Daily Bible Study

In his study of Christian teenagers, Mike Nappa, The Jesus Survey, probed belief in daily Bible reading and practices of daily Bible reading. It has been said that evangelicals have a problem with bibliolatry, and it can be seen at times (belief that the Bible is God, or something far too close), but there’s another approach here: if the Bible is God’s Word, if God has worked specially so that in the Bible we have revelation from God, then Christians ought to be reading the Bible, listening to God, and acting upon what God says.

How much Bible study do you seem among teenagers at your church? Do you think parents differ much from teenagers in the numbers below?

So asking the Bible question is a good question when asking teenagers about their faith and practices. So Nappa’s statements are “Followers of Jesus should study the Bible daily” and “I study the Bible daily.” Pretty simple. The word “daily” complicates things, though. Every day, forever and ever? Imagine making those statements to a 14 yr old.

1. 31% strongly agree while 42% somewhat agree. (I’m convinced “somewhat” is about as positive as many teens can be!) 21% somewhat disagree and 5% strongly disagree.

2. Correlation: Unshakeables are 63%, Uncertains are at 22%, Unsettleds at 17% and Unbelieving at 4%.

3. Here is the big one: 5% read the Bible daily; 27% somewhat agree; 32% somewhat disagree; 35% strongly disagree. In other words, Yes, read the Bible daily but it’s hard to do. This number is on a slight decline from about 20 years ago — in a different study on a different group (so not sure how reliable the comparison is).

4. His Confident Christian group is at 19%.

 

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://bibliocentric.com/ Josh Mann

    I don’t think parents differ at all. I think that they walk the path we made for them.

    Josh Mann

  • Keaton

    While I agree that “Bibliolatry” is a very real concern among some evangelical circles, I would be hard pressed to advise someone to read their Bibles less. With that said, my concern would be the root of where these teens get their views on how often to read. Are they being strongly encouraged to by parents, does their church guilt trip them, are they saying what they think people want to hear, etc.. This is important because it would show us the trajectory in which their views will go as they gain independence. If we are force-feeding them concepts which they are too young to appreciate or desire on their own, they are more likely to have more adverse views towards them later on down the road. The best way forward seems to be taking a very intentional and endearing approach in the way in which we present views of studying scripture to the youth, while also giving them the liberty to explore the Bible in a way that lets them gain their independence from said approaches. Yes, there will be more trial and error and messiness on their part. However, the youth will either learn to love the scriptures on their own or decide the gospel isn’t good news for them. Either way, it’s more authentic, and would give us a better perspective on studies like this.

  • Mark Pike

    It is also hard for me to advise someone to read the Bible less. The constraint of daily reading though can be a problem. Too often the noble goal of daily reading leads to a check box mentality. The goal should be listening to God for direction, wisdom and truth. In my work with university students I am less concerned about daily Bible reading and more concerned about listening to God’s word rather than their own personal agenda.

  • Brad VW

    Lots of people will of course say ‘Bible study’ is important, but when it comes from some I think what is meant is the study of lots of Bible facts. There seems to be a belief that if youth pastors etc. just taught more ‘solid’ or ‘deep’ Bible study then it would lead to stronger youth. The big question, and the reason I put the words in quotes, is what do we mean by ‘solid’ and ‘deep’? We can try and teach youth, who are increasingly from broken and challenging homes, the meat of Scripture, but what if they are so distracted by the life they are in that they don’t know they are hungry? I know that there is pressure from prior generations to give the youth many ‘trees’ of truth, but I believe many youth leaders are just trying to welcome them into the ‘forrest’.

  • http://www.davidsnet.ws/Biblical Peter Davids

    I would, of course, prefer that someone read a paragraph of the Bible once in a while and really make it a part of their life practice, than read a chapter daily and it not make a difference in their life. That being said, I think that Bible study is as much caught as taught, and it catches best from people who live the Bible.

    When I was growing up and through at least my early teen years, it did not matter whether I had personal Bible study – the family read the Bible around the table after supper. My parents led us into the Bible, my father at time commenting. I also know that both of them read the Bible personally. So it became natural for me to do so – it was a sign of growing up, so to speak, and it was something that I turned to when in hard times. I also knew that my parents tried to live their lives by the Bible – the church was their priority, they gave generously, they loved all God’s people, including those in other denominations, they did not recognize the racial barrier in the segregated South we lived in, etc. It was not that verses were quoted all of the time, but I could see a congruence, and, when appropriate, my father might quote a verse to indicate why he took a certain point of view. Now we were far from a perfect family. I had my hangups and my parents had theirs. There was significant psychiatric problems that were never talked about. There are good reasons that I was a psychology major in my undergraduate years. But still despite pain at times, there was a consistent example, and consistent living.

    This is one family. This is not a formula. This is not a guarantee. But this is how it was for me. I suspect that the chances of having Bible-readaing children increase if one does in fact lead them into a practice of reading that is meaningful for one and actually directs one’s life. I am not sure that my wife and I did as well, perhaps because we had too many church activities and our children were more involved in after-school and evening activities. I think we did OK, and I am not dissatisfied with the results, but I think that my parents did better.

  • TimHeebner

    Scot, What resources can you recommend to support why we should continue calling the Bible “the word of God?” I’m struggling with that title because it seems that’s why so many people go down the path of bibliolatry. If your beginning frame of mind for the Bible is “God’s Word,” a term equal to Jesus Christ – the Word himself, then the Bible IS something to be worshiped and used as a handbook and reference guide – there’s no room for Christian Smith’s or Pete Enns’ perspective of how to properly read the Bible.

    I have no problem calling the Bible inspired, but at this point, I’m uncomfortable calling it the Word of God.

  • scotmcknight

    Tim, I see your response to how things are said or to a context and not to the language. Paul calls the Old Testament the “oracles” of God and that’s pretty close to Word of God. More importantly, the prophets spoke the word of God and the most common element of this is that God speaks and God’s people is to listen. So there are good reasons to maintain our speech of the Bible as Word of God. And calling it Word has never made it equal to Jesus, the Word, because the Bible as Word is the verbal witness to that one Word.


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