“Bible engagement has an impact in just about every area of spiritual growth,” said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research. “You can follow Christ and see Christianity as your source of truth, but if that truth does not permeate your thoughts, aspirations and actions, you are not fully engaging the truth.
“God’s Word is truth, so it should come as no surprise that reading and studying the Bible are still the activities that have the most impact on growth in this attribute of spiritual maturity,” Stetzer said. “As basic as that is, there are still numerous churchgoers who are not reading the Bible regularly. You simply won’t grow if you don’t know God and spend time in God’s Word.”
Where do I begin?
Maybe grief would be the best place to start. Excuse me while I put on my sackcloth and ashes and cry before God concerning the state of His church. If these kind of statistics don’t break your heart I fear you may be in the 80% who say with their mouth that they want to honor Jesus but really don’t care enough to read what He wrote.
If we divide the survey into two groups – those that read more than once a week and those who read less – it’s roughly 45% vs. 46% (40% of whom read it less than once a month or never) – we can see that our churches may be the biggest mission field for discipleship. I would even question whether someone who reads the bible less than once a month is even truly born again but that may be for another blog post.
The Scriptures are more available in more ways today than ever before in history. Our forefathers in the faith – Tyndale, Luther, Wycliffe – wrestled with empires and kings to bring us the bible in the language of the common man. Today most people with smartphones carry enough computing power to run study bible apps with commentaries, dictionaries and graphs that would fill a small library.
The recent trend in bible translations has been the dumbing down of the readership. No longer are people expected to read a good translation such as the ESV, NKJV or NASB, instead we have bibles in story format, movie script format and even one that promises to only take one minute of your day (The One Minute Bible). Yet no matter how childish and watered down they make it – people still refuse to read it! Can you imagine a professional musician who only practiced one minute per day? Or a professional football player who said “Ok coach, I’m here at practice but only for one minute.”
What can we conclude?
If it were up to me, I’d round up the 55% who aren’t reading the bible at least several times per week and start preaching salvation to them. I honestly don’t think you can be truly born again and not love the Scriptures.
Next, I would start emphasizing the bible as the basis for everything. Every political view, every sociological view, every business practice, every interpersonal dynamic should be held up to the bible as the standard by which we live. Every time an opinion is expressed – we should be asking “what chapter and verse do you have for that?”
If we profess to be Christians, reading the bible is step one. Until we accomplish that, there is no need for a second step.