What if I told you I have evidence . . . cold hard data . . . that there is one New Year’s resolution that would likely impact the spiritual life of you AND your children more than any other?
Because I do.
Over the last several years, the Center for Bible Engagement (CBE) has surveyed 40,000 Americans ranging in age from eight to 80+ on their various spiritual activities and the corresponding impact on their lives. They have consistently found that reading the Bible is the number one driver of spiritual change.
I personally was highly motivated by this research to make reading the Bible regularly my top New Year’s resolution. I now want to share with you what I see as:
Two Huge Reasons to Read the Bible More in 2012
1. It can change your heart and behavior more than any other spiritual activity.
I’ll be the first to admit that it is a bit dangerous to try to rank the factors that contribute to your spiritual life. Certainly, all spiritual activities are important and necessary. But since most Christians are less likely to read the Bible than go to church or pray, allow me to provide some “objective” data that will make you want to move Bible reading up on your priority list next year.
Based on CBE’s statistical analysis of the 40,000 survey responses, Bible reading more reliably predicts moral behavior than any other traditional measure of spirituality, such as church attendance and prayer.
Check out the results in the following table. The numbers in the boxes represent the decrease in odds of participating in the given undesirable behaviors based on the spiritual activities in the left-hand column. Reading the Bible 4+ days per week had a much stronger effect on decreasing the undesirable behaviors than any other spiritual factor . . . and, very interestingly, reading the Bible less than that had absolutely no statistical effect on behavior at all. Frequency matters. It takes time and consistency to truly have God’s Word own our hearts.
If you don’t happen to struggle with one of these specific behaviors, this isn’t an opportunity to decide that you don’t need to read the Bible more. Clearly, these are representative of many other (unsurveyed) behaviors that everyone struggles with and the data is pointing to a greater truth:
Listening to God speak to us through the Bible on a regular basis changes our heart and corresponding behavior in ways that nothing else can. Reading the Bible isn’t just a “spiritual tool” we should use when we need a specific answer or comfort; it needs to be the very foundation for our Christian lives. Remember, God only “wrote” one book. We need to embrace it whole-heartedly.
2. It will make a life-long impact on your children . . . starting now.
CBE did the same analysis based on the survey responses of teenagers and the results were even more pronounced. Attending church at least once per month? No impact on a teen’s undesirable moral behaviors. Praying at least once per day? Again, no impact. Reading the Bible at least 4 days per week? A 69% decrease in the likelihood of participating in the behaviors surveyed, with 80% lower odds of getting drunk and 82% lower odds of smoking. Those are some very powerful results.
Of course, this is if the teenager is reading the Bible regularly – what does that have to do with YOU reading the Bible regularly? At the risk of pointing out the obvious, what is the chance that your teenager (whether you have one now or will have one in a few years) is reading or will be reading the Bible multiple times per week if you aren’t? Reading the Bible is not an automatic outcome of a Christian home, yet, as this study so strikingly shows, it is of critical importance in developing the heart.
Your Bible Reading Action Plan
1. Pick a time. I know that a lot of people resist the notion of having an “appointed” time for spiritual activities, but think of it this way: everything else in your life is scheduled. You treat scheduled events as necessary, and it’s because of those events that unscheduled things (like Bible reading) don’t end up happening. By not scheduling a time, you are by default allowing everything else to take priority, whether you consciously see it that way or not.
2. Pick a place. Having a dedicated place selected in advance will help you be mentally “ready” at your appointed time.
3. Pick a Bible. If you’ve struggled with reading the Bible in the past, consider reading the Bible “digitally”. I downloaded a Bible reader and corresponding ESV Study Bible from Olive Tree on my iPad and it made a world of difference for me last year. I love being able to highlight in it, make notes, and flip between references with a simple click. I’ve found I’m far more motivated to read this way.
4. Pick a method. Following a reading plan can hugely impact your consistency. Seven out of ten respondents in the CBE survey who used a Bible reading plan read the Bible daily, compared to only a little more than one-third of those who do not follow a plan. There are many types out there – just Google “Bible reading plans” for a wealth of plans you can download and follow.
Full details on the studies from which this data was taken: