The Open Door: People still see reading Scripture ‘a worthwhile pursuit’

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I was encouraged after reading the results of a recent study by the Barna Group titled: Bible Reading in 2017: A New Year’s Resolution. The findings were the result of data gathered from a series of telephone and online interviews with nationwide random samples. All telephone interviews were conducted by Barna Group. All households were selected for inclusion in the sample using a random-digit dial technique, which allows every telephone household in the nation to have an equal and known probability of selection. Regional quotas were used to ensure that sufficient population dispersion was achieved. Between 20 percent and 40 percent of telephone interviewing was conducted on cell phones.

In most cases, online interviews were conducted using an online research panel called “KnowledgePanel,” and based upon probability sampling that covers both online and offline populations in the U.S. The panel members were randomly recruited by telephone and by self-administered mail and web surveys.

Roxanne Stone, editor-in-chief of Barna Group, says, “It should come as no surprise that the majority of Americans wish they read the Scripture more than they do. We have consistently seen in our research that, even with skepticism on the rise, Americans still hold the Bible in high regard. After all, two-thirds of Americans (66 percent) agree that the Bible contains everything you need to know to live a meaningful life – why wouldn’t you want to read such a book more often?”

Stone continued, “However, like other [commitments], such as exercising more and eating healthier, Scripture reading is often an aspirational goal. It’s a goal that for most people probably doesn’t feel necessary to survival and so can easily get swamped by the day-to-day demands of a busy life.”

Stone commented that “Spiritual leaders should feel heartened by these numbers. People still see Scripture reading as a worthwhile pursuit. The key is helping people see Bible reading as essential and not merely aspirational.”

In an era of significant change, when so many cultural touchstones are up for grabs, the survey sought information on what compels people to read an ancient document. It was encouraging to see that a majority read the Bible because it draws them closer to God (57 percent). For many Americans, then, Bible reading is a pillar of their faith. Most Americans, however, are not satisfied with their current level of Bible reading. Sixty-one percent express the desire to read the Bible more than they currently do. These numbers have remained relatively consistent since 2011.

The groups who desire more frequent Bible reading than their counterparts are females (68 percent) compared to males (54 percent), Boomers (68 percent) compared to Millennials (55 percent), non-white Americans (67 percent) compared to white Americans (58 percent) and those with no more than a high school education (67 percent) compared to college graduates (56 percent). Seventy percent of Southerners want to read the Bible more, while Westerners and Northeastern counterparts are at 55 percent each.

About two-thirds of Americans (66 percent) state that their level of Bible reading stayed about the same compared to the previous year. More than three times as many Americans are seeing an increase in Bible reading rather than a decrease over the past five years, since 2012.

These numbers are encouraging and report that Bible reading is generally stable.

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