The annual “State of the Bible” report revealed daily Bible reading and scripture engagement took a hit last year. The American Bible Society conducts an annual survey to discover cultural trends in the U.S. regarding spirituality and interaction with scripture.
The latest survey undertaken last June revealed scripture engagement declined amid the Covid-19 pandemic’s onslaught. Americans reading their Bibles daily fell from fourteen percent to nine percent in 2020, a sharp five percent decrease! That means less than one in ten Americans read their Bibles every day
Survey participants also revealed being away from church life as churches closed also contributed to decreased activity in scripture disciplines. The study indicated a direct correlation between increased scripture engagement and participating in small group Bible studies in the church.
American Bible Society President and CEO Robert Briggs said, “Despite nearly every individual in the U. S. having access to the Bible, engagement has decreased. That’s been a consistent trend over the past few years …” and the trend accelerated throughout the pandemic.
Obviously, we can’t know God’s Word if we don’t read God’s Word, and when we study God’s Word together in a small group setting in our local church, we’re more likely to be shaped by biblical principles rather than influenced by society. When people intentionally study together, scripture engagement is stronger.
What are benefits of daily reading and reflecting on God’s Word?
First, scripture helps us know God, His character, attributes and ways. God created us to know Him and have a relationship with Him. Knowing God should be our highest aim in life. Every time we open the pages of scripture, we encounter God and can learn something new about Him.
Second, scripture propels our spiritual growth. In the book, “Move: What 1000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth,” the authors, Hawkins and Parkinson, looked at fifty different factors impacting spiritual growth. They concluded the Bible is the most powerful catalyst for spiritual progress. Peter calls scripture pure milk that helps us grow spiritually (I Peter 2:2).
Third, scripture releases divine power that transforms lives. The writer of Hebrews recorded, “The word of God is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword …” (Hebrews 4:12).
Paul wrote in I Thessalonians 2;13, “… the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.” The words effectively works in you comes from a single Greek word related to our word energy. The Bible energizes us.
Gaylord Kambarami, General Secretary of the Bible Society in Zimbabwe, tried to give a New Testament to a very belligerent man. The man insisted he’d roll the pages into cigarettes.
Kambarami said, “At least promise to read the pages of the New Testament before you smoke them.” The man agreed and they went their separate ways.
Fifteen years later, the two met at a convention in Zimbabwe. The hard-hearted man experienced salvation and now served as a full-time evangelist.
He told the audience, “I smoked Matthew, I smoked Mark, I smoked Luke. But when I got to John 3:16, I couldn’t smoke anymore. I met Jesus and my life was changed from that moment on.”
Fourth, scripture gives guidance to our lives. Psalm 119:105 reads, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” The Bible shows us how to live and helps us with our problems.
Fifth, scripture helps our focus. Too often we focus on ourselves, our problems, and circumstances. The Bible reminds us that anxiety vanishes and peace arrives when we realign our focus and place our trust in God. Our perspective changes when our focus changes. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in you.”
Let’s reverse the trend and make daily Bible reading a priority. Where do we start? Make time to read one chapter from the Old Testament, one chapter from the New Testament and one chapter from Proverbs every day. You’ll be amazed at the positive impact on your outlook.
[David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church, Fayetteville, Georgia. The church family gathers at 352 McDonough Road and invites you to join them for worship at 8:45 and 10:55 a.m. and Bible study at 9:45 a.m. Visit www.mcdonoughroad.org for online worship options and other information. Contact Chancey at firstname.lastname@example.org.]