled all because of harsh or abrupt responses to comments or questions. Cutting someone off and demeaning comments should never occur. Believers can be affected not only in the short term but also long term, hindering their spiritual development.

Bible Readings need to have a balance of doctrine and duty. They are not mutually exclusive. What I believe impacts how I behave. In the Christological passage of Philippians 2:5-8, Paul unfolds lofty truth concerning the person of the Lord Jesus in order to teach us a moral lesson. Our Bible Readings should reflect the same. We need to be relevant and apply the Scriptures to our daily life.

There are going to be divergent views on some passages. We won’t always agree. Such differences should not result in an argumentative spirit or heated debate. It is better to have the alternate view put forward, leaving it for believers to consider and be fully persuaded in their own mind rather than have endless discussions with each one wanting to have the final say.

Many parents make it a priority to bring their children to the weekly Bible Reading. High school, college, and university students make sacrifices to attend the meeting. We should appreciate and respect this by closing the meeting punctually, recognizing that many have further study and work to do when they get home. Comments beyond the closing time lose their effect as believers are no longer listening.

We can all relate to some of the shortcomings of our Bible Readings. However, that is not an excuse for absenteeism. Being conscious of the pitfalls that we can encounter should help us focus on ways to ensure that all our readings are beneficial to each one.