Sharp decline may be connected to drop in church attendance.
When researchers for the American Bible Society’s annual State of the Bible report saw this year’s survey statistics, they found it hard to believe the results. The data said roughly 26 million people had mostly or completely stopped reading the Bible in the last year.
“We reviewed our calculations. We double-checked our math and ran the numbers again … and again,” John Plake, lead researcher for the American Bible Society, wrote in the 2022 report. “What we discovered was startling, disheartening, and disruptive.”
In 2021, about 50 percent of Americans said they read the Bible on their own at least three or four times per year. That percentage had stayed more or less steady since 2011.
But in 2022, it dropped 11 points. Now only 39 percent say they read the Bible multiple times per year or more. It is the steepest, sharpest decline on record.
According to the 12th annual State of the Bible report, it wasn’t just the occasional Scripture readers who didn’t pick up their Bibles as much in 2022 either. More than 13 million of the most engaged Bible readers—measured by frequency, feelings of connection to God, and impact on day-to-day decisions—said they read God’s Word less.
Currently, only 10 percent of Americans report daily Bible reading. Before the pandemic, that number was at about 14 percent.
Plake thinks the dramatic change shows how closely Bible reading—even independent Bible reading—is connected to church attendance. When regular services were interrupted by the pandemic and related health mandates, it impacted not just the corporate bodies of believers but also individuals at home.
“The elephant in the room is COVID-19,” he …