For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
What is a post entitled “Four Times” about? Four times what? What’s the significance? Well, it comes from the question: Are you going to go with life, or grow with life? With three score and twelve years under my belt, I can candidly say that life is not linear. It has twists and turns that are unexpected, and often we feel like we are being carried along by the winds and storms of life. How do we remain anchored or grounded when we feel blown here and there by those winds? The answer, of course, is Four Times, as you will learn below. Read on!
In a post last April, I wrote “Charge It” which provided the analogy of charging our spiritual life as often as we charge our mobile phones. We know that a cellphone that loses its battery doesn’t work, and it’s similar in the spiritual life. We need a regular charge to our spiritual life in order for it to operate. I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to do a daily bible study. My professional life for 45 years as a lawyer often had me on deadlines that precluded normal routines such as doing a devotional every day. Much as I tried, and as disciplined as I’ve become, I still find it hard and so I’ve stopped beating myself up over my failure. I must admit, though, it’s easier than ever because I have apps on my phone that permit to do a bible study on the run, but still there are days when it just doesn’t get done.
Last weekend, I attended a North American gathering with our Canadian counterpart, MentorLink Canada in Toronto, Ontario. I’ve found that from every conference I’ve ever attended – whether professional or otherwise – I always end up with a “takeaway” – some idea or principle that I latched onto that I captivated me or I thought was important to remember. This conference was no different. Marvin Brubacher, the head of MLI Canada, and I had a discussion in which he alluded to a study done by Back to the Bible, an Nebraska-based parachurch organization dedicated to encouraging Christians to learn and study the Bible. After the conference, I emailed Marvin requesting the link to the study, and he sent it to and it’s available on www.gotandem.com. The study involved interviewing over 100,000 people in 20 countries over a period of 7 years. They crunched the answers from the interview to distill the results to come up with what was the key to personal growth spiritually?
Marvin emailed me to let me know that goTandem research went on to reveal that 60% of evangelical Christians read their Bible 0-1x per week; 20% read it 2-3x per week; and only 20% read it 4x per week or more. Marvin concludes: “No wonder our lives, our marriages, our families, our churches are in trouble or not vibrant.” I agree with him.
The key from the study: People who are “engaged” in reading the bible at least four times or more a week were growing spiritually. Every other factor was not relevant, including church attendance, involvement in a small group, tithing, or even being involved with a Christian band. This was a quantitative analysis – just the number of times of being engaged with the bible was important. The qualitative measure – how much you read it or what you read was not significant. What was important, and the only thing that was important, was whether you read your bible four times or more a week. If you did, you were spiritually growing and had a vibrant relationship with Jesus. If you read it less than four, well, let’s just say you’re not growing spiritually.
When I wrote “Charge It”, I didn’t know about this study, nor its conclusions. It surprised me that one could come up with a clear benchmark or standard to aim for. Consistent with Marvin’s email, a 2012 study identified as the Transformational Assessment by Lifeway research, only 19% of Christians who go to Church read the bible on a daily basis. “While it may be possible to become a “better person” by attending church, it is not true of spiritual growth. New life in Christ, the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, and regular Bible engagement is evident in the lives of growing believers.” The bottom line here is that if you want to be growing with life, you need to be engaged with the bible at least four times a week. Doing a bible study four times a week is an achievable goal. You don’t have to be perfect and do it every day. Just four times a week. That’s really just every other day. If you do that minimum, chances are you are growing with life, not just going along as the wind blows.
The Lifeway study identified six different factors that influenced an increased Bible engagement, including reading other books about increasing spiritual growth, praying for unbelievers, confession for their wrongdoings and asking forgiveness. The sixth factor didn’t surprise me: “[Being] discipled or mentored one-on-one by a more spiritually mature Christian.” There it is again: the power of the other in your life can be a key to spiritual growth (among other benefits).
The challenge here is personal – are you biblically engaged at least four times a week? Secondly, and just as important, if that has characterized your walk, are you mentoring others in their walk and encouraging them to meet this same benchmark? Four times a week is not a huge target and well within the grasp of everyone. It’s a minimum, but the research says it’s the minimum that matters for spiritual growth. If you’ve struggled with daily bible study, then relax your goal and aim for four times a week. It’s an easier goal to attain if you are serious of wanting to grow with life, not just go with life.
FURTHER STUDY: For a video of result of the Walk Through the Bible Study, go to www.gotandem.com and watch a 4-minute video. Go to Resources, and click down to the second option with a white board video on being engaged in the bible.
Research in 2012 showing less than 20% of church goers read the bible daily: http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2012/september/new-research-less-than-20-of-churchgoers-read-bible-daily.html
For a similar study where only 20% of church goers indicate that they think about biblical truths through the day: http://www.lifeway.com/Article/research-survey-bible-engagement-churchgoers?carid=jhowe-stetzer-bible-20120913
NEED HELP WITH DAILY STUDY? You can download the YouVersion bible app which has a daily study: https://www.youversion.com. YouVersion has 180 million users and is the most popular bible app. If you google “daily devotionals” you can chose one which will land in your email every day. One I suggest is by Boyd Bailey called Wisdom Hunters which you can get at http://www.wisdomhunters.com which also has an app or you can sign up for a daily email. Anne Graham Lotz does a devotional which you can subscribe to at http://www.annegrahamlotz.org/category/messages-from-gods-word/joy-of-my-heart/
WORSHIP: Listen to Christ Tomlin sing Jesus where the lyrics say “There is a voice that calms the storms that rages, Jesus.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEbQswNB6Wc
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