In recent months I have come across some statistics on READING the Bible.
According to The State of the Bible, a study by the Barna Group and the American Bible Society:
37% of Americans read [the Bible] once a week or more.
And another study conducted by LifeWay Research, reported that:
45% of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week
over 40% of the people attending read their Bible occasionally, maybe once or twice a month.
As I ponder the statistics, my eyes are continually drawn to one word: READ.
I wonder what the survey groups had in mind as they crafted and asked their questions.
I wonder how the respondents interpreted the questions as they answered.
In my mind, to READ can mean so many things:
Picking up the Bible to read through a favorite chapter or passage.
Working through an organized Bible reading plan.
Randomly allowing the Bible to fall open and reading a verse or two.
Preparing to teach a Sunday School class.
Working thoughtfully through a passage with highlighters in hand.
And so many more.
And in the minds of survey respondents, I’m sure there was a range of interpretation as they heard and answered the questions.
Consider the synonyms for READ according to www.thesaurus.com: peruse, scan, note, study.
What’s the difference? Perhaps www.dictionary.com can help us:
Peruse – to browse, survey
Scan – to glance over or read hastily
Note – to make annotations, to supply with explanatory writings, to comment upon
Study – to apply oneself to the acquisition of knowledge; to think deeply, reflect, or consider; to examine; to observe
Is it possible, in fact likely, that some respondents answered the question based on an understanding that READ meant, “Do you scan your Bible more than once a week?” Could some who answered have thought, “Yes, I study my Bible, examining and reflecting passages once a week or more?”
And…does it matter?
As far as the studies are concerned probably not, other than we should keep in mind the broadness of the meaning of the word READ.
For our own spiritual growth and personal relationship with God, YES! It matters.
I believe our READING of the Bible is ALL of it. The surveying, glancing, annotating, reflecting – ALL of it!
Just as we learned in school to match our reading style to our task or goal, it is necessary that we do the same when reading our Bible.
There are times when surveying and glancing are the appropriate choices. There are times when a straight read-through of a passage is just the thing we need.
AND… if it’s truly our desire to deepen our relationship with God, there are times when we must dig in; applying ourselves through annotation and reflection.
I guess, for me, the question is not, “How many times a week do I read the Bible?” but rather, “Do I regularly set aside time to read my Bible with PURPOSE and INTENT?”
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…