Reading the Bible leads to transformed lives, survey finds

(Photo: Unsplash/Tim Wildsmith)

(CP) A new study finds that the overwhelming majority of those who read the Bible at least three times a year have experienced transformation as a result of their encounters with Scripture, along with a sizable minority of Christians who interact with the Bible less frequently.

The American Bible Society released the seventh chapter of its 12th annual "State of the Bible" report Wednesday, which focuses on "Bible use." The survey of 2,598 adults conducted from Jan. 10-28 defines "Bible users" as those who said they interacted with the Bible at least three to four times a year.

Within this group of "Bible users," 92% answered in the affirmative when asked if "the message of the Bible has transformed my life." Just 8% said otherwise. By contrast, a majority of respondents who did not meet the criteria for designation as a "Bible user" (62%) did not see the message of the Bible as a source of transformation in their lives, while 38% did.

John Farquhar Blake, the director of ministry intelligence for the American Bible Society, reacted to the findings of the survey in a statement: "While we've reported that there has been a sharp decline in Bible reading, nearly 60 million people who engage with the Bible less than three times per year say it has had a transformative impact on their lives. Our research shows that consistent interaction with God's Word changes us."

"As the Church, we must look for every opportunity to show our neighbors the transformational love of Jesus — which is all over the pages of the Bible," Blake added.

Much of the latest installment of the "State of the Bible" report specifically examined the practices of Bible users. The survey asked "Bible users" to identify their methods of Bible use, finding that 48% of respondents within this subgroup "read a few verses at a time." Forty percent of Bible users read passages based on their mood, 32% read entire chapters or stories of the Bible at a time, 26% follow a set schedule, plan or program to read the Bible, and 22% read the Bible at the same time every day.

While men were more likely to prefer reading entire chapters or stories in the Bible at a time than women, women preferred all of the other methods of Bible reading. The survey also examined the preferred ways of Bible use among the three categories of respondents, classified based on their responses to "14 survey items about the frequency of Bible use and the impact and centrality [of] its message."

The Scripture engaged respondents, those with the highest scores, were much more likely to read entire chapters or stories in the Bible than their counterparts with lower scores. While 44% of the Scripture engaged Bible users practice the aforementioned method, just 26% of those in the "Movable Middle" and 18% of Bible disengaged respondents said the same.

More than twice as many Scripture engaged Bible users (37%) follow a set schedule, plan or program to read the Bible than those in the "Movable Middle" (19%) and the "Bible disengaged" (13%). Those in the "Movable Middle" were slightly more likely than the Scripture engaged to pick passages based on their mood (40%) and read a few verses at a time (50%) than the Scripture engaged. Forty-nine percent of the Scripture engaged read a few verses at a time, while 39% select passages based on their mood.

Additionally, the study revealed reading from a printed Bible as the most common way Bible users interact with Scripture, with 69% citing the traditional method as one of their preferred ways to expose themselves to the Word of God. Less than half of Bible users told pollsters that they used Bible apps on their electronic devices (48%), watched a Bible-oriented program (46%), searched for Bible-related content on the internet (46%), enrolled in an app-based Bible reading plan (29%) and listened to a Bible-related podcast (28%).

Broken down by age demographic, majorities of both adults aged 58 and older (75%) as well as adults aged 18-57 (65%) reported reading from a printed Bible in the month prior to the survey's collection. Majorities of younger Bible users embraced Bible apps (53%) and searched for Bible-related content on the internet (57%) in the preceding months, while 35% of their older counterparts used both of the aforementioned methods for interacting with the Bible.

A higher share of older Bible users (46%) adopted an app-based Bible reading plan at some point in the month preceding the survey, along with 35% of younger Bible users. On the other hand, more younger Bible users (32%) watched Bible-oriented programming than older ones (23%).

The survey also inquired as to whether respondents were "able to sincerely forgive whatever someone else has done to me, regardless of whether they ever ask for forgiveness or not." Forty-seven percent of Scripture engaged respondents indicated that they strongly agreed with that statement, while an additional 47% somewhat agreed. Just 4% somewhat disagreed and the remaining 2% strongly disagreed.

The overwhelming majority of those in the "Movable Middle" told pollsters that they somewhat agreed with that statement, followed by 20% who somewhat disagreed, 17% who strongly agreed, and 4% who strongly disagreed. Forty-eight percent of Bible disengaged respondents "somewhat agreed" that they were able to sincerely forgive those who had done them wrong, while 30% somewhat disagreed, 11% strongly agreed and 10% strongly disagreed.

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