Years ago, a respected friend-preacher (I know … there aren’t many of those, yet the individual referent lays fine claim to both those epithets, in my little piece of the world!) probed a church. . . .
If I visitor were here among us, in our church assembly, what would he or she notice? What would he or she want to know?
He went on to speak of various aspects of what we do, and what we look like, when we’re together as a church body. This probing has remained with me, and every so often in an a cappella church setting I’ll hear one of the preacher’s follow-up queries in my head, with inflection and everything: “Why do they sing like that?”
To the rest of the religious world, Churches of Christ can be seen as oddities, and part of the reason is the unusual sounds they make during assemblies. For every 100 CofC groups, 91 of them make particularly bad, odd sounds, and most of the rest of them make merely odd sounds. “Why do they sing like that?” Well, despite what some might tell you, it’s mostly because of tradition. Sincerely held and convicted tradition, in some cases, but tradition nonetheless.
Recently, I brought that old sermonary probing to mind and wondered myself a twin wondering, after hearing scripture read in obtuse, outmoded, obsolete, and sometimes ostentatious language (that of the 1611 so-called “King James” version). Why do they read it like that?
Why on earth would one choose to read (or allow an unsuspecting newbie to read) in such a difficult language when the goal is to understand God’s message? Friends really shouldn’t t let friends study out of the KJV, as long there is another option.
In an adult Bible class that included a 50ish woman who was barely literate, the teacher was reading lines aloud for her, and she was repeating them, apparently strengthening her reading skills. That part was fine and good. The fact that she was struggling in the King James language was NOT fine and good. [Preface: the coming introductory phrase is meant altogether soberly, and not at all flippantly … ] For God’s sake, get her a Bible she can come closer to understanding.
(Aside: upon re-reading this before posting, I think I’ve decided to send a simpler-English Bible her way. Maybe the NCV or the ERV or the Simple English Bible or the English Version for the Deaf. Those possibilities pop right to mind–all better for her than the KJV. Even the NIV was once said to have an 8th-grade reading level. Not even all English lit professors with PhDs could aptly translate 1611 English while reading aloud!)
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This is just me, but my gut tells me that if a visitor is in our midst, something is wrong if all she or he wants to ask is questions like “Why do they do it like that? Why do they sing like that? Why do they read that kind of Bible? What’s up with that?” Shouldn’t honored guests be having rather deeper thoughts like “Man. Really seemed like God is with them.” Or maybe a simple “What did he mean by that? I’ll have to look it up when I get home. . . .”