Christians who change faith traditions are more Bible-engaged, American Bible Society study shows
American Bible Society’s 13th Annual State of the Bible Report Reveals “Faith Moves” in the American Church
May 11, 2023Print this article
American Bible Society today released the second chapter of their 13th annual State of the Bible report, which highlights cultural trends in the U.S. regarding spirituality and Scripture engagement. Today’s release reveals a trend in Americans returning to in-person church services and explores the relationship between a mother’s faith and the spiritual journey of her children. The first two chapters are now available to download at StateoftheBible.org.
“Faith is active. Our research suggests that when people seek God, they find him. Part of finding God is developing a life-giving engagement with Scripture,” said John Farquhar Plake, PhD, American Bible Society’s Chief Ministry Insights and Innovation Officer. “We found that on average, Americans who engage in a spiritual quest, who grapple with their faith, become spiritually healthier and more Bible-engaged. This can be seen in a detectable and consistent improvement among people who changed Christian faith traditions.”
State of the Bible 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.
Faith in Motion
- In-person church attendance is on the rise, nearly returning to pre-COVID levels. Now two-thirds of church attenders (67%) say they primarily attend worship in person. Only about one in five (21%) primarily worship online, less than half of the number from 2021 (45%). The proportion who say they attend worship in both ways, about equally, has also dwindled (12%, down from 17% in 2021). Clearly, worshipers are returning to the in-person experience (page 40).
- Christians who change faith traditions are on average more Scripture Engaged than those who don’t. Using our Scripture Engagement Scale, we compared scores of current Catholics and Protestants who followed the faith of their mothers and those who didn’t. Those who have changed their faith tradition averaged 3–5% higher scores. For example, Scripture engagement scores for Mainline Protestant respondents averaged 87 for those who had changed their faith and 80 for those who had the same faith as their mothers. This held true in each major denominational group (page 28).
- The majority of Americans retain their parents’ faith. Three out of five Americans (61%) have the same faith tradition practiced by their parents during childhood (page 26).
- Moms make a difference—especially for Christians. Among those who identify as Christians, three out of four (77%) report having the faith of their mother (page 26).
- More atheists, agnostics, and “nones” become Christian. Christians lose around one-fifth of their young adherents to the atheist, agnostic, and “none” category. However, this year nearly one-third of those who had atheist, agnostic, or “no faith” mothers at age ten now identify as Christian (page 27).
- One in eight Americans say, “Christ is the most important relationship in my life.” Nearly half of all Americans (45%) report some level of Christian commitment. Elders (55%) were most likely to signal Christian commitment, while Millennials (37%) were the least likely generation to follow a Christian tradition. Black people (64%) are far more likely to report being committed to Christ than any other racial or ethnic group (page 35).
- Nearly a quarter of Americans are “not interested” in Christian faith. Almost one in four Americans surveyed (24%) indicate they are not Christians and “not interested in exploring what it means to be a Christian” (page 33).
Between June and December 2023, American Bible Society will release seven new chapters in the State of the Bible story, including 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 two chapters of State of the Bible 2023, visit StateoftheBible.org.
*For descriptions on how Scripture engagement was measured and reported, please see page 35 of the ebook available for download at StateoftheBible.org.
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