There is a church practice that I have encountered where, at the beginning of the sermon, the pastor asks the entire congregation to “stand up now for the reading of God’s word.” Then when the pastor says that, everyone stands up and listens while he reads a Bible passage. First of all, I don’t see what particular benefit anyone could derive from standing up. God created chairs for a reason. Some people might argue that standing is a show of respect, but I don’t really buy that line. If we seriously wanted to show respect, it seems like we would salute, or kneel to the ground, or something. The other argument that a proponent of the technique might offer is that standing up causes us to be more attentive. But since when is that the case? Do children stand up while they are learning mathematics in school, or do they sit at their desks? Standing up just makes you uncomfortable. I focus best on God when I am comfortable and not annoyed.
But of course, these prior arguments concern merely peripheral issues. The real question is, Why in the world is God’s word read only at the beginning of the service?? I think a sermon is not even a real sermon at all unless it contains at least ten Bible verses. And I’m being fairly lenient when I offer a number even that low. Moreover, it’s a pretty cheap way to beat the system if you just pick ten verses that are all in a row and then read them all at the beginning of the sermon. The correct method is to spread the verses out throughout the sermon.
Once the pastor makes sure he has the requisite number of verses and that they are properly spread out, then he can either explain what each one means (expositional preaching) or use the verses to buttress a broader biblical argument (topical preaching). Or of course, he can always do some of both. Personally I think the congregation is safest if the pastor just sticks mainly to expositional preaching – because with topical preaching the risk is greater that the preacher will yank verses out of context to support some ridiculous extrabiblical viewpoint — but topical preaching does come in handy for establishing coherent theology.
But aside from these legitimate strategies, there’s also the method I’ve been ranting about, where the pastor just picks half a dozen verses, and then he reads them all at the beginning, and then he rambles on for the rest of the sermon with his own opinions. To finally bring things back to the initial point of my post, if you think it is good to stand up for the reading of God’s word, then you should remain standing for the entire sermon! Otherwise, you are admitting that your preacher is not preaching God’s word.
If you have never been to a church that engaged in this practice and have absolutely no idea what I am talking about…well, just ignore this post and count your blessings.