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Bible Reading in Canada

According to the Canadian Bible Engagement Study (May 2014), 55% of Canadians never read the Bible, 28% seldom read the Bible, 7% read it a few times a year, and 11% read it once a week or more frequently.

How do these statistics compare with Bible reading in the past? In the 1993 national survey by the Angus Reid Group, 20% of Canadians read the Bible once a week or more frequently. That means that weekly-daily Bible reading has gone down by 45% in the last 20 years.

Regular Bible reading is a rarity. In 1993 there were 9% of Canadians who read the Bible daily. This has dropped by more than 50% in the past twenty years to just 4% of Canadians reading the Bible on a daily basis.

The decline in Bible reading differs across denominational traditions. In 1993 eighteen percent of Catholics (English and French) read the Bible at least once a week or more frequently. By 2013 it had slumped to 5%. In 1993 nineteen percent of Mainline Protestants read the Bible at least once a week or more frequently. By 2013 it was down to 10%. Evangelicals have also seen declines. In 1993 sixty-one percent read the Bible at least once a week or more frequently. By 2013 it had fallen to 50%.

Many assume that the decline in Bible reading is age related. The common perception is that older people read the Bible more frequently and younger people are less likely to read it. This was true for weekly Bible reading in 1996 (12% for 18-34 year olds, 20% for 35-54 year olds, and 28% for those older than 55) but is no longer true today (10% for 18-34 year olds, 10% for 35-54 year olds, and 12% for those older than 55) That is, age is no longer a factor in Bible reading frequency.

[Note: The main observable reason why there is no discernible difference in weekly Bible reading across the age groups is because Boomers (who are now in the 55+ group) have, according to social surveys over the past few decades, largely parted company with the Bible and the church.]

Obviously, for those who place a high premium on Bible reading, the statistics are deeply distressing. The drop in Bible reading is more than simply a decline in a spiritual discipline. Bible reading is intrinsically tied to the spiritual health of the church and the slump is an alarming indication of how the foundations of Christian faith are being deeply eroded.

So is there something we can do to address the problem? Consider the following:

  • confess sin, indifference and apathy
  • recognize that 20th Century Bible reading guides/plans utilize modernistic approaches that don’t connect with post-moderns
  • shift away from product and program driven Bible reading strategies to relational and interactive strategies
  • develop new paradigms and approaches to Bible reading that are multi-sensory and transformative
  • encourage on and offline innovation in Bible reading methods
  • learn from grass roots movements that are successfully helping people read the Bible
  • advocate for the virtues and benefits of Bible reading
  • promote confidence in, community around, and conversations about the Word
  • tell others about Bible reading resources and tools that work
  • model communal Bible reading
  • ask God to reverse the decline

Have your say. How can we encourage Bible reading in Canada?

Free download of the Canadian Bible Engagement Study at www.bibleengagementstudy.ca

© Scripture Union Canada 2014


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Canadian Bible Engagement Study

The majority of Canadians seldom or never read the Bible – this according to the recently published (May 1, 2014) Canadian Bible Engagement Study (CBES).

Sad news from the CBES:

  • 55% of Canadians have never read the Bible
  • 50% of Canadians who read the Bible weekly in 1996 no longer do so today
  • 69% of Canadians believe the Bible has irreconcilable contradictions
  • 64% of Canadians believe the Scriptures of the major world religions teach essentially the same thing

Other news from the CBES:

  • 18% of Canadians strongly agree that the Bible is the Word of God (down from 35% in 1996)
  • 21% of Canadian Christians reflect on the meaning of the Bible for their lives at least a few times a week
  • 11% of Canadian Christians talk to others about the Bible outside of religious services
  • Bible reading frequency among Canadian Christians is roughly the same across all age groups
  • 80% of weekly Bible readers strongly agree that the Bible is the Word of God
  • 61% of Evangelical Christians strongly agree that the Bible is relevant to their lives
  • Confidence in, community around and conversations about the Bible helps deepen Bible engagement
  • People who strongly agree that the Bible is the Word of God are six times more likely to attend church weekly

One of the findings of the CBES is that the fate of Bible engagement and church attendance are inextricably linked. Church attendance, like Bible engagement, has been declining for decades (16% of Canadians attend church weekly – down from 27% in 1996).

While the Study hasn’t unearthed anything new, it is a wake up call. Hopefully God’s people will take a good long prayerful look at the state of both Bible engagement and the church in Canada . . .

The Canadian Bible Engagement Study is a must see (check out the engaging video) and a must read (Executive Summary and Full Report). Watch the video and get the free download of the CBES Report at www.bibleengagementstudy.ca

© Scripture Union Canada 2014


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Ground-Breaking Canadian Research

Coming soon – the much anticipated Canadian Bible Engagement Study.Digital%20Asset%20Promotion#486

Envisioned, sponsored and published by the Canadian Bible Forum, together with The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada,the Canadian Bible Engagement Study polls 4,500 Canadians regarding their use, trends, beliefs about, and attitudes toward the Bible.

The findings provide multiple insights into how and why Canadians do or do not connect with the Bible, as well as revealing the key drivers of Bible engagement.

Rick Hiemstra (EFC Research Director) and world-class market research company Angus Reid Strategies conducted the survey.

Be on the lookout for this ground-breaking Canadian research. The free download of the Canadian Bible Engagement Study Report will be available on the jumpintotheword Blog on May 1.

© Scripture Union Canada 2014


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Back to the Bible

Renewal and revival are desperately needed. The church is struggling and the world is carefree. Faith is luke-warm, beliefs are shallow and attendance at worship services is in decline. Moral relativism prevails, polytheism and idolatry is commonplace, and hedonism is thriving.

One of the reasons why the church is struggling is because Bible engagement has diminished. According to the Canadian Bible Engagement Study there’s a direct correlation between weekly church attendance and regular Bible engagement. When church attendance declines, so does Bible engagement. When Bible engagement declines, so does church attendance.

Spiritual health and growth will be restored when we get back to the Bible. As Bible engagement goes, so goes the nation. When our Bibles start falling apart, society will stop falling apart! If we want renewal and revival we must read the Word for all it’s worth and live it out for all to see.

Do we want to see sinners repent, love increase, justice triumph and righteousness prevail? If we do, then our hearts, minds, bodies and souls must be soaked in God’s Word. Bible engagement is not an option, it’s a necessity. When we feed on the Word, faith flourishes. When faith flourishes, God’s kingdom grows.

There are no shortcuts with Bible engagement. It requires inclination, time and perseverance. Here are ten practical tips for developing and deepening your personal engagement with the Word:

Choose an appropriate version. As a rule of thumb use a Bible that’s easy to read. Keep several versions on hand for comparison and contrast. You can use an online Bible like Bible Gateway to read different versions in parallel.

Pray. Bible reading and reflection requires illumination from the Holy Spirit. Ask God to be your teacher. Trust Him to open your heart and mind – to give you insight and understanding (cf. Proverbs 2:1-5).

Use a Bible reading guide. Bible reading and reflection is enhanced through the use of a reading guide. Scripture Union specializes in guides for all ages, helping people deepen their understanding and grow in their relationship with Jesus.

Consult commentaries and concordances. To help us read the Bible for all it’s worth we need to understand the original meaning of words, do word searches, appreciate the cultural setting of the text, and learn from gifted theologians.

Stick to a plan. Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Having a strategy in place, or a target to aim for, helps focus connections with the Bible. A simple reading plan like the Scripture Gift Mission free 5/52 Reading Plan will help you track your progress.

Mine the text. The Bible is a quarry full of precious gems. To find the gems you ‘dig’, ‘crush’ and ‘screen’ the text. Don’t leave a word unturned – examine it from every angle. Read and re-read until you find the treasure.

Open your ears. We can listen without hearing and hear without understanding (cf. Matthew 13:13). Sin closes our ears and dulls our spirit. Denial, pride, wrong attitudes, greed, selfish ambition, holding onto our own agenda and un-forgiveness all get in the way of hearing God speak through His Word.

Focus on Jesus. The entire Bible centers on Christ’s birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension. Read the Old Testament expecting the coming of Christ. Read the New Testament in the light of Christ having come and coming again.

Meditate on truth. “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” Joshua 1:8 (NIV).

Do it! “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” James 1:22 (NIV)

© Scripture Union Canada 2014


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Nurturing Bible Engagement

How do we nurture Bible engagement? Are there things we can do to facilitate, encourage and help people grow in the discipline of Bible reading and reflection?

Research presented by Rick Hiemstra and Ed Stetzer at the December 2013 Forum of Bible Agencies – North America meeting in New York identified several factors that promote the growth of Bible engagement.

Hiemstra, Director of Research at the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, suggests that the findings from the Canadian Bible Engagement Study (yet to be published), reveal that the drivers of Bible engagement are:

  • Confidence – What people believe about the reliability and trustworthiness of the Bible, whether or not they feel the Bible is relevant to modern life, and what they think about the uniqueness of its teachings, are important. People with higher levels of confidence read the Bible more frequently.
  • Conversation – Whether or not we talk about the Bible with our children, spouses and others is significant. The more we discuss the Bible, the more we read it. The more we read the Bible, the more we discuss it.
  • Community – Church service attendance is strongly correlated with Bible engagement. When church attendance falls, so does Bible engagement. When people view the church positively, they are more likely to read the Bible.

According to Stetzer, LifeWay Research, Bible engagement grows when people:

  • Confess sin and ask for forgiveness
  • Believe in Jesus
  • Choose to obey God
  • Pray for others who are not Christians
  • Read Christian books
  • Are mentored by a mature Christian
  • Memorize Scripture
  • Attend a Bible study/small group or Sunday School class

Bible engagement is intimately tied to relationships (vertically and horizontally). The degree to which people believe in Christ, obey Christ and seek to live for Christ correlates with the degree to which they’ll engage with the Bible. Similarly, the degree to which people connect with a community of faith correlates with the degree to which they will confidently connect with the Bible.

The research also points to the link between Bible engagement and discipleship. To make disciples, we must foster Bible reading and reflection. To encourage Bible reading and reflection, we must work to cultivate disciples.

Have your say. What would you identify as catalysts/mechanisms/means that contribute to Bible engagement?

© Scripture Union Canada 2013