A few years ago Bill Hybels, pastor of the influential Willow Creek church in Chicago, drew the attention of many of us to “Reveal” (summarised here), some research a team of his had done on what helps church members to find and grow in faith. (Articles like this one have also pointed out some ambiguity in the conclusions). The study showed that attending services, hearing sermons and joining study groups does indeed help people, especially in the exploring or early stages of faith. They also found that one thing that helps people grow closer to Christ across all stages of faith is the daily habit of Bible reading.
Of course noone is saying “read the Bible and you will become a better person” or “Read the Bible and God will love you more”. We are a people saved by grace alone through faith alone (John 6:28-29, Ephesians 2:8, etc) (Article 11 of the 39 Articles of the Church of England). This is not a project of salvation by works, even the “good work” of Bible reading. But it is a recognition of the simple truth familiar to the strongest Christians going back centuries, that deep people and deep faith are grown not by the radical things we do and spectacular events that we attend, but by the ordinary habit of daily Bible reading and prayer.
(This post was recently published on the website of Christ Church Cockfosters and introduced a blog series on the doctrine, inspiration and value of Scripture, interacting with Kevin De Young’s book “Taking God at His Word”, which can also be found there).