The Barna Group and the American Bible Society have published their State of the Bible 2020 report. For the first time in ten years the percentage of adults who say they read their Bible daily dropped 5 percent, from 14 percent to 9 percent.
This decline in “Bible engagement” began around the time that social distancing polices began to be implemented to address the concerns raised by the COVID-19 pandemic. It seems the lack of interaction with their spiritual community has resulted in a reduction of reading the Scriptures with the exception of those who have lost loved ones to the pandemic; there has been an increase in biblical engagement with the bereaved.
American Bible Society’s director of ministry intelligence John Farquhar Plake concluded, “This study supports the idea that the church plays a significant role in benefiting people’s wellbeing and Scripture engagement. To increase Scripture engagement, we must increase relational connections with one another through church. The pandemic, and now this survey, have shown that when relational church engagement goes up, so does Scripture engagement, but when it goes down, Scripture engagement drops with it.”
Professor of biblical spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Donald Whitney said, “You can’t download a hug.” Loss of encouragement from “physical presence” with our spiritual family “can diminish our engagement in the spiritual disciplines because when we are together, we’re encouraged to stay faithful to the things of God.”
I will never be one who downplays the importance of Christian fellowship and the support that flows from meeting with my brothers and sisters in congregational worship. But it seems what has been lost in this equation is the one relationship that unites us and brings us together, Father God.
When we gather as a church and unite our hearts to praise and worship the One who has provided us with hope and peace in the middle of this chaotic time, I am reminded that He is the one who made all our relationships possible. We have a relationship with the God of the universe and it is that relationship that makes it possible for us in the church to have a relationship with one another.
Paul enjoined us to, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth,” 2 Timothy 2:15.
The Bible is a reliable guide teaching us and maturing us in our relationship with God who is always with us. I can look to Him for the comfort and support of His presence even when I am separated from the fellowship of my brothers and sisters. And that comfort and support is revealed in the Scriptures.
It is the Scriptures that nurture and strengthen our relationship with Father God and make our relationship with fellow believers more meaningful.
I think it is unwise to forsake the Word of the One who has not forsaken me.