What does a mature disciple of Christ look like? Over the past decade Lifeway Research has delved into this with thousands of pastors and church leaders. Culling through the data, we discovered that strong discipleship ministries and practices could be put in eight categories. We call these eight categories the signposts along the discipleship pathway. One sign of growing disciples is that they regularly engage with Scripture.
I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir here, but any who wants to grow in Christ needs to engage with His Word: reading, studying, and so forth. That’s obvious, right? After all, the bulk of most churches’ weekly schedule is worship services where the Word of God is proclaimed and Bible study groups where the Bible is studied and discussed.
The centrality and importance of Scripture in the life of churches and believers may be clear, but that does not translate into practice. The research that led us to see the importance of the Bible in the life of a maturing disciple also showed us that too few believers are actually engaging with Scripture as they should. When asked how often they read the Bible—not as part of a church worship service—19 percent said “every day,” 26 percent said “a few times a week,” 14 percent said “once a week,” 22 percent said “once a month” or “a few times a month,” and 18 percent said “rarely/never.”
Simply reading the Bible does not equate discipleship, (althuogh it’s a good starting point). Yet 40 percent of believers are not even reading it once a week. For a person to become a maturing disciple, he must regularly and consistently get his nose in God’s Word.
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Paul told us why we should engage with Scripture: it’s God’s Word to us! That’s reason enough, but Paul also pointed out how the Word benefits us.
The Word of God teaches. Through the pages of Scripture, God has revealed Himself. We see what He is like and how He has worked throughout history. We see His purpose and plans for us. As God reveals who He is, we also see ourselves: both our sinful fallen state and who we can be through Jesus Christ.
The Word of God rebukes. Because Scripture reveals God’s law, commands, and will for our lives, it also reveals our sin and rebukes us. The Holy Spirit uses Scripture to convict us.
The Word of God corrects. The purpose of the Spirit’s convicting work is to bring us back to Him. Scripture reviews God’s plan of salvation that corrects the course we’re on and brings us into a relationship with Him. God’s Word continues to correct us as believers when we stumble and sin. It puts us back on the right path and helps us stay there.
The Word of God trains us in righteousness. God’s Word does more than just correct us; it helps us move forward and grow to become more and more like Christ.
Engaging with Scripture means allowing God’s Word to work in our lives in these four ways. Maturing believers don’t just read it to know what it says; they seek to let it change them. To live by the truth and precepts of Scripture is to increasing become more like Christ.
Ways the Church Can Foster Believers Who Engage with Scripture.
- Preach the Word. Go deep. Don’t just read a passage and then get on with a sermon that never refers back to the passage! Lead the congregation to engage fully with the passage, seeing both its context and connection to their lives.
- Promote Bible study. Whether you call it small groups, life groups, Sunday School, or That Thing We Do Before Worship, challenge every person to get involved in a group. In a smaller setting (6-15 people), people can study and discuss the Word. They can raise questions. They can encourage each other and challenge each other to learn and apply God’s Word.
Mention the value of Bible study groups frequently. Call attention to those who facilitate groups. Challenge group leaders and members to invite these not involved to join their group.
- Provide resources. Encourage people to spent time in the Word everyday by providing devotional guides and books. Invest in devotional guides like Open Windows, Stand Firm (for men), or Journey (for women). DevoHub offers a great online, access-from-anywhere approach.
We’d love to hear from you. What are some ways your church is helping believers engage with Scripture?