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The good and bad news from the recent Bible survey by the American Bible Society


Credit: Aaron Burden/Unsplash.com

In early April, the American Bible Society released its annual state of address on Bible reading in the US, and there were some concerning results.

Their survey of 2,598 Americans in January 2022, recorded an unprecedented drop in the number of people who read the Bible, a minimum of three to four times a year outside a Church or online service.

It found that only 39% of Americans said they read their Bible at least three to four times a year, compared to 50% in 2021.

This represented an 11% decrease between 2021 and 2022, the largest drop since the ABS started doing the survey 12 years ago.

Translated into real numbers, this means that 26 million Americans essentially stopped reading their Bible.

Since 2014, the number of Americans reading the Bible has consistently ranged between 48% to 51% reaching as high as 53% in 2014.

The ABS’s numbers also showed a “major decrease in Scripture Engagement,” which it describes as a consistent engagement with the Bible “that shapes people’s choices and transforms their relationships with God, self, and others.” ABS reports that this category saw numbers drop from 64 million in 2021 to 49 million in 2022

The survey also found that women (42%) were more likely to be Bible users than men (39%), but at 63%, Black men were the most likely of any ethnic group to be Bible users.

Now, some have questioned the accuracy of the survey. Since they only sample a small percentage of the population, there is always a margin of error, usually between 2% to 5%, that the survey could be wrong, and does not reflect the views of the larger population. However, we probably won’t know if it fell into that category until next year’s survey.

Declining church attendance

But the survey results are consistent with other data that shows church attendance has yet to return to pre-pandemic numbers.

Commenting on the lower church attendance in 2022, Sam Rainer, who serves as president of Church Answers, told Christian Post:

Almost every single church is now smaller. Part of the reason is what was left to cultural Christianity is now completely gone. So there is no longer a social benefit culturally to attend church. So with the death of cultural Christianity comes less people attending church who are there just because of some sort of social benefit.”

The good news

But in the midst of this, there was also some good news.

ABS’s survey found that among those who fell into the category of non-Bible readers, nearly 66% of them expressed some interest in the Bible, with one-third stating that they were “‘very’ or ‘extremely’ curious.”

So while we see declining numbers of regular Bible readers, interest among those who don’t read the Bible remains high.

In some ways, it reminds me of Gideon’s army, as God purposefully whittled down its size from 32,000 to 10,000 men when Gideon basically said anyone who doesn’t want to fight due to fear can leave:

The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ Now announce to the army, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained. (Judges 7:2-3 NIV).

Certainly, over the past few years, we have seen unprecedented attacks on the Christian faith and the Bible, and some individuals may have decided not to return to church as a result.

But, like Gideon, with interest in the Bible remaining high among non-readers, this pruning may be paving the way for a great victory.

READ: American Bible Society survey finds ‘unprecedented drop’ in Bible reading AND Surprising Ray of Light Amid Dire Statistics About Bible Reading Should Spark Believers’ Boldness AND Rumbling with Reality in 2022 (ABS survey) AND Church attendance stagnates amid return to in-person services: Pew

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