By Aaron Earls
Whether it was due to contemplating matters of mortality or simply having more free time at home on their hands, more Americans read the Bible at least occasionally than in recent years.
According to the American Bible Society’s 2021 State of the Bible study, the percentage of adult Bible users saw a marked increase this year. The study defines Bible users as individuals who read, listen to, or pray with the Bible at least three to four times a year outside of a church service or event. In 2021, 50% of Americans were Bible users, amounting to 128 million people.In 2021, 50% of Americans were Bible users, amounting to 128 million people, according to @americanbible. Click To Tweet
U.S. Bible users had been on a downward trend, both in raw numbers and population percentage. The summer of 2020 reached the lowest percentage (48%) and tied for the lowest number of people (123 million). The 128 million Bible users in 2021 marks the second highest number in the 10 year history of the study, behind on 129 million in 2014, and tied for the third highest percentage since the study began in 2011 and the highest percentage since 2017.
Overall, 11% of Americans say they interact with their Bible daily, 5% do so 4 to 6 times a week, 9% connect with Scripture several times a week, 9% say once a week, 8% say once a month, and 8% say three to four times a year. These are considered Bible users in the State of the Bible study. One in 6 (16%) read the Bible most days during the week, up from 12% in 2020.
Another 8% say they engage with the Bible once or twice a year and 13% do so less than once a year. For around 3 in 10 Americans (29%), they say they never interact with Scripture.The percentage of Americans who say they never engage with the Bible has fallen the past three years and reached a low of 29% in 2021, according to @americanbible. Click To Tweet
In June 2020, as COVID-19 began to spread in the U.S., the State of the Bible study noted a drop in the percentage of Americans who never engage with the Bible. It dropped from 35% in 2019 to 31% in 2020, before falling further in 2021.
When asked directly, 24% of Americans say their Bible reading increased in the past year. Most (63%) say it stayed the same, while 9% say it decreased.
In all, 181 million Americans opened their Bible in the past year—up 7.1% from the 169 million adults who did so in 2020.In all, 181 million Americans opened their Bible in the past year—up 7.1% from the 169 million adults who did so in 2020, according to @americanbible. Click To Tweet
A 2019 Lifeway Research study found churchgoers are more likely than others to read the Bible regularly, but few engage with it daily.
A third of Americans who attend a Protestant church regularly (32%) say they read the Bible personally every day. Around a quarter (27%) say they read it a few times a week.
Fewer say they only read it once a week (12%), a few times a month (11%) or once a month (5%). Close to 1 in 8 (12%) admit they rarely or never read the Bible.
A 2016 Lifeway Research study found 1 in 5 Americans said they had read all of the Bible at least once. However, more than half said they have read little or none of it. Among regular churchgoers, 32% say they have read the entire Bible at least once and just 9% say they’ve read a few sentences or less.
Unfortunately, while churchgoers and evangelicals are more likely than others to engage with the Bible regularly, Scripture engagement is still trumped by social media usage.On any given day, evangelical Christians in the U.S. are twice as likely to open Facebook as their Bible, according to @LifewayResearch. Click To Tweet
On any given day, evangelical Christians in the U.S. are twice as likely to open Facebook as their Bible, according to Lifeway Research.
Evangelical Christians often recognize this. Lifeway Research found 62% of evangelicals by belief say social media makes public debates less respectful, including 38% who say it makes those discussions much less respectful.
Despite this, evangelicals spend more time reading the half-considered musings of a high school classmate on Facebook than they do in study of what they profess to be God’s divinely inspired Word.
Yet research indicates Bible reading carries lifelong benefits for adults as well as kids and teenagers. Previous Lifeway Research studies have revealed regularly reading the Bible as a kid is the biggest factor in predicting the spiritual health of young adults and students who regularly read their Bible are less likely to drop out of church.
Americans are opening their Bibles more recently, but Christians must become even more engaged with Scripture to reap the benefits for themselves and their families.
Aaron is the senior writer at Lifeway Research.