Why don’t you read the Bible more?
That’s not meant to be a scolding or guilt-inducing question. It’s a simple truth about American culture (and, I suspect, many others around the world) that most of us own a Bible, and we speak highly of the Bible, but we don’t actually read the Bible—at least, not nearly as much as you would expect from the amount of time we spend talking about it. An American Bible Society survey a few years ago found that
More than half of Americans think the Bible has too little influence on a culture they see in moral decline, yet only one in five Americans read the Bible on a regular basis, according to a new survey.
The survey showed the Bible is still firmly rooted in American soil: 88 percent of respondents said they own a Bible, 80 percent think the Bible is sacred, 61 percent wish they read the Bible more, and the average household has 4.4 Bibles.
If they do read it, the majority (57 percent) only read their Bibles four times a year or less. Only 26 percent of Americans said they read their Bible on a regular basis (four or more times a week).
Why do you think that is? Most of us could probably make some educated guesses about why more people don’t read the Bible: it’s an intimidatingly long book; it’s often hard to understand; it’s full of names and places that seem very disconnected from our everyday lives. When we asked author and apologist Lee Strobel what keeps people from reading the Bible, he observed that most people simply doubt that it has anything meaningful to say to them:
There are all good and insightful observations. But in the end, what really matters is this: what’s keeping you from reading your Bible as much as you’d like?
The blog post you’re reading is from a website called “Bible Gateway,” so you’ve probably guessed where this is leading: to a pitch that, in the New Year, you make a resolution to dust off that family Bible and start spending more time reading it. And that’s a wonderful idea! I could go on all day about the value of reading the Bible regularly. I could point you to Mel Lawrenz’ excellent series of essays (published here on the blog) about how to read and understand the Bible. I could point you to some useful tips for using Bible Gateway to make your Bible reading easier. I could point to Bible reading plans to make Scripture reading more accessible.
But at the end of the day, if you don’t feel inspired and challenged on a personal level to read the Bible regularly, all that advice and guidance isn’t going to do much good. And reading the Bible grudgingly, out of nothing but guilt that you ought to be reading it, isn’t really the way God wants us to experience His Word.
So if you are one of the many people who values the Bible but don’t actually read it very much, maybe the thing to do as you enter a New Year is to simply spend some time thinking about why that is. Why don’t you read you Bible more?
Do you just not have enough time in your day?
Do you imagine that the Bible just doesn’t have much to say about the practical realities of your life?
Do you think (perhaps based on past experience reading the Bible) that the Bible is a boring and difficult read?
Does reading a hefty book like the Bible just not come naturally to you?
Do you think that you don’t really need to read the Bible yourself as long as you’re getting good spiritual guidance from your church or pastor?
Is it something else?
Be honest with yourself, and think about why you don’t read the Bible more. And when you’ve identified the reason(s), the next step will be to ask if there are answers or solutions to those reasons. We at Bible Gateway can help with that part—early next year, we’ll post some ideas. But for now, if the idea of reading your Bible sounds dull and unpleasant, just think about why you think so. And we’ll see if, in 2017, we can find an approach to Scripture that’s just right for you.