Startling, Definitive Research – Spiritual Growth & Victory Over Sin
Last week I attended a presentation by Arnie Cole, CEO of Back to the Bible and the Center for Bible Engagement, on a major piece of research conducted across Australia (and the USA). The research set out to discover what, if anything, of all the things we do as an expression of our Christian faith (going to church, worshipping, praying, listening to sermons, attending home groups … apparently they came up with a list of 150 things!) has a positive impact on our spiritual growth.
Not a bad question. Would it surprise you to know that of all those things we do, only one made a measurable and dramatic difference? That’s right, just one!
So, how did they define spiritual growth? Here’s it is:
Growing closer to Jesus, as evidenced by clear changes in our behaviour and in our lives.
Now when you stop and think about it, that’s not bad. It may be written in researchers’ parlance, but actually growing spiritually is about growing up in Christ, maturing – and the evidence of that, according to the Bible, is a change in how we think and behave.
So, being the creative little things that they are, the researchers chose the 22 most common sins in our lives. Anger, sexual immorality, gossip … 22 of them. And they looked for a correlation between the 150 things we do in expression of our Christian faith, and a reduction in sin – that being the tangible evidence of a transformed life.
Well, they were both startling and definitive. After a comprehensive analysis of the responses of a few thousand people (a statistically valid sample across age groups and other demographic factors), this is what they found:
Here are the numbers:
Now I wanted to give it to you live, so my apologies that it’s a little blurry. The left hand group shows those Australians who identify as Christian. The one second from the left are those who, in addition, attend church at least once a month. (The two right hand groups are the US results).
The reddish bar represents those who don’t read their Bibles at all. The orange bar, read their Bible 1 to 3 days a week. And the green bar, read their Bible four days a week or more.
So, looking at Australians who attend church regularly (the group second from the left) 21% or one fifth, don’t read their Bibles at all. 47% (almost half) read their Bibles 1 to 3 days a week. And only 33% (one third) read their Bibles 4 days a week or more – those being the only ones who exhibit evidence of a transformed life.
Now, just in case you’re thinking, hang on, is there really such a close link between spiritual growth (evidenced by a reduction in sin) and reading your Bible 4 times a week or more, here’s what Arnie said:
So is anyone saying we should stop doing all those other things – going to church, worshipping God, listening to sermons, praying … ? No. Not at all!
But you can’t help but wonder … how different our lives would be, how different our churches would be, how different our world would be, if those of us who call ourselves by His Name – Christians – took the Word of God at least as seriously as say … email or Facebook. Hmm?