By Aaron Earls
A standing-room-only crowd gathered for a discussion about the essential role of Bible reading in the process of discipleship during the LifeWay Christian Resources breakfast held in conjunction with the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.
The event, titled "Discipleship Through the Word," began with Christian music artists Keith and Kristyn Getty leading the audience in worship, including their classic modern hymn "In Christ Alone."
More than 1,100 registered for the breakfast, where attendees received free resources including a copy of the new Christian Standard Bible (CSB) Study Bible.
LifeWay President and CEO Thom S. Rainer spoke of how engagement with Scripture affects numerous aspects of church life. "The statistical reality is that those who are in God's Word are more likely to give and be faithful with their finances," he said.
Daily Bible reading also increases the likelihood for evangelism, Rainer said. "Our denomination doesn't have an evangelism problem; we have an individual obedience problem," he said. "It's when I'm in the Word of God on a daily basis that I'm reminded I need to share the Gospel on a regular basis."
He shared a personal example of reading biblical commands for evangelism and then intentionally seeking out non-Christians through his normal routine of getting a haircut.
"I received a text this week from my son Jess, who is also my pastor," Rainer said. "He said my hair stylist had attended our church, came under conviction of the Holy Spirit, received Christ and wants to be baptized."
Rainer also talked about how the impact of Scripture is felt in participation in small groups. "Someone who joins a group is five times more likely to be involved in your church five years later than someone who only attends worship services," Rainer said.
"Why? Because what happens in groups is people hear the Word of God, study the Word of God and obey the Word of God."
Daniel Im, director of church multiplication at LifeWay, asked attendees, "How do we know when someone is a mature Christian?"
According to the Transformational Discipleship study from LifeWay Research, Im said, eight attributes indicate when someone is maturing in Christ: Bible engagement, obeying God and denying self, serving God and others, sharing Christ, exercising faith, seeking God, building relationship and transparency.
"The more frequently an individual reads their Bible on a consistent basis, the more they would seize the attributes of discipleship in their life," Im said. "The more you help the people in your church read their Bible, the more the eight attributes would be manifest in their lives."
Michael Kelley, director of discipleship at LifeWay, offered attendees three principles to help churches encourage their members to read the Bible. He talked about the significance of a Bible-reading routine. He also stressed the value of studying the Bible in groups and constantly returning to simple obedience to Scripture.
Trevin Wax, Bible and reference publisher at LifeWay, concluded the breakfast by describing the newly revised Christian Standard Bible translation and highlighting research that found the CSB achieves an optimal blend of readability and accuracy to the original text.
Church leaders were encouraged to stress the importance of Bible reading to their members.
"If I could change one thing about my time as a pastor," Rainer said, "I would exhort every person in my church to be in the Word of God every day."