In coordination with the Barna Research Group, the 2021 “State of the Bible” from the American Bible Society is out.
In what can only be called an understatement, the report says that “Gen Z – especially Gen Z youth – has a precarious relationship with the Bible.” You think? According to the report, 66% are not Bible users. What is the definition of a “Bible user?” You use the Bible three to four times… wait for it… a year. A year? Yes, a year.
Let’s keep going. Only 9% are “Scripture engaged” (interacting with the Bible and having it impact their spiritual life). Quick math: 91% aren’t.
And what of the pandemic? “The turmoil of 2020 did not spark greater Bible use among teenagers. Gen Z youth are more likely… to say they decreased their Bible use in the past year.”
Even the Bible as a book of note took a hit. One-third of Gen Z said they neither agreed nor disagreed that the Bible, the Koran and the Book of Mormon are all different expressions of the same spiritual truths.
The most disturbing, yet telling, statement in the report? “If Gen Z follow the same path as Millennials – and research suggests they will – they may continue to grow into rather than age out of these ideas.”
When I wrote The Rise of the Nones, there were a number of people who wanted to spend their time saying it wasn’t really happening.
When I wrote Meet Generation Z, there were a number of people who didn’t want to see Gen Z as being markedly different than Millennials.
Friends, I gain no satisfaction in reading the cultural tea leaves and finding them distressing. I do not desire Generation Z to be the first truly post-Christian generation on American soil. I do not want the rise of the nones to keep rising.
But I am a student of culture. More to the point, I am a missiologist. I want to reach the mission field to which I have been assigned. So let me say this as loudly and clearly as I can:
THIS. IS. HAPPENING.
We live in a post-Christian world.
The nones are rising and will continue to rise.
Generation Z is the first post-Christian generation.
And for the last 5%,
… the digital revolution also happened.
Why the denial?
Own the world in which we live, the mission field we now face, the radically changed nature of communication….
Let’s own the “state of the Bible.”
And not make it a minority report.
James Emery White
“State of the Bible: Research from American Bible Society,” read online.
About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunct professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book After “I Believe” is now available on Amazon or your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.