On the Public Reading of Scripture

If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

(1 Timothy 4:6-16 ESV)


In the highlighted phrase above it is clear that Paul is talking about reading Scripture allowed publicly in the congregation. Something all churches should do, and something that seems to be rare now-a-days.

I want to take a different approach to the idea above though, on the individual Christian reading Scripture publicly. As I haven’t been working for the last four months, and even before I lost my job, I would go to a restaurant to eat and read the Bible. While I hadn’t done so in an attempt to evangelize, but only because it is comfortable and convenient, I have found it does have some interesting results.

I am approached by believers who tell me how good it is that I am reading the Bible, and in public, as if that was a challenge in America? And, more so, I am approached by people who aren’t Christians, who seem to show an interest in hearing what I have to say. And, on occasion, I see people who are offended by me reading the Bible silently to myself. Those are the fun ones!

It has brought about interesting conversations, with some hearing the Gospel, some being convicted that they aren’t reading the Bible, and some asking for a recommendation to a good church. It clearly isn’t a substitute for one-on-one evangelism, but it does open the door for conversations where the Gospel can be shared, it is convenient (we are all reading the Bible daily anyway, right?), and it gives an excuse to sit in a restaurant and sip a glass of tea.

Do you read the Bible in public? Have you had any interesting conversations because of it?

4 thoughts on “On the Public Reading of Scripture”

  1. I used to read in public quite often. I’d go to one of the local coffee shops and sometimes more than one in a single day. I worked from home so it was my chance to read/study outside of the house. It began a lot of great conversations with people. I still keep in touch with some of them. But I’ve fallen away from the practice a bit since I got myself an office away from the house. I might have make more of an effort to read publicly.

  2. I’ve always wanted to do a public reading of the gospel of Mark, in this sense: Aloud, public, well vocalized, emotive, and with a team of readers. I’d like to make it a regular event somewhere.Aside from that, and more in line with your post, I could relate many interesting experiences where reading the bible publicly has lead to some pretty good conversations, not unlike anything you’ve alluded to above. Especially, for some reason, on public transit. I quite enjoy those moments. As someone who has a very hard time approaching strangers to talk about the gospel, God has opened up some pretty interesting doors using this method. I try to remember to ask Him for an opportunity to talk to someone about the Christian faith this way. I’m often surprised.

  3. I see people reading the Bible on the subway every day. It’s very normal to me, I probably wouldn’t comment someone doing it. I’m secular but have a Bible on my Kindle. Everyone should read some bible.

  4. Hi Tom,  During the Spring and Summer I would take my Bible out to our riverfront area and read during my lunch breaks.  I’ve had many interesting conversations by doing such.  One day I was reading and studying for a message I was going to be delivering at church on persecution and a man came by and asked me what I was reading.  I told him it was the story of Stephen and his reponse “Ahh, the first martyr.”  We talked for about 15 minutes about the persecuted Church afterwards. He then told me that he usually comes out to the riverfront to walk and pray every day but he wasn’t going to come out today.  He felt God urging him to do so, and he did reluctantly.  He said “I told God ‘I’m here now what?’  God told me to walk down this way and to pray for that man, who was reading his BIble. Now, I know why.”

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