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Who is qualified to read the Bible in church?

Who is qualified to read the Bible in church?

Looking for people who can read the Bible out loud in church? Trying to fill the Bible reading roster? Building a team of Bible readers? Then let me ask you: “What qualifies someone to be able to read the Bible?”

Do they need to have a background in performing arts? Or perhaps have been a newsreader in a previous life? Should they audition for the task? Or complete a training course for reading in front of others? Is volunteering enough, or is vetting needed? What makes a good Bible reader?

I’m sure that there are plenty of good ideas that will help people to read well in church, but I wonder if we might overlook the most important qualifications. Here are the four to keep at the top of your lists.

To qualify for reading the Bible out loud in front of church you must be:

  1. One who trusts that the Bible is the authoritative, inspired Word of God. Only if you appreciate the author will you read with the attitude needed to pass on a message from him. We’re not reading shopping lists or Facebook posts. We’re communicating the very words of God.
  2. One who reads the Bible regularly for your own instruction, edification, comfort, encouragement, or rebuke. We mustn’t cause one another to stumble in hypocrisy by asking them to do something in public that they don’t do in private. Someone should have their own house in order before calling on others to do the same.
  3. One who understands the meaning and implications of the Scripture you are reading. This will require studying the passages of Scripture beforehand. If we don’t understand what we are reading, then we won’t communicate the message clearly or faithfully to others. We might need to look up a commentary or spend time with the preacher in advance to help us fully grasp the meaning. The key to good communication is understanding what you are saying.
  4. One who prayerfully seeks to apply the message to your life. This will require us to read over the text well before reading in public so that we can meditate upon it, pray about it, and determine what difference it should make to our life.

Does this all sound a bit much? Does it sound more like the qualifications for the preacher or teacher? Perhaps this is why the Apostle Paul called Timothy to devote himself to it.

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.  (1 Timothy 4:13)

There’s an obvious lesson in all this for service leaders and preachers: if we want good Bible readers at church, then we need to find suitable people and give them plenty of time to prepare. We should be willing to work with people in helping them to understand, apply, and communicate the Scriptures. Extra work? Absolutely—and worth it.

Now, is there anyone who is perfect among us? There is no sinless preacher or Bible reader, but the list above should look like what a public reader of Scripture is aiming for. The Holy Spirit works without and despite us, but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t called to work hard in our different ministries. We should do all we can to bring God glory in every aspect of our lives.

As for equipping current and future readers for their ministry, the DVD and workbook course Reading the Bible Aloud will help Bible readers to appreciate the significance of what they are reading and to build their skills in doing so. It will assist novice as well as experienced readers. I'd recommend working through this course with others, in groups or teams, so that you can encourage each other to read well.

Now go out and encourage each other with Scripture as you gather!

This post was first published at and has been updated and republished with permission.

David McDonald

David McDonald had been in Christian ministry for decades, and is the author of Hope Beyond Cure. Dave is an avid sports fan and loves spending time in the outdoors with his family.