While researchers have observed an overall decline in the percent of Americans who identify as Christian, a newly published annual survey found nearly half of all adults engage with the Bible at least three or four times a year on their own.
The “State of the Bible” study conducted by the Barna Group and commissioned by the American Bible Society found 48 percent engage three or four times a year by using, listening to, watching, praying or using Bible text outside of a church service.
Significantly, the study shows that 21 million new people are looking to the Bible for wisdom and guidance this year. Also, 14.9 million people who were disengaged in 2018 have chosen to interact with the Bible. At the same time, 9.9 million adults defined as “Bible-centered” — people who interact with the Bible frequently, and it shapes their relationships and choices — have decreased their level of engagement with the Bible since last year.
Taken together, Barna said, “these changes have led to a swelling in the ranks of the so-called ‘moveable middle’ to 41.6 million adults, those people who interact with the Bible looking for practical advice for their modern lives.”
The study indicates that Bible engagement results in an increase in financial giving and in volunteerism.
In 2018, Bible-centered respondents recalled contributing $1,000 on average, while the Bible-disengaged gave $20 on average.
“Our research shows that when people engage with the Word, their lives are bettered,” said Roy Peterson, president and CEO of American Bible Society. “They find wisdom, hope and healing. In today’s sometimes turbulent times, the Bible can provide welcome answers.”
Practical advice for modern world
Some 16 percent of adults in America report using the Bible every day, while another 14 percent use it several times a week, according to the study.
Another 9 percent of the population use the Bible once a week, and 7 percent use it once a month.
Roughly 31 percent say they never use the Bible.
Barna observed that while the percent of adults who use the Bible at least three or four times a year has remained relatively stable since tracking began in 2011, the percent of adults who say they never engage with the Bible, 35 percent, has increased 3 percentage points since 2018 and 10 percentage points since 2011.
Here are some other key findings:
- 81 percent of Americans see the church as a place people can go for help.
- 102.7 million adults interact with the Bible, often seeking practical advice for their modern lives.
- Almost 60 percent of Americans believe that the message of the Bible has transformed their lives.
The survey found African Americans, 69 percent, are the ethnic group most likely to use the Bible at least three to four times a year, compared to a smaller number of whites (44 percent) and Hispanics (52 percent).
Bible users are also more likely to reside in the South, Barna said, than they are in other regions of the U.S.
The researchers found little difference in Bible use by generation. But those who were married are more likely to use the Bible than single adults.
Barna said the vast majority of adults who have attended church in the past week report using the Bible on their own (85 percent), compared to 71 percent of adults attending monthly and 49 percent who attended in the past 6 months.
Just 21 percent of Bible users are unchurched.
Surprisingly, the survey found 11 percent of skeptics qualify as Bible users.