Updated: Nov 2, 2019
For the past several years American Bible Society commissioned the Barna Group to do research on the State of the Bible. Also Pew Research Center does a Religious Landscape study. I spend a considerable amount of time looking at these studies. I'm particularly interested in the American Bible Society/ Barna Group one because I track Bible engagement - something which I am passionate about. The whole purpose of this website and its social media sites is to share information about the Bible in the hopes it will encourage you to read the Bible.
I was in a Bible study group for years before I actually read the entire Bible. There was a huge difference in my level of understanding and in my spiritual journey when I became a regular Bible Reader. I understood concepts in new ways which I hadn't before - back when I was mostly a Bible Hearer and not Reader. I don't know how to stress the importance to my faith journey and to yours in actually reading the Bible. It is transformative.
I started asking people why they didn't read the Bible. I started following the studies.
What the State of the Bible 2017 report says is that 58% of the people surveyed wished they read the Bible more.
Despite most Americans' desire to read the Bible more, two-thirds of them (67%) say their level of Bible reading is about the same as it was one year ago.
State of the Bible, 2017, page 12 of 93
[And there isn't too much Bible reading going on in this country. Only 30% read or hear the Bible more than 4 times a week. Get that? This includes hearing a section of the Bible. 56% of the American population in 2017 never or only 3-4 times a year read or hear the Bible.]
More than one half (56%) of those who report an increase in Bible readership attribute it to their understanding that Bible reading is an important part of their faith journey.
State of the Bible, 2017, page 13 of 93
Amen to that!
So why aren't Americans who want to read the Bible more actually doing so?
Here are their frustrations with reading the Bible.
Frustrations with Bible Reading
State of the Bible, 2017, page 54 of 93
30% say they never have enough time to read the Bible. Look I know this. My Bible reading in the past year has dropped. And what am I spending my free time on? Mostly social media. Between personal, work, and Passion to Know More - I keep up with and frequently check 11 social media sites. Plus I play a lot of games on my phone. Honesty here. I am addicted to Candy Crush. I know I have time to spare to read the Bible more. You do too. People make time for what is important to them. An easy way to get into Bible reading is to join a Bible study group. Some groups are a bit fluffy in content - more social than Bible study. Search around for not one that does topical studies, but for one that actually does studies which have you reading the Bible. Make time for something this important.
16% say the language is difficult to relate to. This is really a non-issue in this day and age. What Bible version are you reading from? The modern translation versions have revised the language to be easy to read. They have substituted easy words that mean the same thing for more difficult words. The New International Version (NIV) is written on an 8th grade reading level. The English Standard Version (ESV) is also written on an 8th grade reading level. Both excellent versions. I read from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) which is on a 12th grade reading level. I don't have any problem with the understanding of the language. I can relate to it. If this is an issue with you, perhaps it is time to get a new Bible with easier language. Read this post about the difference in versions.
11% don't understand the background or history of the Bible. I am all over this one! I didn't either and when I finally took some classes and got the basics down, I understood how the text of the Old and New Testament go together and when I read the biblical text, I have a clarity about that connection. I teach this in my Connecting the Dots of the Bible class and students find it fascinating. I have found most Christians, even ones who go to church regularly, don't know this information. So how do you get this? I'm trying to think of one particular reference book that goes over this and I can't really think of one. Anyone have a recommendation? Perhaps I should write one... I haven't specifically written posts on the historical eras of the Bible. Planning on doing that in 2018. [Update - well, that didn't happen. Perhaps I will do it in 2019.] An excellent reference book to get background information on each book of the Bible is The Complete Guide to the Bible by Stephen M. Miller (affiliate link). Read the following post about this book and a couple other good reference books.
6% can never find the stories or information you are looking for. Once you know the historical eras of the Bible, this comes easier. But until then google it. Want to read about Noah? Google "Where in the Bible is the account of Noah?" Up pops Genesis 6-9. Want to read about David and Bathsheba. Google it. As far as verses, type in what you remember. Say I remember there is a verse about I am supposed to pray about everything. Type in "Scripture which tells me to pray about everything." Philippians 4:6-7 comes up. Want to read the Sermon on the Mount? Google "Where is the Sermon on the Mount in the Bible?" Matthew 5-7 will pop up. Internet searching is great!
14% said they didn't know where to start. If you are new to Bible reading, start with the New Testament, specifically with one of the Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. Don't neglect the Old Testament though. It helps to understand the organization of the books in the Bible. I'm not a fan of Bible reading charts except to keep track of what you are reading. You might find this helpful in starting to read the Bible.
9% say the stories are confusing. I'm not really sure why. Again, perhaps get a new Bible with easy language. A study Bible with text notes explaining the text is a great resource! I highly recommend a study Bible. As they are pricey, read these 3 posts before purchasing one.
8% say the layout is difficult to navigate. Not if you understand the organization of the books in the Bible. Plus you have an index in the front of your Bible. Use it. The Old Testament books are organized by 17 historical books, 5 wisdom writing books, and 17 prophetical books. The New Testament is organized by 5 historical books (4 Gospels and Acts), 21 Letters, also called Epistles, and the prophetical book of Revelation. Read these posts about the organization of the books of the Bible.
16% of people surveyed said they don't feel excited about reading it. Granted there are some sections of the Bible which are boring. When I first read Job I remember being interested the first few chapters and then Job arguing with his friends for chapter after chapter and I got bored. I skipped the middle part and went to the last few chapters to see how it ended. Ha ha. While there are some boring parts, the vast majority is really fascinating! A tent peg through the temple, Elijah going against 450 prophets of Baal, stoning, beatings, ship wrecks, betrayal, great sacrifice for another,... When people say the Bible is boring, I know they haven't read it.
Perhaps you are one of the 58% who want to read the Bible more.
How about making a 2018 New Year's resolution to do so?
Carve out a certain amount of time a day and begin.
It will become a habit before you know it.
And Bible reading. It is life-changing. It really is.
You are a Christian?
How about read the book of your faith starting in 2018.
See what all the hoopla is about.