Ask the average American on the street if they read the Bible, and after they stop looking at you like you just came from another planet, they will probably say no. Ninety-three percent of Americans say they own a Bible but only half of those who identify as Christians have said they have read it cover to cover and most Americans admit to never having opened one at all according to the Center For Bible Engagement.
Why have Americans Stopped Reading the Bible?
The Center For Bible Engagement (CBE) conducted an eight-year one hundred person (ages 8-80) research study on what activities and habits associated with a Christian life actually affected American lifestyles. Those activities included reading the Bible, praying, going to church, listening to Christian music, or watching Christian media programs and more. They found Americans have an average of almost five Bibles in their homes, and 68% of Americans say they pray every day. But of all the activities that actually changed a person’s life, it was Bible reading that statistically was shown to have a positive effect on a persons life choices. In fact, 4 days or more a week was the tipping point. Even those who read their Bible one to three times a week had little to no change in their choices nor did it change the direction of their lives much different from someone who never reads the Bible. And, although most people pray, prayer brought no real change to a person’s life.
Why? The number one reason cited for not reading the Bible regularly (four or more times a week) was that we were too busy, and the second biggest reason was that we were too distracted.
What are we engaging in instead?
We are engaged in media and entertainment. We’re reading self-help books, engaged in social media, and we’re spending hours searching the internet for solutions to life’s issues. We live on our smartphones or are distracted with reality TV shows, video games and anything that will divert our attention from thinking and confronting our problems. We use business as an excuse when in reality we’re filling our vacant time and loneliness with digital noise. The iGen population (24% of Americans) spends less time with real people and more time with digital friends than any other time in history. Instead of thinking as an individual this generation follows what the groups they belong to think. There is such a vastness of information at our fingertips that an individual can’t keep up and chooses group opinions and choices driven by popular and social media platforms instead.
How can we turn it around?
It takes courageous choices. It takes recognizing our need for a higher power – God in our life. Sadly, we don’t stop to take the time to engage in Bible reading unless a disaster strikes. Then often, we end up making poor choices because we have no firm foundation of faith developed in us to stand on. We have known God’s name but we don’t know Him intimately. If we’re smart, if we’re willing, we don’t wait for life’s uncertainties to strike. We invest our time four or more times a week in Bible reading. We schedule time for our golf game, gym time, therapist sessions, and our kids play dates, isn’t it time we schedule God time and get serious? The CBE’s study proves that it works and dramatically brings positive changes into a persons life.
Will God deliver if we prioritize Bible reading?
The stats tell it all. The CBE found that if a person engages in the Bible four or more times a week their odds of drinking in excess fell 62%, pornography viewing and sex outside of marriage fell, 59%, gambling decreased 45%, Gossiping and lying, 28%, and even overeating and mishandling money fell 20%. Bible engagement also produces more peace and joy in a person’s life, by reducing the frequency of various emotional struggles. The Bible tells us in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” (NIV).
When will you begin to choose the lamp of God’s Word? I challenge you to try it 4 or more times a week and watch your life change.
Kathleen Cooke’s new devotional “Hope 4 Today” encourages readers to engage with God. As co-founder of Cooke Pictures (cookepictures.com) and The Influence Lab, she publishes a monthly newsletter (influencelab.com/women). Find out more at kathleencooke.com, or reach her on Twitter @KathleenRCooke