By Ed Stetzer
In the Transformational Discipleship study conducted by LifeWay Research, we found biblical engagement to be a key attribute in discipleship. As believers grow in their faith, they should have a deeper longing to encounter biblical truth.
In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul writes to Timothy about the value of the Scriptures: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” That phrase “may be complete” speaks to spiritual maturity. Through His Word, God provides what is necessary for living out the Christian life.
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 impact on spiritual growth and maturity. When believers encounter God’s Word on a daily basis, transformation occurs. As basic as that is, there are still numerous churchgoers who are not reading the Bible regularly (see page 36 in this issue of Facts&Trends).
You simply won’t grow if you don’t know God and spend time in God’s Word.
The LifeWay survey also reveals six actions that positively impact the Bible engagement scores of individuals:
1. Confessing wrongdoings to God and asking forgiveness.
2. Believing in Jesus Christ as the only way to heaven and the number of years one has believed this.
3. Making a decision to obey or follow God with an awareness that choosing to do so might be costly.
4. Praying for the spiritual status of people they know are not professing Christians.
5. Reading a book about increasing their spiritual growth.
6. Having been discipled one-on-one by a more spiritually mature Christian.
Bible engagement points people toward maturity, and maturing Christians have practices that correspond to Bible reading. Our research shows almost all churchgoers (90 percent) want to honor God, but more than a third indicate obedience is not something they have done when it is costly to them. Lack of obedience may indicate low Bible engagement.
The impact of the Word of God on people’s lives is seen in the relationship between Bible engagement and turning from wrongdoings and choosing to obey God—two indicators of higher Bible engagement scores. Such tangible life changes show the transformational impact of Bible engagement in the life of a disciple of Christ.
One need not be a Christian long to appreciate the impact the Bible has on us. Through it, the Holy Spirit speaks and our lives are transformed.
Those who have long attended churches likely remember sermons exhorting them to read the Bible, seen structured plans for Bible reading, and received challenges to memorize Scripture. Verses like Psalm 119:11 (“I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against You.”) and Jesus’ encounter with Satan in Matthew 4 spur us to remain in the Word. Or, at least, it should.
As it is, the busy lives people live today often lead to biblically illiterate churches. This causes all types of misunderstandings, because too many do not know the Bible. Church leaders today cannot afford to overlook this issue.
It is critical for church leadership to challenge believers to be in the Word of God, consistently growing in their knowledge of the Scriptures.
Whatever Bible study plan you choose for yourself, family, small group or church, being in the Word is better than being out of the Word.
Ed Stetzer is president of LifeWay Research.