Maaike Anderson’s Hindu neighbours Harry and Colly were in crisis: their six-year-old son had terminal cancer. Maaike offered to look after their two-year-old girl so Harry could visit Ronnie at Toronto’s Sick Kids hospital where Colly was staying around the clock. To encourage Colly, Maaike gave Harry some Scripture verses to pass on to her.
The Bible contains Living Water for both Christians and those who don’t yet know Christ. But it seems the church in Canada neglects to drink from God’s Truth.
Most Christians don’t read the Bible
Considering the steep decline in church attendance in our nation since 1996, I wasn’t shocked to learn that the majority of Canadians seldom or never read the Bible. The Canadian Bible Forum and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada detailed this in a 2013 survey of Scripture reading and Bible-engagement patterns of 4,500 Canadians.
What surprised me is that only 14 percent of Christians report reading their Bibles at least once per week – down from 27 percent in 1996.
Evangelicals do account for 43 percent of all regular Scripture readers – but there’s still less than half of us reading the Good Book weekly.
Why people don’t read Scripture
Stunned, I delved deeper into the study and discovered what prevents people from reading the Bible. Those who believe the Bible is divinely inspired are 10 times more likely to read it regularly. Unfortunately, only 18 percent of Christians consider the collection of Old and New Testament books (written over some 1,400 years) to be God’s Word.
Why people do
To get individual perspectives on the issue of Bible reading, I spoke with two friends from Glencairn Church who are passionate about God and actively on mission with him.
Twenty-six-year-old Jacob Chandler, an MB Mission staff member, finds daily value in engaging with the Bible. “It wasn’t really until I went to university that I started reading Scripture more and that it became real to me,” he says. He finds memorizing large chunks of God’s Word transformational.
A nurse now in her early 60s, Maaike says though she went to Sunday school and church as a child, the fact that the Bible is God’s Word didn’t hit home for her until she was in her mid-20s.
While receiving medical treatment for depression, Maaike realized she needed to replace the misery-producing lies she told herself with truths from the Bible. “Even though I knew the Bible stories, I needed a reminder of God’s truth daily.”
My own battles with mental illness have led me to read and memorize Scripture to stave off the piranhas of anxiety. There is nothing like the double-edged sword of God’s Word to slice through depressed and anxious thoughts that threaten to overwhelm.
Sharing a sip of Living Water
Jacob also talks to others about the Bible, including neighbours in his impoverished Kitchener, Ont., community.
“If you are reading Scripture daily and someone asks about God, it’s not hard to recite what you read early in the morning and how it impacted you. That’s how I like to treat evangelism.” Instead of delivering an elevator speech, Jacob passes the garden hose and offers fresh insight from God’s Word.
As Maaike learned, the Bible brings hope to those who don’t know Christ.
Maaike and her husband Dave had also recommended that Harry read the book of John. Harry was comforted by the John 9 story about the man born blind. According to Hindu teachings, if a child has cancer, the parents or child are somehow at fault. Yet, Jesus says that neither the blind man nor his parents had sinned.
God revealed his love to Harry and Colly through the Bible and his people. “It was through their son dying that they became Christians – really through God’s Word,” says Maaike.
Turning on the tap
Jesus wants to fill our minds with his thoughts and our hearts with hope. But he can’t do that unless we open our mouths wide and drink from his Word. When our own thirst is assuaged, we can share the garden hose of Truth with others in times of need.
Have you turned on the tap lately?
—Sandra Reimer lives in Kitchener, Ont., where she reluctantly grows a backyard garden but joyfully drinks from God’s garden hose of Truth. She is a member of Glencairn Church.
Bible Engagement Study highlights
The three factors found to have the greatest positive impact on a person’s engagement with the Bible include:
- Confidence that the Scriptures are divinely inspired,
- Conversations about the Bible outside of worship services,
- Belonging to a community of believers.
- Only 14% of Canadian Christians read their Bibles at least once per week
- Evangelicals account for 43% of all regular Scripture readers
- 69% of Canadians and 50% of Christians believe the Bible contains irreconcilable differences
- 64% of Canadians and 60% of Christians believe that the sacred texts of all major religions teach the same principles
Download the study, Bible apps, ebooks, study guides and Bible engagement assessments for free at www.bibleengagementstudy.ca