The following is an excerpt from “Understanding the Bible Engagement Challenge: Scientific Evidence for the Power of 4” by Arnold Cole, Ed.D. & Pamela Caudill Ovwigho, Ph.D.
The Evangelical community has recently recognized that most Americans own Bibles, but very few actually read them. Nine out of ten (93%) Americans say that they own a Bible (Robinson, 2002). In fact, the average American household has four Bibles (Harper-Collins San Francisco Book Catalog, May-August 2007) and the Bible still remains the best-selling book of all time (Business Week, 2005). Even in this country that has been described as a land of “religious free-lancers” (Grossman, 2009), most Americans still believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God (Newport, 2007).
Unfortunately, owning a Bible and believing it’s the inspired word of God typically does not mean that people actually read the Bible. However, only about six in ten Americans say they read the Bible at least on occasion, down from three-fourths in the 1980s (Gallup & Simmons, 2000). Less than two out of five read the Bible at least once a week. In addition, only one out of four American Christians completely agree with the statement that they regularly study the Bible to find direction of their lives (Gallup, 2003).
A lack of scriptural engagement produces several consequences. Disengagement from God’s word has left American believers ignorant of basic Bible facts and truths, vulnerable to false teachings, and, in many cases, spiritually immature. As our research has demonstrated, those who read the Bible at least four times a week are less likely to engage in behaviors such as gambling, pornography, getting drunk, and sex outside marriage.
There are definite signs that Christians are struggling in the battle against such temptations. Studies by several different organizations suggest that about half of men attending church are involved in pornography (Genung, 2005). A significant minority of self- identified born-again Christians, particularly those under 35, has cohabited, and divorce rates are just as high among born-again Christians as among other groups (Barna Research Group, 2001). An estimated 8 out of 10 youth from evangelical Christian homes walk away from their faith by age 23 (Brown 2006).
All of these disturbing trends stem from one common source. Many Christians are losing the day spiritually because they are not connecting with God through His Word regularly. For several years now the Center for Bible Engagement (CBE) has researched why so many Americans own Bibles, but never read them. Along the way, we’ve also revealed major differences in the moral behavior and spiritual maturity of believers based on their level of scriptural engagement. Specifically, we have discovered through our research large behavioral differences between Christians who read or listen to the Bible at least four days a week and those who engage with scripture less often. These differences include both moral behavior as well as how prepared the individual is to serve God and impact the world.
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