A recent study revealed that significantly fewer Americans are engaging with the Bible during the coronavirus pandemic. The number of U.S. citizens reading God’s Word has drastically decreased despite the Bible’s wide availability.
According to the State of the Bible 2020 report, U.S. adults who say they read the Bible daily dropped from 14% to 9% between 2019 and 2020. The data, released by the Barna Group and the American Bible Society (ABS), also revealed that those considered “Scripture engaged” dropped from 28% to 22.7% between January and June.
The study, which examined 2,010 responses from January and 3,020 responses from June, discovered that the proportion of U.S. residents who read the Bible daily fell below 1 in 10 (9%).
“This study supports the idea that the church plays a significant role in benefiting people’s well-being and Scripture engagement,” John Farquhar Plake, ABS director of ministry intelligence, said.
“To increase Scripture engagement, we must increase relational connections with one another through the church. The pandemic… [has] shown that when relational church engagement goes up, so does Scripture engagement. But when it goes down, Scripture engagement drops with it.”
Two out of every five Americans (38%) “strongly” or “somewhat agree” that COVID-19 has negatively impacted their relationship with God. Their ability to worship and serve God diminished since the outbreak began.
Americans who lost a loved one to the virus, however, said they were more likely to increase their Bible engagement. Nearly half (49%) of Americans who suffered the loss of a family member increased their Bible use.
Approximately 36% of Americans who had a neighbor die from the virus increased their interaction with the Bible. Additionally, another 33% of U.S. citizens who lost a close friend to COVID-19 saw an uptick in their Bible use.
When asked if the pandemic had strengthened their faith, 47% of professing Christians strongly agreed. Thirty-eight percent said they somewhat agreed that the global virus had increased their spiritual resolve.
Of those hospitalized with the virus, 29% were more likely to increase their Bible use, while those infected with COVID-19 said they were 24% more likely to engage with the Scriptures on a more consistent basis.
American Bible Society president and CEO Robert Briggs believes the American church needs a renewed focus on discipleship to combat the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
“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. The trend has accelerated since January 2020 throughout the pandemic,” he said. “The Church must transition from ‘survival’ mode back into ‘discipleship’ mode, and, yes, that’s going to take even more innovation.”