Brothers and sisters," the preacher said, raising high his Bible so all could see it that Sabbath morning, "we are a people of the Book. We love the Bible. We use it during every sermon." At this point he paused and asked, "How many of you have brought your Bibles to church with you this morning? Let's see those Bibles. Raise them high." Hundreds of Bibles were raised to view across the congregation, and hundreds of people awaited the announcement of his sermon text.
"My text is found this morning in Habakkuk 3:2." Instantly there spread a lovely rustling sound clear across the church. But alas! Within a split second after announcing his text, the pastor began to read before the speediest person there could possibly have reached the book of Habakkuk, much less have found the chapter and verse. I watched the people all around me. Many of them, with a look of quiet resignation, simply gave up the search for the text, because by now the preacher had finished reading it. A few determined souls pressed on till they found the text, but by then the minister was into his sermon. Is this an isolated case? By no means. Why urge our people to bring their Bibles to church and then proceed to rapidly read the text before they have time to find it?
During another service on a different Sabbath I watched an interesting reaction to this problem. A youngster of about eleven years of age, clutching his new Bible, eagerly awaited the announcement of the minister's text. There followed the rapid announcement and the immediate reading thereof. In his frustration the youngster leaned over to his mother and asked in a stage whisper, "Mommy, why can't he wait till I find it?"
Isn't it obvious that people can become weary of bringing their Bibles to church when they don't get a chance to use them? Certainly, with all our college and seminary education we should be able to recognize and solve such a simple problem as this. How simple a thing it is to clearly announce our text, then repeat it, then quietly wait. Just stand there saying nothing, until parents and children have found the text, then begin to read. Instead of delivering our sermon to a quietly frustrated audience, a mere pause will help to ensure their interest and participation.
To accomplish this requires only a small amount of personal discipline. All we need to do is to stand quietly for thirty seconds while people find the text. And this rule should hold for every text used throughout the sermon. A simple procedure like this will give our people a reason for bringing their Bibles to church and will make our sermons far more meaningful to every listener.