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." According to the Center for Bible Engagement, 93 percent of Americans say they own or have access to a Bible but less than half of those who identify as Christians have said they haven't read it cover to cover, and most Americans admit to never having opened one at all.
Why Have Americans Stopped Reading the Bible?
The Center For Bible Engagement conducted an eight-year, 100,000-person (ages 8-80) research study on what activities and habits associated with a Christian life actually impacted the way people live. The potential options included reading the Bible, praying, going to church, listening to Christian music or watching Christian media programs. But of all the activities that actually changed a person's life, it was Bible reading that had the most positive effect. In fact, four days or more a week was the tipping point. 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 differently from those who never read the Bible. Although most people pray, prayer didn't have nearly the impact of four or more days a week of Bible reading.
Why do we have so much difficulty finding time to read the Bible? The number one reason cited for not reading the Bible regularly (four or more times a week) was that we are too busy, and the second biggest reason was that we are too distracted.
What are we engaging in instead?
Statistics tell us that we are confronted with thousands of media messages a day and our lives are consumed with 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 and are distracted by reality TV shows, video games and anything that will divert our attention from thinking and confronting our problems. We use busyness for an excuse when in reality we're filling our vacant time and loneliness with digital noise.
How can we turn it around?
It takes courageous choices. It takes recognizing our need for a higher power—God in our life—and it's why I wrote a new devotional based on a four-day-per-week format called Hope 4 Today: Staying Connected to God in a Distracted Culture. I want to encourage readers to invest their time four or more times per week in Bible reading, take the challenge and watch their life change in positive ways. We schedule time for our golf game, gym time, therapist sessions and our kids' play dates, so 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 person's life.
Will God deliver if we prioritize Bible reading?
The research tells 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 percent, pornography viewing and sex outside of marriage fell 59 percent, gambling decreased 45 percent, gossiping and lying 28 percent, and even overeating and mishandling money fell 20 percent. 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 to my feet, and a light to my path."
When will you begin to choose the wisdom of the Bible for the challenges you face? I challenge you to try it four or more times a week. Watch your life change.
Kathleen Cooke's new devotional Hope 4 Today: Staying Connecting to God in a Distracted Culture 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 at @KathleenRCooke
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