3 Takeaways from New Research on Americans and the Bible

Every year, Barna and the American Bible Society release new research on behaviors and beliefs about the Bible among U.S. adults.

Perhaps the most startling takeaway in the research is that readers of the Bible overwhelmingly prefer a printed Bible (91%), even though they access the Bible in other formats (online, smart phone, and apps). Clearly, electronic forms of Bible reading are on the rise, but the arrival of the digital age has not changed Americans’ preference for reading the Bible in print instead of digital.


Every year, Barna and the American Bible Society release new research on behaviors and beliefs about the Bible among U.S. adults. Click here for a summary of the surveys with charts and graphs to help you visualize the research.

Three findings stood out to me.

  1. Most Americans appreciate the Bible and wish they read it more often.

The largest segment of Americans fall into the “friendly” to the Bible category. They don’t engage the Bible regularly, but neither are they neutral, skeptical, or hostile. They see the Bible as an important book that has the potential to improve their lives, even if it’s not a source of wisdom they regularly tap.

Because they have a high view of the Bible, the majority of Americans (58%) wish they read it more often. Of those who are friendly toward the Bible (the largest segment), a striking 78% wish they engaged it more often! The research shows that every segment of Americans expressed a desire for more Bible reading, including one in five Skeptics and one in five non-Christians.

Church leaders often lament the lack of biblical literacy among many church members. We turn to Bible reading plans and Bible studies and curriculum to help with this problem. But in our focus to get more Christians reading the Bible regularly, let’s not miss the opportunity to answer a need that people outside the church may feel, too.

If a majority of the largest segment of non-regular Bible readers say they wish they read it more often, shouldn’t we consider ways to build upon this desire in order to welcome people into our church fellowship?

The Bible is the best thing we’ve got going for us! Instead of assuming that most people outside the church are hostile or skeptical or even neutral toward the Bible, we should assume that people appreciate this Book and will likely appreciate our suggestions in helping them make Bible reading an ongoing part of life.

  1. It’s likely that American views of the Bible are therapeutically motivated.

Older people read the Bible more than younger people, and women read the Bible more than men. And many people say that they’ve gone to the Bible because of a difficult life experience or because they’ve seen the Bible improve someone else’s life.

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