Bible Engagement in Churchgoers’ Hearts, Not Always Practiced

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — While the majority of Canadian churchgoers say they want to honour Christ with their lives, a recent study found few spend time reading or studying the Scriptures.

“Bible engagement” is one of the eight attributes of discipleship identified in the Transformational Discipleship study conducted by Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

As part of the project, researchers interviewed discipleship experts from eight countries and surveyed 1,000 pastors and more than 4,000 Protestants from North America.

Among them were 1,086 Canadian lay people who attend church at least once a month.

Two-thirds (66 percent) of churchgoers surveyed agree with the statement, “I desire to please and honour Jesus in all I do.”

However, when asked how often they read the Bible outside of church, a third (34 percent) say rarely or never. Only 11 percent read the Bible daily. Just over a quarter (27 percent) read it at least a few times a week or once a month.

Only 3 percent say they do in-depth Bible study on a daily basis. More than half (53 percent) rarely or never study the Bible.

Most didn’t seem to feel bad about skipping the Bible reading.

Sixty-two percent disagree with the statement, “If I go several days without reading the Bible, I find myself unfulfilled.”

That’s an area of concern, said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research.

“You simply won’t grow if you don’t know God and spend time in God’s Word,” he said. “Bible engagement has an impact in just about every area of spiritual growth.”

The survey also found that when six other activities are present individuals have higher levels of Bible engagement:

  1. Confess wrongdoings to God and ask forgiveness.
  2. Believe in Jesus Christ as the only way to heaven.
  3. Make a decision to obey or follow God, knowing that it might be costly.
  4. Pray for people they know are not professing Christians.
  5. Read a book about increasing their spiritual growth.
  6. Have a one-on-one mentoring relationship with a spiritually mature Christian.

Stetzer said the research shows a connection between engaging the Bible and doing the right thing.

These findings on Bible engagement are part of the largest discipleship study of its kind.

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 attributes of biblical discipleship. The TDA also gives practical suggestions for spiritual development.

For more information, visit LifeWayResearch.com. The TDA is available at TDA.LifeWay.com.

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Methodology: LifeWay Research surveyed a representative sample of 1,086 Canadian adults as part of the Transformational Discipleship study. Participants attend a Protestant church at least once a month. The sample included churchgoers from a range of Protestant denominations, including mainline and evangelical churches. Interviews were conducted in English, Spanish and French. A demographically balanced online panel was used for the interviewing. Surveys were conducted Oct. 14-22, 2011.

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