I recently talked to a young woman who was visiting our church. As I chatted with her, I found out that she considered herself an atheist. She visited just to humor a friend. When I asked her why she was an atheist, she said she couldn't believe stuff that was in a 2,000-year-old book.
Four months later, she still attends our church and plans to be baptized. When I asked her what changed, she said it wasn't until now that she understood what was in the Bible.
This is a powerful book, whether you think you believe it or not. At ChristianBibleStudies.com, the course "Why Should I Believe the Bible" is our best seller. Clearly, this topic is on people's minds—and for good reason. If we are going to stake our lives on the words of a book, we want to make sure it's reliable.
To better understand the role the Bible plays in the lives of Christians, ChristianBibleStudies.com took a close look at the results of a survey conducted by Knowledge Networks for Christianity Today International and Zondervan in September 2006.
Nineteen percent of the 1,017 self-identified Christian adults who took the survey consider themselves Active Christians (high belief, high church involvement). Twenty percent consider themselves Professing Christians (high belief, moderate church involvement).
Among Active Christians, 86 percent believe the Bible is the authoritative guide for faith and Christian living; 93 percent read the Bible; and 82 percent agree that regular Bible reading and prayer are important spiritual disciplines for all Christians. Obviously this group has a strong reverence for the Bible.
Among Professing Christians, 74 percent believe the Bible is the authoritative guide for faith and Christian living; 48 percent say they read the Bible; and 54 percent say regular Bible reading and prayer are important spiritual disciplines for all Christians. According to this, only about half of Professing Christians see a need for regular Bible reading, and fewer than half even do it. What a huge surprise—to see roughly half of this group, most of which believes in salvation and the importance of the Bible—place a relatively low priority on using the Bible.
We asked Wayne Brouwer, professor of Religion at Hope College, what might lead to this.
"We are human," he said. "We tend to think in absolutes and live in ethical grayness."
In discussing this subject with friends and colleagues, most feel they shortchange their Bible reading. Although we believe the Bible is full of truth and gives us what we need to live for Christ, the pressures of life crowd out the time we actually devote to it. So while we say we value it, we often disappoint ourselves in the amount of time we actually give to reading the Bible.
Anna DePauw, a 20-something mother, wants to read the Bible, but her commitments to her toddler make it hard to find the time. When she does find the time, she is often too tired to concentrate.
Chip Kerry, who runs his own business, works long hours to support his family. He leaves the house at 7:00 in the morning and doesn't return until 7:00 in the evening.
Brad Reardon, my husband who is a pastor, tends to read the Bible to glean messages for his congregation. He has to work hard at finding time to simply read it devotionally for himself.
Obviously, this is something we all struggle with, but we should not be discouraged. The survey also showed that a whopping 98 percent of Active Christians read the Bible outside of church. Only attending a worship service did more spiritually for this group of people. So many of us find time to read the Bible, even if we are not as consistent as we would like to be.