By Aaron Earls
Emerging from the pandemic, more Americans say they are reading the Bible, but few consistently engage with God’s Word on a regular basis.
The latest State of the Bible report from the American Bible Society finds that 181 million Americans opened a Bible in the past year—up 7.1% from the previous year.The latest State of the Bible report from the American Bible Society finds 181 million Americans opened a Bible in the past year—up 7.1% from the previous year. Click To Tweet
When thinking about their own usage, 24% of Americans say their Bible reading has increased this year compared to last. Around 2 in 3 (63%) say it has stayed the same, while 9% say it has decreased.
In January 2020, 48% of Americans were considered Bible users by the American Bible Society—the lowest percentage in the 10 years of the study. That number rebounded, however, in January 2021 as 50% or 128 million Americans are Bible users this year—the highest percentage in four years and the most in raw numbers since 2014.
In a 2016 Lifeway Research study, 20% of Americans say they have personally read the entire Bible at least once. More than half (53%), however, have read nothing from the Bible other than some passages or stories, including 13% who’ve only read a few sentences and 10% who have read none of it.
The COVID-19 pandemic may have forced many away from physically gathering in church, but Americans seem to have picked up their Bibles as they socially distanced. The percentage who say they never use the Bible fell from 35% in January 2019 to 31% in the summer of 2020, according to the American Bible Society. The percentage has continued to drop into 2021. Now, 29% of Americans say they never use the Bible—the lowest percentage since 2016.The percentage of Americans who say they never use the Bible fell from 35% in January 2019 to 29% in 2021, according to the American Bible Society. Click To Tweet
Even as fewer Americans are avoiding the Bible completely, not enough are reading it on a regular basis. Around 1 in 10 (11%) say they read it daily, and another 5% say they read it four to six days a week.
That combined 1 in 6 Americans who read Scripture at least four times a week is an important number. Extensive research of the impact of Bible reading shows that is the amount necessary to see significant life change. People who engage with Scripture one to three days a week demonstrate the same effect on the personal lives as those who don’t engage with it at all. Those who read the Bible four days a week or more, however, see radical, life-altering effects.
Unfortunately, even among churchgoers regular Bible reading is not common enough. Close to a third (32%) of U.S. Protestant churchgoers say they read the Bible every day, according to a 2019 Lifeway Research study. Including the 27% who say they read it a few times a week, fewer than 3 in 5 churchgoers read the Bible more than once a week. A full 12% say they rarely or never read the Bible.Even among Protestant churchgoers, only 32% say they read the Bible every day, according to a 2019 Lifeway Research study. Click To Tweet
That may be because they are struggling to understand it on their own. More than half of Protestant churchgoers (57%) say they find it challenging to make sense of the Bible when they read it on their own, according to another 2019 Lifeway Research study.
Post-pandemic, more Americans are at least opening their Bibles. It’s up to churches to encourage them to regularly spend time in it and participate in Bible studies and other activities that can help them better understand what they are reading.
Aaron Earls is senior writer/editor of LifewayResearch.com.