American Bible Society’s New Study Shows Urgent Ministry Opportunity with “Bible Explorers”
American Bible Society’s 13th Annual State of the Bible Report Shows 10M Americans Joined the Movable Middle
American Bible Society today released the first chapter of the 13th annual State of the Bible report, which highlights cultural trends in the U.S. regarding spirituality and Scripture engagement. The study reveals that this past year, the number of Bible Users in America remained at a historically low level; however, the Movable Middle (those exploring the Bible’s message) grew significantly and the Bible Disengaged segment shrank. Moreover, Scripture Engaged individuals were shown to have the highest levels of persevering hope. The study’s first chapter is now available to download at StateoftheBible.org.
“Our research this year delivers an urgent message for those ministering in America. Although it’s a relief that the number of Bible Users did not continue along its precipitous decline, there remains a pressing need to help spiritually engage an expanding Movable Middle—those individuals who are friendly to the Bible’s message but not actively reading and applying Scripture’s truths,” said John Farquhar Plake, PhD and American Bible Society’s Chief Ministry Insights and Innovation Officer. “Positively, Americans who are Scripture engaged show significantly higher levels of hope than their neighbors. Although our society faces challenges on many fronts, the Bible provides hope and help to those who explore its truths. That’s a powerful reminder for each of us this Easter season.”
State of the Bible 2023 findings come from a nationally representative survey performed for American Bible Society by NORC at the University of Chicago, using their AmeriSpeak panel. The data came from 2,761 online interviews with American adults in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Key findings analyzed in Chapter 1: The Bible in America
- Bible use in America remains at its lowest point in more than a decade of measurement. The latest data show that 39% of American adults are Bible Users. That figure is unchanged from 2022, although it still represents a significant decline from 2011–2021, when it averaged 50%. Currently, one in four (24%) American adults use the Bible at least once a week, on their own, outside of a church service (page 7).
- The Movable Middle is growing again. State of the Bible finds that the Movable Middle has grown to 76 million American adults, and the Bible Disengaged segment has fallen to 138 million. The data indicate a shift of approximately 10 million Americans out of the Bible Disengaged segment and into the Movable Middle (pages 17–19).
- Scripture Engaged people display higher levels of hope. The State of the Bible survey included four questions connected to the Persevering Hope metric, developed by a group of scholars from five universities. Overall, there was very little variation among demographics. However, Scripture Engaged people averaged a score of 4.1, which significantly exceeds the overall average (page 5).
- A majority of those who turn to Scripture say they do because “it brings [them] closer to God.” Bible Users were given seven options to complete the sentence “I use the Bible because . . .” Far and away, the most popular response (47%) was “It brings me closer to God” (page 10).
- Americans have strong opinions about the Bible’s value. Slightly less than half of Americans (44%) say America would be worse off without Bible-reading, compared to 14% who say a Bibleless America would be better. Notably, more than a quarter of non-Bible Users, who seldom if ever interact with Scripture, still say the country would be worse off without the Bible (page 13).
Between April and December, American Bible Society will release nine new chapters in the State of the Bible 2023 story, including reports on how our mothers shape our faith; the Bible’s influence on human flourishing; Gen Z perspectives on the Bible, faith, and church; and the impact of emerging technology on Bible engagement habits.
To download the first chapter of State of the Bible 2023, visit StateoftheBible.org.
*For descriptions on how Scripture engagement was measured and reported, please see page 32 of the ebook available for download at StateoftheBible.org.
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