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The State of the Bible in America

The State of the Bible in America  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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A snapshot of Barna's book "The Bible in America"

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-Intro The Bible in America by George Barna and The American Bible Society. (2016)
Psalm 19:7–14 ESV
7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; 8 the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; 9 the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. 11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. 12 Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. 13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. 14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Psalm 19
Show Pic of Book Cover with the web address:
In 1816 Elias Boudinot founded the American Bible Society. In those days, Boudinot was concerned with a couple of key items with regard to the State of the Bible in America. His largest concern was distribution. Boudinot believed a large number of people existed in the United States who did not own a copy of the Bible who would have benefited from the Bible if they owned a copy. His goal — and that of the society he founded — was to put a copy of the Bible in the hands of as many people as he could and trust the Holy Spirit to work in and through the Scriptures as people read the Bible.
Boudinot and his partners at the newly formed American Bible Society were receiving reports from Western missionaries lamenting the desperate need for Bibles on the Western frontier. Samuel J. Mills and John Schermerhorn agreed to do a year long evangelistic tour through Southern and Western portions of the United States. Their task was not only evangelistic; it was also to collect data on Bible ownership in these areas.
Upon their return, Mills estimated 40,000 - 50,000 French Catholics did not own a Bible in Louisiana. (I remind you, Missouri was not a state until 1821 and was a part of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase.) Mills estimated that St. Louis stood in need of 13,000 Bibles. Mills went on to lament after his year long tour of the West and South that the “whole country” from “Lake Erie to the Gulf of Mexico is as the valley of the shadow of death due to lack of Bibles.”
This is no longer the case… Barna’s 2016 study shows that 9 out of 10 homes in America own a Bible and the median number of Bibles per household is 3.0. (p. 44)
Distribution is no longer
While not all households own a Bible in America, most would concede that the distribution of and access to the Bible is a challenge that has been — in the United States — largely if not entirely eliminated.
Show graph “The Bible Goes Digital” (p. 46)
From 2011 - 2016, the favorite way for Americans to interact with the Bible is in print form — whatever their age or gender. Over 90% of Americans read the Bible in written form.
However, over that same 5 year period, dramatic increases have happened in using the internet to read the Bible, listening to teaching about the Bible by podcast, searched for Bible verses or content on their cell phone, listened to an audio version of the Bible, or used a Bible app on their cellular device.
This rise in digital/virtual Bible distribution could also indicate increased Bible engagement.

We live in an age and location where the state of the Bible in America no longer carries grave concerns around distribution. The concern now is around Bible Engagement.

Show Four Types of Bible Engagement (p. 21)
Bible Engaged — has a high view of Scripture and reads the Bible four or more times per week.
Bible Friendly —has a high view of Scripture but reads it less frequently.
Bible Neutral — has a lower but not negative view of Scripture.
Bible Skeptic — the Bible is just another book of teachings written by men.
Which are you?
First the good news — 78% are neutral or positive about the Bible.
Here is one of the most concerning pieces of news in this study — 22% are Bible skeptics in 2016… in 2011 that number was 10%.
American’s still view the Bible highly!
Show Bible’s Impact Graph (p. 31)
Again — notice the strong view of the Bible… but you can see the Bible skepticism emerging the younger you move down the graph.

When people read the Bible, what motivates them to read it?

Show Reasons People Read the Bible (p. 105)
To get closer to God
I Need Comfort
Problem to solve or direction needed

One of the things that can keep people from reading their Bible is busyness.

Another reason people sometimes resist reading their Bible is a lack of confidence over the translation and its dependability.
Show video clip — Challenges of Bible Translation
Karen Jobes, Prof Emerita at Wheaton
Bill Mounce, translator — NIV and ESV
Bill Mounce

4 Closing Observations:

The Bible is still good news in America.
How can we reimagine and reactivate our community scriptural muscle memory so the Bible comes alive in people’s lives again?
Young People MUST Be the Priority
How can we redirect and bring relief to the anti-Bible pressure our young people can and do feel?
The Bible can be trusted and enjoyed.
How can we offer clear, courageous and thoughtful advocacy for the Bible?
Bible Engagement needs a plan.
How can we help people deepen their engagement in the Bible?
Elias Boudinot — 1816… so much distribution; so little engagement.
Do you know the percentage of “practicing Christians” who say they wish they read the Bible more?
People’s #1 reason for decreased Bible reading: too busy
People’s #1 frustration with it comes to Bible reading: not enough time
Matthew 7:
Matthew 7:24–27 ESV
24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
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