I grew up in a small country church, when we first started attending this church it had one large room called the sanctuary. The seats were long wooden pews that would bend like a horseshoe as it went from one side to the other. Directly below it was the basement. Most of our Sunday Schools, RA’s, GA’s, Training Union, Vacation Bible School and 40th wedding anniversary celebrations took place in the basement. I don’t know why but from my observation which has been many, Baptist has some of the dampest, dankest, smelling basement of any denomination. I should know, I went out with a girl who attended the Methodist Church and she took me to their basement and it was a lot nicer than ours. When I shared that with my parents they mumbled something about we Baptist gave our money to the Cooperative Program.
I don’t remember when I actually started reading but I do remembering reading out loud as our family drove down the road. I would read billboard, gas station prices, exit signs, if it had words I was reading them out loud. I not sure my parents appreciated the parrot in the back seat. Now Titus the Honorable has picked up this skill.
I grew up in the old Baptist church, where prayer meeting was about as much praying for the lost by name as we prayed for the sick and Aunt Gertrude bunions.
Now, I do enjoy this modern music about as much as the neighbors next door but I grew up in a time where Scripture reading was as much a part of the worship service as singing. I remember in the back of The Baptist Hymnal there was a section called “Responsive Reading.” Just nod with me if you remember those. It would present a topic and a numerous set of scriptures stringed together concerning that topic. The responsive reading would be printed with one set of passages in normal font and a bold font for the next group of scripture. The person leading the reading would read first and then we would read the next set of scriptures in unison (that means out loud, together.)
Since I am a dreamer I thought responsive reading might be as close I would ever get to experiencing what it could have looked like back in the Old Testament. Moses standing up in front of the throngs of Israelite and with his best reading voice bellows out the Ten Commandment. And the crowd responding, “Amen” or “Hallelujah” or “Oh, No” or whatever they use to say back then. And yes, Moses used notes when he read the Ten Commandment. But the coming together for the reading the word of God was the norm in those days.
Each week it would be a different topic, one Sunday it would be on Grace and another on love. I don’t ever remember us having responsive reading when the pastor preached on tithing. Now that I am thinking more about it, we didn’t have response reading on “thou shall not commit adultery” Sunday either. But what I found incredible was how the scriptures fitted together when you took out the white space between the lines it fit like a glove. From the Old Testament, to the Prophets or History, the Gospel comes running across the pages and like a master builder surround the truth until you had the whole counsel of God.
We might have been from the Old Baptist Church but it was one of those Old Baptist Progressive Church and every once in awhile the pastor would ask one of the children or a teenager or even a lady to lead the church in reading responsively the word of God.
I know I am neither the prettiest nor the sharpest crayon in the box but it does seem like the placement of the scriptures in our churches and families has shifted. The flocks are scattered and the shepherds are running from farm to farm seeking answers. Little less running and more reading of that Holy book you might be amazed when the Holy Spirit begins to talk to you.
Many parents ask me if I could recommend a children devotional book that they could read together at night. There are many but I think the best thing you can read is the word of God together. And if they are old enough to read the highway signs from the backseat how about getting yourself a Baptist Hymnal and at least one night a week take a ‘theme” and take turn reading the responsive reading scriptures together. And if you come to word that neither of you can pronounce take a page from my life, I preformed at that moment what I like to call “unisons lip synching.” You moved your lips and make a mumbling sound then pick up with the next word as if you had a lump in your throat. You can learn a lot in the basement of a Baptist Church.