Reading the Bible: It Can Mean So Many Things

“How often do you read the Bible?”

That was one of the questions asked of protestant church goers on a 2019 study done by LifeWay Research.

The answers?

Thirty-two percent, who attend church regularly, said they read the Bible every day. Twenty-seven percent claimed to read it a few times a week. Approximately 29% answered with once a week, a few times a month, or once a month. And 12% admitted to reading their Bible rarely or never at all.

Beyond the Numbers

The numbers are telling. But I believe this question goes much deeper than numbers alone. Beyond the percentages and the sorting of who does and does not read the Bible lies the deeper question:

How were the respondents interpreting the word, read, when answering the question?

The Many Meanings of the Word READ

I wonder as I consider these study results, how each person asked might have interpreted the question.

To read can mean so many things. Just look the word up in any thesaurus. It can mean to peruse, scan, skim, note, and study to mention a few.

Hence reading the Bible can mean picking it up to read a favorite chapter or passage, allowing the Bible to fall open and randomly reading a verse or two, preparing a lesson for Sunday School or small group, working faithfully through an organized Bible reading plan, or thoughtfully considering a passage with highlighters in hand.

These different ways of reading run the gamut from glancing at words on a page to examining and thinking deeply about the text.

What it Means

Going back to the study, I think it’s quite possible that some of the respondents identified reading the Bible as the act of calling out words as their eyes scanned the page while others interpreted it as something that involves thoughtful consideration and reflection.

 Does it Matter?

As far as this study and others are concerned probably not, other than we should keep in mind the broadness of the meaning of the word read.

For the health of our soul and our personal relationship with God, YES!  Our interpretation of the word read matters.

“Do you read the Bible?”

“How often do you read the Bible?”

When answering questions like these, we need to be able to say we read it in a number of ways.

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, glancing, and reading for pleasure are the appropriate choices.  Sometimes, the quick 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 to our Bible, applying ourselves through annotation, study, and reflection.

Perhaps the more telling question to ask oneself is not, “How many times a week do I read the Bible?” but rather, “Do I read the Bible in many ways making sure that time is set aside regularly for engaging with it on a level that requires me to apply myself?”

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…

Colossians 3:16

Engaging the Scripture Online Group

Engaging the Scripture  Online Group (Group begins Monday, September 21, 2020)

You are invited to join us for a 6-week “journey” in discovering ways to read the Bible that cause us to go deeper than skimming and scanning. Together, this group will work through the included workbook while offering encouragement and accountability. (The group will meet via a private Facebook group. Please include your email address and Facebook “name” with payment so we can get you in the group.)

Click HERE to purchase the online group experience. (Begins 9-21-2020 and includes the booklet.)

5 comments on “Reading the Bible: It Can Mean So Many Things

  1. I completely agree that there are so many different meanings behind this simple word. And I imagine that God desires that we dig in a little deeper than most of us are accustomed too. It’s absolutely amazing how the Bible really comes alive once we put forth the effort to discover the original meaning of a word or the history and customs behind a certain text. Thank you for this reminder!

  2. That was so good – after all it’s the application, it’s responding to the word that makes the difference.

  3. love your heart for pointing other to the Word of God. I have a heart like that too because the Lord used His Word to open my eyes to salvation from my atheism. There is Life in the word! I even put together a pdf freebie to give others a tool to get into the Word for themselves. Thank you for this practical and needed post!!

  4. You make some great point, Joanne. Thank you for your encouraging words.


  5. May we each make time each day to read God’s Word as it will set not only our course for the day, but for our lives.

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