Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
There were alarming, one could easily make a case for depressing, revelations in the recent State of the Bible 2022 report, but members of the organization behind the study said God’s hand can be found if believers look close enough.
State of the Bible is a creation of the American Bible Society, which teamed with the University of Chicago to survey a representative group of American adults on “topics related to the Bible, faith, and the church.”
The results of the robust and free-to-access report indicate an overall disengagement from the Bible.
“You might be discouraged by some things you see in this report…but I urge you to look closely for indicators of what God is doing,” Robert L. Briggs, former President and CEO of American Bible Society, wrote.
We look for indicators, the tiny clouds taking shape. Maybe it’s a younger generation that seems curious about God. Maybe it’s the way people turn to Scripture when times get tough. Maybe it’s the prying open of the hearts of people who aren’t fully engaged with Scripture but don’t reject it either.
From a pure numbers perspective, more Americans are turning from overall Bible use.
According to the report, some 26 million Americans either reduced or ceased to use Bibles, compared to the 2021 results.
The American Bible Society subdivides Americans into three groups: Scripture Engaged, Movable Middle, and Bible Disengaged. Only the third category grew in 2022. The Scripture Engaged group shrank by 14.7 million and Movable Middle by 28.7 million, while Bible Disengaged leaped by 38%, 45.2 million adults, from 2021.
“In 2022, Americans are less likely than ever before to say that the Bible is influencing the way they live out their faith in relationship to others,” the report reads.
Dr. John Plake, a research team member, recommended a three-pronged response to these numbers that includes recognizing that American Christians are struggling to live their faith in society, responding with “focus and creativity,” and reconnecting “people to Christ-centered relationships and service.”
“God has put us here—in this moment—so we must do what we can do,” Plake wrote.
Gen Z and Millennials were particularly disengaged, only 13 and 12 percent of the respondents from those groups were Scripturally Engaged, respectively. However, 75% of Gen X respondents fell into this category.
There was also a growth opportunity in the area of non-practicing Christians, which made up 46% of all American adults.
“You might consider them the ‘sleeping giant’ of the church,” the survey reads. “They have some contact with the Bible and the church. They know some things about Jesus. Yet they’re saying they long to know more. How will churches respond? How will publishers, charities, schools, and creative artists step up to this curiosity?”
Gen Z respondents provided evidence that there was an appetite among this younger generation to at least learn more about Christ. More than half, 55%, of Gen Z respondents indicated they were curious about Jesus, and 17% indicated they’d increased their reading of the Bible in the last year.