Yes, that’s the claim I’m making—that most Christians do not read the Bible. At least not very much. Research supports this assumption (though the exact figures vary), and my anecdotal experience confirms it.
The Number 1 reason people give for not reading the Bible is (of course), “I don’t have time.” But that’s not really a reason. We all have the same amount of time each day. We all choose to spend it on what’s most important to us.
So why don’t people—particularly Christian people—choose to spend time reading the Bible? Here’s what I think:
1. They secretly believe reading the Bible doesn’t really matter.
Honestly, I think a lot of Christians put the Bible in the same category as other literary classics—it’s something they feel like they should read, but they don’t know exactly why. After all, it’s hard to prove whether reading the Bible does any measurable good—aren’t there plenty of nice, successful people who don’t read the Bible? And aren’t there plenty of jerks, racists, and annoying people who do? I think many Christians secretly wonder if the Bible does any good.
2. They would rather rely on professionals to read the Bible and explain it to them.
Whether it’s their own priest or pastor, or a celebrity theologian like Rick Warren or Joel Osteen, most Christians would rather be fed Biblical truths than feed themselves. And it’s true, religious professionals are probably better at gleaning, understanding, and teaching those truths than we ordinary amateurs. After all, they’ve had more practice. And if they’re better at it, why not just let them do it? As religion becomes more adept at packaging itself in entertaining, market-driven, user-friendly trappings, its adherents become more dependent and less self-sufficient.
3. They don’t have a support system for reading the Bible.
Even if Christians do resolve to spend more time reading the Bible (as many do each January), sadly, most will fail. And I think the biggest factor in their failure is the lack of a support system. Many American Christians believe that “personal devotions” should be, well, personal. So they try to go it alone. They don’t realize that not only is Bible-reading much richer in community with other people, it’s actually more accurate! Left to interpret the Bible in the privacy of our own hearts, we are likely to get it wrong. The Bible is meant to be read and understood in community. It’s more authentic that way, more effective, and more fun, and it’s far more likely to actually happen—because of the natural accountability a support system provides.
True for you?
Are any (or all) of the above three claims true of you? Are you willing to confirm or refute them in the comments below? Come on, let’s talk!
Then, if you want to spend more time reading the Bible, you can:
- Come back next week for some practical tips
- Look at the free tool in last week’s post, A Christian Resolution: Read the Bible in 2011
- Check out the Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan, shown here and mentioned in the comments below.
Melanie Jongsma is a Christian who reads the Bible and genuinely tries to let it shape the way she lives. If integrity is important to you when hiring a writer for your business, ministry, or personal needs, contact Melanie.