by Mathew Block
CANADA – “The majority of Canadians, including those who identify themselves as Christians, read the Bible either seldom or never.” That’s one of the grim conclusions drawn by the Canadian Bible Engagement Study (CBES), a study conducted by Angus Reid Forum and sponsored by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and the Canadian Bible Forum.
As of 2013, only 14 percent of Canadians read the Bible at least once a month. That’s half the percentage of the population (28 percent) who read the Bible monthly back in 1996. These numbers come despite the fact that, as of 2011, 67% of Canadians identified as Christian, according to Statistics Canada. That number is itself down from 77 percent in 2001.
The relationship between the decline in regular Bible-reading and the number of Canadians who identify as Christian cannot be ignored. The decline in confidence in Scripture as the Word of God is mirrored by a decline in active participation in churches. The CBES found only 18 percent of Canadians strongly agree that the Bible is the Word of God. Consequently, only 13 percent of Canadians agree that the Bible is relevant to modern life. What is worse, the numbers are staggeringly low among Christians as well—only 23% of Christians believe the Bible is relevant to modern life.
By contrast, those who still hold a high view of Scripture are far more likely to be active Christians. Those who strongly agreed that the Bible is the Word of God were ten times more likely to read the Bible at least a few times a week than those who only moderately agreed. The same group is six times more likely to attend weekly religious services than those who moderately agreed the Bible is the Word of God.
Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) has in recent years been encouraging its members to engage more deeply in Scripture-reading. For its 2011 convention, LCC chose as its theme “In Your Light, We See light” (Psalm 36:9). Reflecting on that theme, President Bugbee noted over the last triennium that there has been a “strong synodical emphasis on biblical literacy, a crying need in our midst.” “Instead of repeating statements about the Bible’s authority and inerrancy,” he continued, “stress has been placed on the constant use of the Word.”
The emphasis has seen revitalized Bible-reading in a number of areas, with large groups of Lutherans across the country committing themselves to daily Bible reading. And 2014’s convention theme—“Come to Him who answers prayer” (Psalm 65:2)—is meant to build on the past triennium’s work. “I’m persuaded that stressing prayer and a devotional life could be a healthy way to build on the 2011 theme,” President Bugbee explained. “Studying the Word without prayer can become a barren exercise. On the other hand, even an active prayer life not rooted in the Word will go off the mark.”
Studying the Word without prayer can become a barren exercise. On the other hand, even an active prayer life not rooted in the Word will go off the mark.
LCC’s emphasis on Scripture-reading was also seen at 2011′s national convention when synod established a taskforce “to provide materials to pastors and congregations of Lutheran Church–Canada that will address key needs in the area of Christian Discipleship.” That taskforce now has completed its report for the 2014 convention (available in the 2014 Convention Workbook). The Discipleship Taskforce has also established an initial website with resources for strengthening discipleship among Canadian Lutherans. Their conclusion? “Discipleship starts with immersing ourselves in the Word of God.” Visit the website at www.growintheword.ca.
Mathew Block is editor of The Canadian Lutheran.