Devotional Lab Rats
My friends at the Center for Bible Engagement (CBE) have researched how the Bible affects personal behavior. They call their key finding "scientific evidence for the power of 4." The bottom line is that reading or listening to the Bible four or more times per week leads to positive moral choices. More so than church attendance, or even prayer. That's significant.There’s only one problem: the research may tempt us to overlook the most important part of Bible engagement.
The CBE’s study isolates the frequency of a person’s engagement with the Bible; the goal, as stated in their conclusion, is “four scriptural touches a week.” But is frequency alone what makes the difference?
What if a study found “scientific evidence” that kissing one’s spouse four or more times per week produced a good marriage? I’d get right on it! Every Monday morning, first thing, I’d give Carol four pecks on the cheek, plus one extra for good measure. Bingo! I’d have a good marriage, right? I guarantee you, Carol wouldn’t think so.
What makes kissing significant is not just “the number of touches.” It’s also the nature of those touches and the quality of the relationship behind them. That’s the perspective we need to hold in balance with the “4 or more” finding.
The CBE has done the church a great service in researching what faithful believers have known for centuries: regular Bible reading makes a big difference. But let’s be careful not to respond by reducing Bible engagement to frequency alone, otherwise we may increase the number of devotional lab rats in the church, but decrease the number who meet God every day in his Word. And ultimately, that’s the most important goal.