Americans feel good about the Bible. According to a 2017 LifeWay Research survey, more than half consider the Bible to be a good source for morals (52 percent), and about a third say the Bible is helpful (37 percent), true (36 percent) and life-changing (35 percent). Even more (81 percent) told the American Bible Society (ABS) and Barna Group that they believe the Bible is the actual or inspired word of God.
This ABS/Barna study also reveals that overall only about a third of Americans have read through all or almost all of the Bible, while 23 percent haven’t read more than a few sentences. When it comes to Americans who regularly attend church, a 2012 LifeWay Research survey reveals that less than half read the Bible more than once a week and one in five say that they never read it.
These statistics are reflected in a comment by Brian Ross, faculty member at Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary, in the question and answer article, Bible Reading 101, about studying the Bible that is included in the July/Aug issue. “So few people give attention to serious biblical study, I am more than thrilled if anyone simply spends time reading any translation of the Bible,” Ross says in response to a question about Bible translations.
For Mennonite Brethren, the Bible has historically been our primary authority for matters of faith and life. “As a biblical people, we commit to resolving questions about God and how we are to live by asking, ‘What does the Bible say?’ and ‘How do we apply Scripture so that it guides how we live in today’s world?’” is how the U.S. Board of Faith and Life pamphlet, “What We Believe,” describes this commitment to the Word of God.
I am pleased to be part of a family of faith that strives to make decisions about everyday life on the basis of what the Bible says. But if Mennonite Brethren follow the trend of American Christians, many of us are not regularly or thoroughly reading the Bible and that will make it difficult for us to be guided by God’s Word as individuals and congregations. Our challenge is simple: We need to read our Bibles. My hope is that the articles in this issue (July/Aug 2018) will encourage you to do just that.