Prof. Wright has often said that reading scripture in public is one of the most important and overlooked practices of the Church. This practice has a long history, from Jesus’s reading in the Temple, through to modern day liturgies. The Psalms in particular are read together so consistently by some traditions that the whole psalter is read (or, ideally, sung) through every month, week, or even every day.
Why Read Scripture Together?
Why is this practice important? What does reading scripture together actually accomplish in the hearts and minds of followers of Jesus? Prof. Wright says that when we read scripture in community we ‘rehearse the mighty acts of God for God’s glory’. The oral and communal emphasis reminds us what God has done in the past, opens our eyes to what God is doing in the present, and provides hope and assurance for what God will do in the future.
Every generation must work out what the public reading of scripture looks like in their own context. Hundreds of years ago, the rise of mass literacy, paired with access to printed material and increasingly individualistic lifestyles, posed unique challenges to this important sacred practice. Regular church attendance has provided a ready-made avenue for public exposure to scripture. However, a host of present circumstances (health crises, economic setbacks, institutional abuse and disillusionment) pose new challenges.
Today’s Public Space
The social Internet may be the most public space we have. It is certainly the most global, and in key regards mimics the idea of a social commons. (The earliest iterations of the world wide web, in fact, were quite intentionally designed as incorporeal cities.) Finding ways to place scripture within this social commons is vital for the health of the global church going forward. There are many amazing efforts already underway (see the YouVersion app, BibleProject, etc.), but more can still be done.
We want to create a community where people gather to read scripture together, which means gathering in social Internet spaces like YouTube. In July, we released the first in an ongoing series of weekly video devotionals called Reading Scripture Together, which you can watch below. As of this writing, our first devotional with Prof. Wright has over 100,000 views! More than the numbers themselves, this is validation for me of the importance of occupying this online space.
As the world’s second largest search engine, YouTube receives more than 2 billion logged-in users per month and feeds over 1 billion hours of video each day to users (that’s right… billion). It is hard to imagine those kinds of numbers.
But it is thrilling to think that we can reach more people than I ever thought imaginable through YouTube content from N.T. Wright Online. The affordances of the platform also mean we can cultivate a community of dedicated subscribers, while still being available for serendipitous discovery at any time.
For several years I have dreamt of how to feed more people around the world with enrichment, encouragement, and an enhanced love of Jesus. In the short time our current series has been running, we’ve had viewers from other religions or no religion find our videos and comment how encouraged they have been. We’re helping moms start their week off encouraged by God’s promises. We’re helping pastors rediscover the vitality of well-worn passages. And we’re helping new believers and seekers realize how they fit into God’s grand story.
I am thrilled that this platform, on which I can watch concerts and knitting tutorials, comedy and cleaning tips, is available for the spreading of God’s word and wisdom. Most of all, I am thrilled that we are making freely accessible, high-quality biblical teaching available on the world’s largest video platform.
Knowing that people around the world can access this biblical instruction and encouragement from their computers, tablets, and smartphones fills me with hope that the Church around the world will be built up in ways unimaginable only a decade ago.
New episodes are released every Monday. Let us know which is your favorite, and which verses you want to hear next!
How You Can Help
Do you want to help us continue providing life-giving, free resources for the Church’s witness? Here are three ways you can help.
- Watch our videos at the link above. Like. Subscribe. Leave a comment. This helps the algorithm know that you want to see more of our content, and prompts it to put our videos in front of more people.
- Share the videos with your friends and church. You never know who might need encouragement.
- Support us prayerfully and financially. You can make a one-time or recurring donation to N.T. Wright Online at ntwrightonline.org/donate. This helps us pay the amazing team of writers, producers, cinematographers, video editors, and other team members that make this possible, enabling us to provide even more free resources in the future.
David P. Seemuth, PhD
Latest posts by David P. Seemuth, PhD (see all)
- Advent Reflections from the N.T. Wright Online Team - December 5, 2022
- YouTube as Public Reading of Scripture - August 29, 2022
- What I Learned From A Week With Professor Wright - June 16, 2022