Having a deep, meaningful, engaging relationship with God is what we were created for. We know it in our souls. But the everyday noise surrounding us competes for our attention and it can be challenging to determine how to live out the Christian life on a practical basis.
Bible Gateway interviewed Dr. Steven Bird, co-executive director of the Taylor University Center for Scripture Engagement (@TaylorU_CSE), about the Christian Life Survey and ways to more meaningfully engage Scripture.
What is the Taylor University Center for Scripture Engagement (TUCSE)?
Dr. Steven Bird: The vision of the TUCSE is to promote engagement with Scripture to empower the Christian church to passionately know God, love God, and serve the world. Our mission is to equip individuals and congregations to engage Scripture in ways that will drive Christian worship, discipleship, community, proclamation, and service. We try to do all of that through programs focused on research (the Christian Life Survey), training (Scripture engagement workshops), and providing resources (like the Scripture engagement articles on Bible Gateway and in The Abide Bible (Zondervan, 2020)).
What is the Christian Life Survey and why was it developed?
Dr. Steven Bird: When we decided to work to advance Scripture engagement, we recognized that there wasn’t much research into how Scripture engagement connects to the rest of a person’s spiritual life. The Christian Life Survey (CLS) was developed to accomplish two purposes: to help each Christian think about where Scripture engagement fits into their life, and to help us identify trends in how Scripture engagement fits into most folks’ ways of living out Christianity.
In the last decade, the CLS has been administered to tens of thousands of students at 46 different Christian colleges in the United States. We’ve heard from most of those students that it helped them revisit who they are spiritually and who they wish to be. We’ve also learned that the one factor that has the greatest effect on all the other parts of being a Christian is being centered on the Bible. It’s not a matter of just reading the Bible. It’s a matter of seeing your life and daily moments through a biblical view using personal reflection and regular discussion with others about what the Bible means for our daily lives.
Who is the Christian Life Survey for?
Dr. Steven Bird: The Christian Life Survey was developed for any Christian wanting to assess their spiritual life. In the last year, the Center for Scripture Engagement has developed a free way for any Christian to use the survey and receive their own personal results. Anyone wanting to do so can go to our website (taylor.edu/christianlifesurvey).
What will people learn from using this tool?
Dr. Steven Bird: The Christian Life Survey provides a comprehensive look at a person’s spiritual life. It takes about 20 minutes to complete and has sets of questions that help people consider the spiritual centers of their life (centered on God, centered on the Bible, centered on neighbor), their spiritual lifestyles (being connected with others in the faith, a right approach to appetites, being spiritually reflective, evangelism, service to those in need, and stewardship), and the Scripture engagement approaches that define their spirituality.
Using the results from the past 10 years, we’ve also created a predictive algorithm that helps those who take the survey discover new and different ways to engage with Scripture that have been preferred by others with spiritual centers and lifestyles similar to theirs. Those recommendations come with links to online Bible Gateway resources for using those Scripture engagement techniques.
Can you really measure someone’s spiritual life with this kind of tool?
Dr. Steven Bird: It’s very important to realize what tools like this can and cannot do. Any well-constructed tool that asks you to self-report on your own life or personality provides a way for you to take a look at yourself through a lens you might not use on your own. The CLS does not provide any insight into who is a better Christian; instead, it provides a chance for you to think about who you see yourself being and decide how that compares to who you think you should be. A tool like this can accurately reflect your self-assessment of your spiritual life held up to a biblical lens. It does not measure what God thinks of you. It does not tell you if you are where God wants you to be. The Christian Life Survey will help you better engage with Scripture and engage with God, and God will guide your life.
Sign up for our Verse of the Day to receive a daily Bible verse in four well-known translations.
How can this help a church or ministry?
Dr. Steven Bird: The Center for Scripture Engagement is now working on a free online access to the CLS for groups. At this time, any group can use the CLS. The group can assign everyone to take the survey, receive their individual results, and then get together to talk about what those results mean for them collectively.
We’ll soon also have a way for a group of people to receive the average scores of their whole group. This kind of information allows a group to think about how they, together, are living out Christianity. Additionally, it could lay the groundwork for a larger event—like a Scripture engagement workshop—where they can revisit the trends in the group. This would lead to better understanding of one another as everyone sees how people engage differently with Scripture. It could also provide opportunity for folks to try new ways of engaging with Scripture so they can better engage with God.
At the end of the day, it gets back to our vision and mission: to empower the Christian church to know and love God and serve the world, and to equip Christians to engage Scripture in ways that will drive their worship, discipleship, community, proclamation, and service.
The Abide Bible is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.
Bio: Dr. Steven Bird received his PhD from Purdue University and his Master’s degree in sociology in from the University of Washington. He is a professor of sociology at Taylor University where he has served as department chair and received the campus wide Teaching Excellence and Campus Leadership award. He is also the co-executive director of the Taylor University Center for Scripture Engagement. Steve is married to Barb; together they have two adult children, Seth and Rachel. Connect with Steve at email@example.com
Dive deep into Scripture when you become a member of Bible Gateway Plus. Try it right now!