When Churches are Closed, Bibles are Closed

by Jacob Abshire on January 4, 2021

One of the two biggest reasons people give for not reading their Bibles is time. They simply don’t have enough of it. Although we all have the same amount, it should go without saying that during the 2020 lockdown, most of us had far more “free” time than ever.

It has been reported that Americans—after factoring in their usual drive-time, errand-running, and office-working—experienced more than 6 hours of additional time at their disposal. In fact, the greatest challenge during the lockdown, outside of making money, was boredom. You would think that, with all the excess time, we would spend more time in our Bibles.

Sadly, that is not the case.

In the 10th annual State of the Bible report, Barna and the American Bible Society explored various trends in American spirituality and Bible engagement. Data collected in January and June (covering the nation’s mandatory quarantine) gives us a unique look into how we attend to God’s Word.

Robert Briggs, the President and CEO of American Bible Society, said, “Despite nearly every individual in the U.S. having access to the Bible, engagement has decreased. That’s been a consistent trend over the past few years, and the trend has accelerated since January 2020 throughout the pandemic.” In other words, access to Bibles doesn’t mean engaging our Bibles.

The report goes on to tell us that the number of adults in the United States who read the Bible daily dropped from 14% to 9% during these six months. While a decline in Bible engagement is never good, a 5% drop may not appear too bad except that, over the past 10 years, the decline was so subtle that it was measured in tenths of a point giving the impression that it was relatively the same. Christianity Today said that this was the most “unprecedented decrease in a single year.”

Furthermore, those who believe their choices and relationships are shaped by the God’s Word dropped 5% as well. With the pandemic still shaping our lives today, these numbers may continue to decline. A second lockdown could mean a second drop in numbers. 

Many argue the connection between the decline in Bible engagement and the decline in church attendance is the biggest factor. Community strengthens Bible engagement, especially church community. Decades ago this would not have been the case, but today—as the church goes, so goes the family. We depend on the churches to be opened and actively urging us to engage God’s Word.

When the churches are closed, the Bibles are closed.

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