The COVID-19 pandemic has affected how Americans read their Bible. A new study shows that the number of adults who read scripture is declining drastically, but it also reveals a great opportunity for local churches to reach more to people who are curious about the Bible.
A newly released annual survey by the American Bible Society says daily Bible reading has dropped from 14 percent to 9 percent. It is a clear indication of the relationship between in-person church attendance and scripture engagement, according to the society.
"Faith communities have demonstrated incredible resilience, innovation, and empathy through the pandemic. But this survey reveals that a big opportunity still remains for Christian organizations to make an impact on Scripture engagement," said American Bible Society president and CEO, Robert Briggs.
"Despite nearly every individual in the U.S. having access to the Bible, engagement has decreased. That's been a consistent trend over the past few years, and the trend has accelerated since January 2020 throughout the pandemic. The Church must transition from 'survival' mode back into 'discipleship' mode, and, yes, that's going to take even more innovation."
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The 10th "State of the Bible" survey also reveals 47 percent of people say the pandemic has strengthened their faith, while 38 percent of people felt the pandemic has had a negative impact on their ability to worship God.
"This study supports the idea that the Church plays a significant role in benefiting people's wellbeing and Scripture engagement," said Dr. John Farquhar Plake, director of Ministry Intelligence at American Bible Society.
"To increase Scripture engagement, we must increase relational connections with one another through the Church," he said. "The pandemic – and now this survey – have shown that when relational church engagement goes up, so does Scripture engagement, but when it goes down, Scripture engagement drops with it. In other words, it's probably the relationships people have with one another through Church that really make the difference."
But the report also showed a huge opportunity for churches around the country to reach more people. The study shows 67.8% of American adults or about 172 million adults are 'Bible curious,' meaning they want to learn more about Scripture. Additionally, the data showed that in June 2020 more Americans were exploring the Bible for the first time compared to January 2020.
In addition, the State of the Bible survey shows:
- Americans who have been personally impacted by the coronavirus were more likely to read the Bible.
- While spirituality may seem optional in day-to-day life, people tend to look to the Bible for hope amid crisis. 8 in 10 individuals who were hospitalized by COVID-19 said they wished they had used the Bible more.
- Food, TV/streaming services, and prayer/meditation have been the top sources of comfort during the pandemic. Those tending to be more Scripture engaged were more likely to seek the Bible, family members, and prayer/meditation for comfort. Those tending to be less Bible engaged were more likely to seek food, tv/streaming, and prescription drugs as sources of comfort.
Read the entire report here.