Since 2011 the Barna Group has conducted an annual survey concerning the state of the Bible in the USA. The survey is commissioned by the American Bible Society and conducted by the Barna Group. It aims to gather insights into the multifaceted relationship that Americans have with God’s Word and includes findings on Bible engagement, Bible impact, perceptions of the Bible, Bible penetration, Bible literacy, the Bible and technology, moral perceptions and social impact, fearfulness and hope for the future, experiences with trauma and charitable giving.
In essence this year’s findings in the State of the Bible 2018 Report revealed that the majority of Americans (57%) aspire to using the Bible more than they currently do. For information on the other findings, click here to download the whole report.
Here are some thoughts concerning the Bible Engagement component (Section 1) of the report:
The term “use the Bible” is common in the report. It’s a term that’s wrongly applied to Bible engagement. When we engage with the Bible we should never do so as if it’s a commodity/product that can be exploited. True Bible engagement isn’t something that we can control/manage. Nor is Bible engagement something that’s subordinated to our intellect. God is the master of what we read/hear, not us. “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” Hebrews 4:12 (NIV). That is, the Bible reads us! So our approach, when reading/reflecting on the Word, should be one of humble listening.
Comparing the necessity of the Bible “in daily life” with “coffee, something sweet” and “social media” is off-base. It reduces Bible engagement to a popularity contest. And why would we do that? Bible engagement isn’t about how trendy or well-liked the Bible may or may not be. Our reading, drinking and eating preferences are a non-issue. The necessity in Bible engagement is whether people are, or are not, cultivating an intimate reciprocating relationship with Jesus Christ.
“The level of Bible use and desire for use” also seems to be an emphasis in the report that’s barking up the wrong tree. Reducing Bible engagement to how frequently we read/listen to the Bible is legalism. Legalism should never be the basis for measuring Bible engagement. The real measure of Bible engagement is an increase in compassion, patience, justice, forgiveness, reconciliation, goodness, hope, peace, healing, faithfulness, worship, growth in Christ likeness, and love – not wishing we’d “used the Bible more often.”
Finally, it was a relief to see in the “Bible Curiosity” chapter that curiosity was aligned with both the Bible and Jesus. Unfortunately, the importance of “Bible curiosity” was reduced to simply knowing more about the Bible and Jesus. Satan knows an awful lot about the Bible and Jesus, but all his knowing hasn’t changed the fact that he’s the enemy of God. Bible engagement is much more than knowledge about God and His Word. The emphasis in Bible engagement shouldn’t be Bible knowledge. The stress in Bible engagement should be on severing our loyalties to the world and giving our total allegiance to Christ. Fergus Macdonald, Taylor University Center for Scripture Engagement, eloquently says, “Scripture engagement is interaction with the biblical text in a way that provides sufficient opportunity for the text to speak for itself by the power of the Holy Spirit, enabling readers and listeners to hear the voice of God and discover for themselves the unique claim Jesus Christ is making upon them.”
© Scripture Union Canada 2018
2 Corinthians 4:5