I have some startling news to share, and I believe it sends a clear message to the American church. The following statistics may not surprise you. I knew we were heading in the wrong direction, but I did not know to what extent!
According to the newest report released by American Bible Society, individuals who fall into the “Scripture Engaged” category have decreased by 21 percent in a single year! That means that 14.7 million Americans that used to have a consistent interaction with the Bible no longer do. More people than ever are Bible Disengaged. The segment of people who do not read the Bible or have it shape their life grew at an alarming rate, up by 38 percent (45.2 million adults) in one year.
I personally find this very alarming, and, according to this report, America has never seen such a decline—not even close. And what’s more alarming is that young people are engaging less with the Bible than any other group.
We must consider our strategy for helping people engage with Scripture, especially as we see the younger generations becoming more disengaged with the Bible.
Today, we spend an estimated $500 million per year on print Bibles. The average home in America, according to Lifeway, has over 4 Bibles! We have more Christian films, more churches, and more Christian radio and TV programs than ever before. We even have two state-of-the-art Bible museums and an ark in Kentucky! So why the decline?
Now, let’s look at another astonishing fact. Two of the most downloaded podcasts are Bible podcasts! In fact, these shows often hit #1 and #2 on the charts released in January and have had over 100 million downloads. Why the sudden hunger to engage with God’s Word?
I believe the answer is simple. I believe we have lost the art of teaching the Bible as a story—God’s Story. And when we offer the Bible as a story, people are willing and excited to engage.
Both podcasts I mentioned above go through the Bible in a year using Scripture, commentaries, and stories. They are incredibly interesting and engaging. I personally love to listen to them when I have time, and my wife Debra listens every day and often talks to me about the episodes. Together, with the help of these podcasts, we engage with the Word of God.
Before there were Bibles in every home, before literacy rates were at record highs, people learned God’s Word through storytelling. People would read God’s Word aloud and hear the story of Scripture.
I believe we can see an increase to Bible engagement here in America, but we need to rethink our strategy. We need to redirect our giving and produce tools and resources that present the single, complete story of God’s Word in multimedia formats. (Such as iBible & IM Media Productions)
The most watched film in history is not from Hollywood, it is The Jesus Film. And two of the top podcasts in America focus on going through the Bible in a year. We do not even need to strategize new ideas; we simply need to look at what is already working and do more!
Recently, I heard that The Jesus Film is now being produced as an animation. I applaud their efforts. Animation is very well received by young people in America and by young and old alike on the mission field. They are working on strategic ways to share the love of Christ.
If you are a movie-goer, you know the famous line, “If you build it, they will come” (Field of Dreams). I believe the same can be said about getting young people to engage with the Bible. If we present the Bible in an interesting and understandable format, people will engage. And we don’t have to compromise the message or take a “Hollywood” approach. We simply need to present the Holy Scriptures. They may not all accept it, but the Truth will go forth and we will make disciples of all nations!
Steve Cleary | RevelationMedia
IOM America is a sponsor of RevelationMedia. We consider Steve to be a leader in reestablishing & promoting the Word of God - for both young and the old.