The Bible plays a prominent role in our worship services. Or at least it should. The simple reality is that it undergirds everything that is true worship of the living God; it is “inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” NAS. The Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.
Worshipping churches declare its story, proclaim its Savior, celebrate its impact, teach its principles, and live in its hope.
Given the enormous importance the Bible has in corporate worship, it is significant to consider the availability of Bible texts to a guest. Many, if not most guests, will not have a copy of the Bible in hand when they visit a church the first time. Consequently, the quoted, referenced, read, and sermonized Bible passages on a given Sunday morning visit may seem distant or obscure to a guest visiting your worship.
Missing is the ability of the guest to 1) be fully engaged in segments of the worship that directly involve Bible passages, 2) to connect with the Bible passage (however it is presented) as being the inspired Word of God in the Bible, 3) to follow along more effectively with the message presented.
Presenting the Bible in worship to an un-Bibled guest is tantamount to sitting down to dinner in your own home without offering your guest at the table a plate of food like the one in front of you. Would you do THAT? I don’t think so. It is not enough for the guest to smell your meal or know that it is satisfying to you. He should have his own plate of food.
So, the question is very simple: are guests at your church able to get their hands on (at least their eyes upon) Bible texts (used in your worship) that can feed their own hearts and lives while everybody else is eating? If not, you are missing an important avenue for demonstrating sensitivity to the needs of your guests.
Here, then, are some possible ways to get the Word accessible to guests attending your services.
Pew Bibles: This is the traditional approach to getting the Bible into the hands of attenders that didn’t bring a Bible with them. And it works, if it is worked. Not worked, the Bible is an unnoticed or unexplained book on the back of the pew or the bottom of a chair. Working, it looks like this: 1). The pew Bible is the same translation used during the service (e.g., during the sermon); 2) It is suggested from the platform, especially with regard to attending guests, that they can follow along using the Bible on the back of the pew (or seat rack) 3) The page number of the Bible text is given aloud so the guest can find it easily and quickly. Don't assume it works just to have a Bible stuck on the back of a pew; tt works if you help them find the Bible and find the text in the Bible!
Free Bibles: An adaptation of the above is the one in which a church presents Bibles to guests. I have seen Bibles offered and distributed on the spot in the service to anyone not having a Bible; with the offer to all attenders, guests are not given unwanted attention; and a further benefit is the offer extended to guests encouraging them to take the Bible home with them if they would like to keep it.
Bible on the screen: With projection being used in almost every church I visit, it is natural to expect that Bible texts are being projected on the screen, especially during the sermon. An easy win for the church and for guests, if used! Additionally, one church I have visited prepares people for worship by having meditative moments with Bible verses on the screen (e.g. a verse in a Psalm or a short passage) while musicians play instruments 3-5 minutes before the service officially starts. Similarly, churches are effectively using Bible texts on screens as segues between worship songs (or verses) in a way that contributes to the worship time and strongly utilizes the Bible.
Online Bible: Several churches in Colorado Springs are using YouVersion. If you don’t know, YouVersion is a Bible app for mobile devices. Churches can create events for the app and place their Sunday morning Bible texts and sermon outlines in the app. A Sunday morning worshiper at church can then open the app on their phone on Sunday morning and find the church event, the sermon text, and even the sermon outline. It is a great tool after its initial set up; it is a bit cumbersome for a first-time guest on Sunday morning to quickly set up while the preaching is underway. But the option is out there. And for return guests (and members) it is a favorable option. As with other methods, guests must be alerted, encouraged, and instructed about its availability and use. An informative note about YouVersion in the worship guide or on the screen to accomplish this process is a plus.
Reprint version: Churches are incorporating Bible texts right into their Sunday morning handouts, programs, and bulletins. From simple and single verses read from the platform or responsively by the congregation to lengthy, chapter sized, sections that are walked through verse by verse during the sermon. This approach gets Bible texts into the hands of the guests and in take home form. Be sure to honor all copyright laws.
Combo option: Finally, the mix and match option combines parts of the previous five options in the same service and even for the same objective. E.g., the sermon text might make use of YouVersion at the same time as printed text appears in the worship guide. In that case, the guest has multiple ways to get to the same text. A kind of Bible buffet. Variety and choice will serve you well.
In the end, something is better than nothing. A Bible engaged guest is better than an idling guest.
Will these methods guarantee the guest will follow along in reading a Bible text? Unfortunately, not! But, providing guest services related to the Bible during worship will serve the church’s objectives and the guest’s experience:
It will send a signal to guests that they are important to the church (the church is paying attention to their needs) and the Bible is important for them.
It will more readily draw the guest into the heart of the worship experience and allow the church to more fully convey its biblical message.
Who knows? With enough consistency and practice, your regular attenders that may not currently get their eyes and hands on a Bible text may begin to pick up the habit themselves. Don’t miss another Sunday without serving your guests, making the Word of God accessible to their eyes, ears, and hands.
I would love to hear what you see working to assist guests in getting access to the Bible in during worship. Share your suggestions in the comments box below. Thanks.