In Part 1 of this three-part series we focused on the challenge we face when we address biblical literacy. In this article, we focus on one of the ways (perhaps the most effective way) to begin leading people to be more familiar with the Bible: Scripture engagement.
It’s All About Engagement
The bottom line is that too many Christians are simply not reading and studying their Bibles. This goes beyond simple trivia questions aimed at revealing how few facts we know about our Bibles. American evangelicals increasingly lack spiritual depth. Our lives betray a lack of Christian character. We don’t seem to be very Christlike to a watching world and we often copy the world rather than confronting it with the gospel. What do we do about it?
There are several things we can do to reverse biblical illiteracy here in America. What is Bible engagement? LifeWay Research defines Bible engagement as “allowing God, through His Word, to lead and change an individual’s life—one’s direction, thinking and actions.” Research shows this maxim to be true: Engaging the Bible impacts one’s spiritual maturity more than any other discipleship attribute. In fact, “reading the Bible” topped our list of things we found impacting spiritual maturity (followed by such things as praying for unbelievers, confessing sins and asking God for forgiveness, and witnessing to an unbeliever).
With research showing Bible engagement being so important to life change and spiritual maturity, is there any doubt our failure to read our Bibles impacts everything? The Holy Spirit works though the Scriptures, leading us to maturity in every area. That can’t happen if we are not in the Word.
What Leads to Bible Engagement?
When we talk about research, we look for things that predict—if you do one thing, you’re likely to do another. We found eight things that lead to a higher likelihood that people will engage the Bible, which leads to growth in everything else. (Spiritual growth is a cycle—a cycle that leads to maturity!)
1) Confessing sins and wrongdoings to God and asking for forgiveness.
2) Following Jesus Christ for years (i.e., the longer you’ve been a disciple of Jesus, the more serious your commitment to engaging the Bible).
3) Being willing to obey God, no matter how costly the decision.
4) Praying for spiritual status of unbelievers.
5) Reading a book about increasing your spiritual growth (excluding the Bible).
6) Being discipled or mentored one-on-one by a more spiritually mature Christian.
7) Memorizing Bible verses.
8) Attending small classes or groups for adults focused on Bible study.
Our research shows that as Christians increase their participation in small groups, their Bible engagement scores go up. For example, average Bible engagement scores were as low as 60.6 when there was little or no participation in small groups, and as much as 79.4 when a believer participated in a small group four or more times a month.
No matter how you look at it, Bible engagement is related to spiritual growth. Growing Christians don’t just read the Bible; they value and engage it because God is at work in their lives.
Some Stats to Consider
Bible Engagement Goes up, Church Goes on Mission.
Our research has found a strong correlation between Bible Engagement and mission. Or if we flip it around, we’ve found strong evidence that the lack of Bible Engagement coincides with the growing problem of a lack of mission engagement. Our numbers are reflecting a serious problem with a church that increasing seems to lack the will to carry out Christ’s mission to bring unbelievers to himself.
Here is a comparison of churchgoers who read the Bible more than once a week (45% of those surveyed) and those who read the Bible less than once a week (41% of those surveyed).
Churchgoers who read the Bible more than once a week are more likely than those who read less than once a week to:
Currently be involved in ministries or projects that serve people in the community not affiliated with their church (46% v 27%)
Have participated in a mission trip in another country (10% v 4%) or in the United States (13% v 4%)