Lifeway Research recently published some heartbreaking and concerning statistics about protestant churchgoers in America and their Bible reading. Though 90% of churchgoers agreed on some level with the statement "I desire to please and honor Jesus in all I do", only 19% of churchgoers said they read the Bible every day. 26% said a few times a week. 14% said once a week. 22% said once a month or a few times a month, and 18% of survey participants said they read the Bible rarely or never.
Less than half of the churchgoers in America are hearing from God in His Word with any kind of regularity?
90% said they wanted to please Him...but only 45% get in His Word more than once a week...why the disconnect?
Side note: I do realize that these are churchgoers and not even necessarily those who profess to be Christians. But I also realize that even nonbelievers who are attending church gatherings are hopefully doing so because they're desiring to know more about Jesus. The 45% who are reading their Bibles isn't even comprised solely of Christians since many curious nonbelievers are more disciplined about reading the Bible than some Sunday School teachers.
Additionally, a portion of the survey participants who said they read their Bible often might have implied that they read a page of Jesus Calling or another devotional book every day, which might have a verse (or part of a verse) thrown in but falls short of actually digging into God's Word.
So no matter how the statistics vary by different factors, the point still stands that churchgoers are majorly missing out on God's Word.
I think the most popular reasons/excuses for not reading the Bible that I've heard (or that I myself give!) fall along the lines of:
-I don't have time
-I don't know where to start
-It's too confusing
All of those reasons come crashing to pieces if poked with a mere Q-tip.
-We make time for what's important to us.
-All Scripture is God-breathed and useful. Plus there are reading plans and recommendations aplenty.
-God wouldn't make something too confusing for His people---many of whom are children and/or uneducated---to understand sufficiently and enjoy. (Besides, we can praise the Bible for its complexity; even the most brilliant scholars can study for a thousand lifetimes and still never exhaust what there is to learn from the Bible!)
So what are the real reasons that 55% of the people in our churches don't read their Bibles? What are the real reasons I don't read mine?
Peter recently told me something revelatory he learned from one of our pastors but I don't know the original source. Here it is:
The primary reason we don't read the Bible or pray as we ought is because we lack poverty of spirit.
Let that sink in.
We don't read the Bible because we don't really think we need it.
In Desiring God, John Piper puts it this way:
"If you come to God dutifully offering him the reward of your fellowship instead of thirsting after the reward of his fellowship, then you exalt yourself above God as his benefactor and belittle him as a needy beneficiary---and that is evil."
How do we view our time in God's Word?
In those moments when there are a thousand things we could be doing but there is one blaring thing we know we should be doing, do we think we feel a beckoning to God's Word because God really needs us to fulfill our duty of spending with Him or because Jesus has paid the highest price so that we can have the privilege of spending time with Him?
Our answer to that question probably has a strong relationship with whether we'll actually end up reading God's Word or not.
My goal in writing this is not to make you (or myself) feel guilty about not reading God's Word "enough." But I think this issue needs to be addressed. I've seen the need for daily Bible engagement illustrated in the lives of people who really love the Bible, and also in the lives of people who don't.
My grandfather (the man pictured at the top of this post), a humble handyman, stays up till the wee hours of the morning sometimes, reading the Bible with glorious desperation as he's been doing in excess of 40 years. He is an incredible spiritual leader and always brings about Jesus-centered conversations when our family is together.
On the other hand, I've been to Bible college and I know a ton of people who are on the vocational ministry track, but when I have asked many of them what their personal Bible-reading time is like, some either stumble around and make excuses, or, as one aspiring pastor even frankly told me, " It's non-existent." That's scary.
Peter recently asked me how I thought he could best lead our family spiritually.
I knew my answer immediately: "Read the Bible. It would lead us best if we constantly catch you in the act of treasuring God's Word."
I love what musician Matt Papa said once: "Perhaps the most important, life-altering decision we can make in this life: open the Bible every day."
When I was a senior in high school, there was much talk about "leadership" and "making an impact on our school", but as I studied the scriptures more, I found that the best way we can possibly lead and serve others is to read the Bible every day for ourselves.
John 15 makes it clear. Jesus says in verse 4, "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing."
An important note on this verse is that the next verse says whoever doesn't abide in Jesus is thrown to the fire and burned. So it's not like there are any true believers who aren't remaining in Him.
As 2 Timothy 2:19 says, "The Lord knows those who are His."
In John 10:27 Jesus says, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me."
The Holy Spirit will be faithful to guard His people and continue giving them a hunger for knowing God.
Eternal life, as Jesus said in John 17:3, is that "they know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent."
Those who truly have eternal life will indeed be seeking to know God, for now and eternity. Psalm 111:2 says "Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them."
In the same vein of thinking, those who do not seek God in His Word do not truly know Him. Psalm 119:155 says "Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek your statutes."
But it still needs to be said that "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child" (Hebrews 5:12-13.)
In 2 Timothy 2:15 Paul charges, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth."
We need to be studying the Word. There's no way around it.
How prideful must we be if we think we can manage to help others in Jesus' Name---or if we think survival, much less thriving, is even possible---if we don't take the time daily to actually know Jesus through His Word?
I could---and probably soon will---point to numerous other scriptures that talk about the beauty and necessity of studying God's Word (Psalm 19 and Psalm 119, for starters!) I plan on writing more posts about this topic, including some basics I've learned on how to study the Bible.
May we all, as John Piper said, "thirst after the reward of His fellowship" and enjoy the feast of God's Word today.
May God make us poor in spirit and draw us to His Word with humility and longing.
May our hearts be encouraged as we read the most intellectually stimulating, wondrously unified, historical yet living masterpiece ever written in order to know the God who made us for Himself.
Here's another post in this series!
The One Thing I'd Remember if I Lost My Mind
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My name is Hope.
I'm 26, married to a former skater dude, and raising little people ages 6, 4, 3, and squishy-baby. I like lime green and sarsaparilla, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
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Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today