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I was interested to see an article by Peter Enns exploring why Bible reading is down in churches today. Biblica did some research and offered three conclusions. Let me share their findings with my own thoughts here:

1. Bible reading is down because people read it in fragments.

They point to the perennial problem of prooftexting. The problem here goes both ways. First, despite the proliferation of prooftexting in seemingly all types of Christian literature, as an approach it fails to live up to implicit promise. People like to think that nuggets and bite-sized nibbles can satisfy the need for wisdom and instruction, but it reality does not support this. People need more than “a verse for this” and “a verse for that.”

Which leads to the second issue here. Not only does prooftexting fall short, but it also steals the experience of seeing the bigger picture, the sweeping thoughts, the epic narratives and the heart-stirring poems of Scripture. I often ponder the fact that the Bible men and women whom I most aspire to be like are not those with a ready quiver full of pithy proof-texts, but those who know the God of the Bible because they are washed in the Bible as a whole, book by book.

2. Bible reading is down because people read it a-historically.

The article points to Biblica’s approach to reordering the books in the canon. This is interesting and I sometimes read through the Old Testament using the Jewish TNK order, or mix up the NT books into a different logical sequence. I would push our thoughts in another direction than canon, however. I think too many readers are reading Bible books looking for something to jump out to them today, as if the Bible were written as a relatively poor repository of ancient wisdom for future listeners to sift through and glean the lasting nuggets.

How much better the Bible becomes when we read it to find the God who revealed Himself to the original writers/readers, and who continues to reveal Himself through those books today, when understood in their own contexts. Studying the historical setting of an epistle or a prophet can be a profound experience. I remember reading the introduction to a weighty commentary on Isaiah—the introduction set me on fire for studying the Bible! I would recommend reading something like Paul Maier’s “Flames of Rome” to enter into the historical context more, and then see if the epistles still feel so flat afterward.

3. Bible reading is down because people read it in isolation.

Too true. When did the “personal devotions” approach to Bible reading become the only legitimate approach to Bible reading? I am very excited to embark on another season of Cor Deo next week ... six months of studying God’s Word and pursuing God’s heart with a group of friends passionate to know God more. I wouldn’t trade that for anything. Perhaps you need to pray about finding someone with whom to enjoy the Bible. Not to drown it in dull fill-in-the-blank questions. Not to discuss it at length until one person’s theological hobby-horses send the other to sleep. But open-hearted delight-filled enjoyment of discovering God together. And that is not about hunting for applications as the first order of business, but about pursuing the God who has first loved us.

Enns finishes his article by suggesting we should “read big, read real, read together.” I agree. Might I add that we should “read big, engage historically informed imagination and chase the personal God.”

To see Enns helpful post, click here.

I can’t help but think there may be some other important factors, too. Let me list a few and see if you would add any:

4. Bible reading is down because some preachers don’t motivate reading by their own lack of enthusiasm for enjoying Scripture (hard to be infectious if you don’t have the disease).

5. Bible reading is down because some preachers don’t expect people to actually read the Bible (and people will live down to that kind of expectation).

6. Bible reading is down because technology and instant communication is changing the way this generation engages with any books.

7. Bible reading is down because preachers with an over-emphasis on application and utility have reduced the appetite for chasing God Himself (a self-focused engagement with Scripture will always diminish appetite for a revelation that works in the opposite direction).

What would you add? And just to complete a bit of a messy post, how about a brief counterpoint, too?

I wonder if Bible reading really is down? Generally I would accept the assertion. But among a lot of people I meet, there is a great passion for Bible reading. These kinds of studies are always open to spin in respect to who is in the sample. I had a conversation recently with someone asserting that the under-30′s are leaving the evangelical church in unprecedented droves. I pointed out that I don’t know any under-30s who love Jesus who are leaving the church, and perhaps the stats may actually be pointing to nominal churchgoers? It is hard, statistically, to measure true faith.



Peter Mead is involved in the leadership team of a church plant in the UK. He serves as director of Cor Deo—an innovative mentored ministry training program—and has a wider ministry preaching and training preachers. He also blogs often at BiblicalPreaching.net and recently authored Pleased to Dwell: A Biblical Introduction to the Incarnation (Christian Focus, 2014). Follow him on Twitter

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Talk about it...

Brad Brucker

commented on Jan 30, 2014

Great article! Bible reading is way up in our church specifically because we/I push it from the pulpit on a weekly basis. Wayne Cordero's book "The Divine Mentor" is the best book to get people into THE BOOK I have ever read. I push that too. I often read my SOAP journal entries in the middle of my sermons as a way to model personal devotions. We encourage that in all our small groups. Lastly, while I agree with most of this article - I strongly disagree with point 7. I like what Bob Goff in his whimsical book "Love Does" says, "I didn't know I was supposed to study the bible, I just thought I was suppose to do what it says!" I know James, Jesus, the apostle Paul, Peter and all the prophets would agree!

Richard Scotland

commented on Jan 30, 2014

I like that book recommendation. Do you have another one for kids, young teens especially?

Jason Adams

commented on Jan 30, 2014

to which book???

Bill Williams

commented on Jan 30, 2014

Bob Goff's quote seems good on the surface, but when you really think about it you realize it's actually kind of silly! Of course we're supposed to study the Bible. How in the world can we do what it "says" if we don't study it? Certainly, Paul wouldn't agree with Mr. Goff. I recall him saying somewhere, "Study to show yourself approved to God..." I mean, I agree with the point he's trying to make: we need to be obedient to Scripture. But the study of the Word is not mutually exclusive to obedience; it is FUNDAMENTAL to obedience.

Richard Scotland

commented on Jan 30, 2014

Good article. I think Bible reading may be down, especially in the younger people. I am not sure why I think this or have any "proof" but it is a feeling. I can remember seeing people on the daily commute with a Bible. That has not happened at all recently though. Of course with the tablets and phones we have nowadays, it is easier to play Angry Birds than get out the Bible. Or maybe people read the Bible on their tablet. I would agree that fragmentation is not a good thing - people think they can snack on these small morsels when they actually need a proper meal of Scripture.

Alexander Shaw

commented on Jan 30, 2014

Why not have an important and significant Conference on how to teach your people to feed themselves spiritually? I have been reading the Bible daily since the age of eight. Our people are regularly in the Word of God - and some with the help of Bible Study notes. We are currently going through the Songs of Ascent in the Psalms and I am taking these 'in tandem' on Sundays and Wednesdays. This could be a vital Conference which could help thousands to grow in Christ and become strong in the faith!

Textus Receptus

commented on Jan 30, 2014

One of the reasons that Bible Reading is down is that there are too many different versions being promoted by churches and publishers. It was thought that making the Bible more readable would have the opposite effect.

Textus Receptus

commented on Jan 30, 2014

Also, Most modern translations are nothing more than commentaries anyway. Though reading someone else's thoughts on what God meant to say can be helpful, It is just not quite as powerful as actually reading God's Words. Hence....God's Words are not being read and enjoyed and Bible reading is down.

Bill Williams

commented on Jan 30, 2014

I want to be sure I understand...are you suggesting that only those who read the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek are actually reading God's word? Because every translation, whether modern or ancient, is, to varying degrees, "someone else's thoughts on what God meant to say."

Sylvester Warsaw, Jr.

commented on Jan 30, 2014

One of the many promises God makes in the New Covenant, Hebrews 8:10-13; Hebrews 10:16-17 and prophesied about in the Old Covenant, Jeremiah 31:31-34, is that God will teach us Himself. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our lives will teach us the ways of God by reminding us of while pointing us to Jesus the Christ who points us to God the Father these three working together as one teaching us about the ways of God. Both personal study of God's Word and study groups are necessary for growth. The worship of God is a life-style meaning it's both personal and corporate.

Nom De Plume

commented on Jan 30, 2014

What a refreshing article to read; especially points 1, 2 and 7.

Dr. Larry Petton

commented on Jan 30, 2014

Bible reading is up at our church for once. I preached through the Bible last year - Genesis to Revelation - and challenged our people to read through the Bible with their Pastor. A huge number of people reached the goal, most for the first time. I rewarded them with a gift certificate to Chick-Fil-A!!

Nom De Plume

commented on Jan 30, 2014

How did you manage to preach through all 66 books of the Bible in one year?

Bill Williams

commented on Jan 30, 2014

We did something like that at our congregation a couple of years back. The way we did it was by preaching one book a week, and some books that were connected we combined, such as 1 Samuel-2 Kings or 1 and 2 Corinthians.

Alexander Shaw

commented on Jan 31, 2014

Do not - do not give up! I have just returned from our January Pastors gathering - 220 of us - teach your people - encourage your people to read the Word at home - encourage them to check what you are preaching and teaching as you do so - I am presently taking a group of people through the Bible in Ten Weeks (not our own dear people) and next week we reach ACTS.

Howard Turner

commented on Jan 31, 2014

I promised to preach each week using a passage the members had read that week. We used a typical read through the Bible in one year guide. No it doesn't allow you to "preach"the entire Bible in a year but it encouraged people to read knowing they would have just read the sermon text. Many as a result read the Bible completely through for the first time.

Jeff Glenn

commented on Jan 30, 2014

I challenge our people every week to get in and stay in God's word and not just on Sundays! But then I serve in an area overflowing with spiritual apathy. Most of our people don't bring a Bible to church anyway. And yes, I get overly excited when I preavh and hope someday it will rub off on them!

Alexander Shaw

commented on Jan 31, 2014

Do not - do not give up! I have just returned from our January Pastors gathering - 220 of us - teach your people - encourage your people to read the Word at home - encourage them to check what you are preaching and teaching as you do so - I am presently taking a group of people through the Bible in Ten Weeks (not our own dear people) and next week we reach ACTS. Seek not to become 'overly excited' - that may be the work and task and ministry of the Holy Spirit!

Tony Bland

commented on Jan 30, 2014

No way would he even think to suggest that? right???

Roger Steinbrueck

commented on Jan 30, 2014

My heart is heavy because I feel Bible reading is not even on the hearts and minds at our congregation. Even the older members are unaware and seem uninterested in the big story of the Bible. It is as if it is the pastor's job to read the Bible so that they don't have to. I feel I am mourning the death of Biblical literacy.

Alexander Shaw

commented on Jan 31, 2014

Do not - do not give up! I have just returned from our January Pastors gathering - 220 of us - teach your people - encourage your people to read the Word at home - encourage them to check what you are preaching and teaching as you do so - I am presently taking a group of people through the Bible in Ten Weeks (not our own dear people) and next week we reach ACTS.

Bill Williams

commented on Jan 30, 2014

You know, this is an interesting discussion in the light of yesterday's article. I've been wondering, when the typical congregation depends on only one person, and that same person week after week, preaching during the worship service; and when many pastors resist the idea of the other members of the Body of Christ contributing and participating in the worship service, is it really that surprising that most people don't read the Bible for themselves? I mean, what's the point of reading if you have someone telling you each week what the Bible says? On the other hand, maybe if those of us who are "lay members" were expected to contribute to the worship gathering, as 1 Corinthian 14 instructs, we would be more motivated to read the Bible for ourselves.

Tony Bland

commented on Jan 30, 2014

Good observation?and a good point regarding yesterday discourse. But let me say what happen in our church. Anyone who is a gift to the church participate is the service. Everyone who can and will teach does so during teaching time (Sunday school), the people that can sing well does so during singing time (through the morning worship), the door keeper, the deacons and deaconess, and other preachers will and does preach from time to time. There are other who makes the service what it is to be for example the sound persons, the computer people and clerks, but everyone is not apt to preach. Don?t be a foot asking to be a head (1 cor 12:1-31)

Bill Williams

commented on Jan 30, 2014

Thank you for sharing. You kind of left me hanging a bit yesterday. I put in a good amount of time and effort trying to present a brief summary of Paul's argument in 1 Corinthians 12-14 in support of my argument that open-participatory gatherings where all the members of the body of Christ share and contribute does not inhibit in any way unbelievers or "unsaved" from hearing the gospel, but on the contrary they are convicted by ALL (not by one) and fall on their faces and worship God. And instead of engaging with any of the biblical evidence I presented, you basically just blew me off. I don't know if maybe it was because you figured I'm just wrong, and I don't know what I'm talking about, and you didn't have time to waste on me; or maybe it was because you didn't have a biblical response to what I shared, but you didn't want to admit it. I don't know. But I hope you understand why I'm not too interested in getting too involved again in a conversation with someone who doesn't seem to be willing to engage in a serious discussion of this issue. Enjoy the rest of your evening, and may God bless your ministry.

Charles Ingwe

commented on Jan 31, 2014

With due respect to the so many contributions already made on this discussion, I only wish to add my voice by saying that there are so many reasons that have made the study of the word become less seriously taken by many chrisitians. It is important as well to all those that study the very word to be aware of prophetic times we are living in. Paul says towards the end the love of many shall wax cold. Love is a product of true word study, if it is waxing cold then we need to understand the prophetic stage we are getting into. When the word says many shall love self it implies self focus and selfishness always oppose the word of God. It is cardinal to take note of the fact that whilst it is bible for all believers to participate in worship service, in line with one's gift conviction, a christian ought to learn that bible study before anything else is food for the spirit. Whether you have the opportunity to prapare for others as well or not, you have to feed your soul or die. Meaning that pastor or just member, never study for the sake of participation only but because it is the word that gives life - John 6:63. The Berean brethren knew the supremacy of scripture such that they searched out matters to verify the preaching of Paul. They knew that the foundation of Godliness was firmly rooted in scripture such that it was fitting to call them noble, having an excellent moral character which for sure can only be attained by a people that have grown to known that the word of God forms character. Word study can never be attained mechanically but many of us have fallen from our first love.

Bill Williams

commented on Jan 31, 2014

Excellent point, and it goes well with a recent article, that what we feed on from Scripture must nourish us and transform us first, before we can share it with others!

Charles Ingwe

commented on Jan 31, 2014

With due respect to the so many contributions already made on this discussion, I only wish to add my voice by saying that there are so many reasons that have made the study of the word become less seriously taken by many chrisitians. It is important as well to all those that study the very word to be aware of prophetic times we are living in. Paul says towards the end the love of many shall wax cold. Love is a product of true word study, if it is waxing cold then we need to understand the prophetic stage we are getting into. When the word says many shall love self it implies self focus and selfishness always oppose the word of God. It is cardinal to take note of the fact that whilst it is bible for all believers to participate in worship service, in line with one's gift conviction, a christian ought to learn that bible study before anything else is food for the spirit. Whether you have the opportunity to prapare for others as well or not, you have to feed your soul or die. Meaning that pastor or just member, never study for the sake of participation only but because it is the word that gives life - John 6:63. The Berean brethren knew the supremacy of scripture such that they searched out matters to verify the preaching of Paul. They knew that the foundation of Godliness was firmly rooted in scripture such that it was fitting to call them noble, having an excellent moral character which for sure can only be attained by a people that have grown to known that the word of God forms character. Word study can never be attained mechanically but many of us have fallen from our first love.

Keith Warrington

commented on Jan 31, 2014

Interesting discussion and initial article. I (am based in the UK and last Autumn initiated a programme called Word and Spirit, within my denomination (Elim) to redeem the Bible which, all the data indicates, is being marginalised in the lives of believers and even churches today. The initial plan was to hold hubs throughout the UK for leaders to be re-inspired with regard to the Bible. So far, I have had to increase the hubs as so many leaders wish to participate - an encouraging sign, demonstrating a determination to make a difference. Dr Keith Warrington

Alexander Shaw

commented on Jan 31, 2014

Do not - do not give up! I have just returned from our January Pastors gathering - 220 of us - teach your people - encourage your people to read the Word at home - encourage them to check what you are preaching and teaching as you do so - I am presently taking a group of people through the Bible in Ten Weeks (not our own dear people) and next week we reach ACTS.

Pastor Jeff Hughes

commented on Jan 31, 2014

Excellent article, food for thought. Going to reprint and share with my congregation!

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