Statistically, you can see a recurring pattern: Bible engagement is directly related to spiritual growth.
While it may be possible to become a "better person" by attending church, it is not true spiritual growth. New life in Christ, the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, are regular Bible engagement is evident in the lives of growing believers.
God's Word is truth, so it should come as no surprise that reading and studying the Bible are still the activities that have the most statistical influence on growth in this attribute of spiritual maturity. As basic as that is, there are still numerous churchgoers who are not reading the Bible regularly. You simply won't grow if you don't know God and spend time in God's Word. Bible reading won't make you a Christian and you can't grow without the power of the Spirit, but engaging the word deeply matters.
However, if tangible life changes are statistically related to Bible engagement in the life of a disciple of Christ, why aren't more reading and studying the Bible?
We've released new research as part of the Transformational Discipleship study that shows only 19% of churchgoers personally (not as part of a church worship service) read the Bible every day. That is roughly the same as those who responded "Rarely/Never" (18 percent). A quarter of respondents indicate they read the Bible a few times a week, and 14% say they read the Bible "Once a Week" while another 22 percent say "Once a Month" or "A Few Times a Month." (Note that "churchgoers" does not mean "born again" or other things-- just what is says. We will look at more on that in future research releases.)
From the release (read the full story here):
While the majority of churchgoers desire to honor Christ with their lives and even profess to think on biblical truths, a recent study found few actually engage in personal reading and study of the Scriptures.
"Bible engagement" is one of the eight attributes of discipleship identified in the Transformational Discipleship study conducted by LifeWay Research. The study produced the Transformational Discipleship Assessment, which measures an individual's spiritual growth in each of these areas of development.
The survey found 90 percent of churchgoers agree "I desire to please and honor Jesus in all I do," and 59 percent agree with the statement: "Throughout the day I find myself thinking about biblical truths." While the majority agree with both statements, there is a significant difference in the strength of agreement. Nearly two-thirds of churchgoers (64 percent) strongly agree with the first statement, but only 20 percent strongly agree with the second.
While these stats might seem disheartening, we did identify six things that led to increased Bible engagement:
- Confessing wrongdoings to God and asking forgiveness.
- Believing in Jesus Christ as the only way to heaven and the number of years one has believed this.
- Making a decision to obey or follow God with an awareness that choosing to do so might be costly. Sixty-three percent of churchgoers say they have at least once in the last six months.
- Praying for the spiritual status of people they know are not professing Christians.
- Reading a book about increasing their spiritual growth. Sixty-one percent of churchgoers say they have in the last year.
- Having been discipled or mentored one-on-one by a more spiritually mature Christian.
These findings on Bible engagement are part of the largest discipleship study of its kind. Results from each of the eight attributes of spiritual maturity will continue to be released over the coming months.
To help pastors, churches and individuals measure spiritual development, LifeWay Research used the study's data to develop a questionnaire for believers, called the Transformational Discipleship Assessment (TDA). This online evaluation delivers both individual and group reports on spiritual maturity using the eight factors of biblical discipleship. The TDA also provides helpful and practical suggestions on appropriate next steps for spiritual development.