Research Results

Are Canadians Done With The Bible?
Published by: Canadian Bible Forum and The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, 2014

The Canadian Bible Engagement Study, published on 1 May 2014, found that "about one in seven Canadians, or 14%, read the Bible at least once a week. The majority of Canadians, including those who identify themselves as Christians, read the Bible either seldom or never".

Since 1996, weekly Bible reading has declined by nearly half. People's confidence in the Bible as the Word of God has also decreased signficantly along with declining church attendance. Almost two-thirds of Canadians (64%) and six in ten of those who identified themselves as Christians agree that the scriptures of all major religions teach essentially the same things.

The survey showed that Canadians who are engaging most with the Scriptures have three behaviours in common: community (they are involved in a worshipping community), conversation (they discuss and explore the Bible with their friends) and confidence (they are confident it is the way to know God and hear from him).

View the video, download the executive summary and full report from the Canadian Bible Engagement Study website.

The study concludes with the message that "if churches are to strengthen the Bible engagement of their congregants, they themselves need to be convinced of the reliability, relevance, trustworthiness and divine origin of the Bible".

HT: Lawson Murray, jumpintotheword blog.  [more...]

Research conducted among US adults
Author: Barna Group
Published by: American Bible Society (2014)

The American Bible Society and Barna Group have published their annual research on the State of the Bible, "a comprehensive study of Americans' attitudes and behaviors toward the Bible".

For 2014, they identify six trends:

  1. Bible skepticism is now “tied" with Bible engagement. Skepticism or agnosticism about the Bible has increased and now stands at 19%, the same as the percentage of those who are Bible engaged (who read the Bible at least four times a week and believe it is the actual or inspired Word of God).
  2. Despite the declines, most Americans continue to be "pro-Bible." But "being pro-Bible doesn't necessarily mean Americans use the Bible regularly, however. Only 37% of Americans report reading the Bible once a week or more."
  3. Distraction and busyness continue to squeeze out the Bible. "Americans say they want to read the Bible — 62% wish they read Scripture more — they just don't know how to make time."
  4. The age of screens has come to stay in the Bible market. "In just a handful of years, use of tablets and smartphones for Bible searches has skyrocketed, from 18% in 2011 to 35% in 2014. That said, a strong majority still prefer to read the Bible in print (84%); the same holds true even among Millennials (81%)."
  5. Increasingly, people come to the Bible for answers or comfort. Although most come to the Bible to connect with God, there is an increase in those looking for pragmatic answers to life's problems.
  6. People are less likely to link moral decline with a lack of Bible reading. People blame decline on other things (movies, music, TV, etc).

Download the full report and infographics from the American Bible Society website.  [more...]

Report into Scripture reading habits of parents and children
Published by: Bible Society, UK

The Bible Society in the UK has launched Pass It On, a campaign to encourage parents to read, watch or listen to a Bible story with their child.

An accompanying Research Report is available for download. Among the findings are:

  • Only 35% of children have had a Bible story read to them by their parents and just 16% by their grandparents.
  • Over half of children (54%) never, or less than once a year, read Bible stories at school or at home, and 45% of parents of children aged 3 to 8 say they never read Bible stories to their child, falling to 36% in London and rising to 52% in Scotland and 60% in Wales.
  • In stark contrast, 86% of parents read, listened to or watched Bible stories themselves as a child aged 3 to 16.
  • For 1 in 5 parents (22%) of younger children, aged 3 to 8, a lack of time is a barrier to them reading to their children more often. For some parents, an increase in the availability of different types of media is making it difficult to read more often to their children. Yet, while digital devices are growing in popularity, 82% of children still like to read stories more traditionally in a book.

The report concludes:

Our research highlights a number of worrying trends, among them evidence that Bible literacy – already in serious decline – will become significantly worse in the future.

While millions of people in Britain and around the world believe in the value Bible stories bring to society, little is being done in our homes or schools to keep them alive for future generations.

The Pass It On campaign seeks to respond to this challenge.  [more...]

Published by: Barna Group (2013)

The Millennial generation of young people are known as "digital natives". According to recent research carried out by the Barna Group in the USA:

"the most common way Millennials are blending their faith and technology is through digital reading of Scripture. It’s an escalating trend, considering there are just as many YouVersion (the free Bible phone app) downloads as there are Instagram downloads. And BibleGateway.com has become one of the top Christian websites today."

The research found that:

"Seven out of 10 of practicing Christian Millennials (70%) read Scripture on a screen. One-third of all Millennials says they read sacred Scripture on a phone or online, demonstrating how broadly the digital trends are shaping this generation."

In addition, 38% of practicing Christian Millennials said they search the Internet to verify something a faith leader has said. This might be during a sermon, as many bring their smartphones or tablets to church with them.  [more...]

Author: Katherine O’Donnell

MA dissertation: Bible & Mission, Redcliffe College (2013)

Abstract:

This study examines both what Tanzanian Christians think about the Bible and the way they engage with it, through a review of the literature on Bible use in Africa and primary research in the Mbeya-Iringa Cluster Project of SIL International. Data was gathered through a mixed method approach using questionnaires (with respondents selected through purposive sampling across four language areas) and a group interview (with the Literacy/Scripture Use Coordinators who administered the questionnaires).

The research revealed that Tanzanians commonly see the Bible as the Word of God, though what they mean by this is less clear. Preaching, prayer meetings, Bible seminars and songs were most commonly ranked as very important for growing in faith. Further, respondents most frequently engaged with the Bible by reading or listening to it at church (80%), reading alone (55%), singing (47%) or praying (45%). There was a clear discrepancy between their level of Bible engagement and the importance they ascribed to it. Only 63% owned a complete Swahili Bible, while far fewer used mother-tongue Scriptures. Most people seemed to interpret the Bible simply and directly, but not always contextually or accurately, and saw the Bible’s central message as being one of judgement, sin or salvation. Variations were sometimes found between genders, denominations and language areas.

Amongst other things, the findings suggest that Scripture Engagement workers should use methods appropriate for oral and communal societies, provide training for pastors and lay Christians in hermeneutics and other Bible engagement tools and facilitate the distribution of Christian literature.  [more...]

Author: John Ommani Luchivia

Fuller Graduate Schools, School of Intercultural Studies Doctor of Intercultural Studies dissertation (2012)

Abstract:
This dissertation explores the missiological opportunities, challenges and implications of growing multilingualism among people who are fluent in two or more languages. I look at the cognitive value of language and how languages shape people’s world views. World views influence peoples’ perceptions and way of processing and understand information. People’s beliefs are reflected in their character and relationships in the community. Christians want to promote positive community relations in order for people to participate in the mission of God within their community.

I survey relevant literature on the role of language and its value, how language fits the plan of God, and its place in His mission to different peoples. I then survey current trends of language use and growing multilingualism, and the language practices within Kenya. I therefore focus on research factors behind language choice and use.

Methodologically, I use focus groups, participant observation, and personal interviews in four different socio-linguistic contexts in four different Christian denominations. I thematically analyse and code the data to establish my findings. The findings point to the factors that influence language choice.

Factors that determine choice of language go beyond the level of fluency in reading, speaking or understanding. These factors involve attitudes that go very deep in both positive and negative ways. Additionally, people’s language choices are influenced by other social factors. The factors include desire to communicate, social cultural pressure, economic advancement, political correctness, reading materials availability, leadership perception on language, institutional policy, religious values and proficiency in any given language. These factors were consistently displayed in all four research locations enabling me to demonstrate reliability of the data and validity of the findings.

Understanding how these factors influence people will assist Christians who desire to become good witnesses. To be witnesses, people need to be empowered. For purpose of language choice, all languages should be viewed as being appropriate for ministry. Language is a platform for effective participant contextualisation among the people of God. Through their actions and pronouncements people are able to utilize the multilingual environment of Kenya to better engage in mission and spread God’s Word.

-- for more information about this dissertation, please contact the author at john_ommaniatsil [dot] org  [more...]

Author: Bettina Gottschlich
Published by: Fuller Theological Seminary, Doctor of Intercultural Studies dissertation (2012)

Abstract:
This dissertation contributes to the missiological conversation on transformational Scripture engagement. Translation into the mother–tongue and good distribution by themselves are insufficient to enable multi–lingual Budu believers of Congo–Kinshasa translate the Bible into action and changed lives. Literature surveyed on Scripture engagement, biblical theology of mission and contextualization revealed that effectiveness seems to be handicapped by the lack of connecting and integrating the people’s story in its wider historical context into God’s story, as presented in the totality of Scripture and understood through relevant themes and motifs. In light of a history of a largely non–contextualized gospel, the model of biblical theology in context including creative solutions to language in a multilingual environment could offer a way forward.

This qualitative research identifies and documents Scripture resources that enable life–transforming Scripture engagement among Budu believers from their point of view. It further identifies measurable indicators that determine what constitutes verifiably effective engagement. The research methodology consisted of qualitative methods to collect and grounded theory to analyze the data from 36 interviews and 36 focus groups, participant observation and document research, representing the whole of the Budu region and its church leadership. The findings revealed the emic view that I classify in two key themes of “People” as Scripture resources and “Ministry” Scripture resources.

The data collected is used to develop a change strategy together with Budu leadership to enable Budu believers encounter God’s Word in life–transforming ways using context–appropriate Scripture resources. My recommendations call for two important changes: (1) altering our comprehension of what constitutes a Scripture resource; (2) using this knowledge to enable Budu believers complete God’s story in a way that it becomes “readable” through the messengers individually and communally and communicated through appropriated means of communication. I specifically address the issue of leaders as promoters of transformation in the largely but not only communal and oral context of African believers. As these leaders find their place within God’s story, and become “living Scripture resources”, credible conveyers of the Word of God, they will be able to lead others towards life–transforming engagement with Scripture.

-- For information about this dissertation, please contact Bettina Gottschlich at bettinagottschlichatgmail [dot] com  [more...]

GIAL Electronic Notes Series Vol. 6 No. 1 (April 2012)
Author: David M Federwitz
Published by: GIAL

"Bible Translation organizations for too long operated under the false assumption that if the Bible was translated, people would be changed by its message. This theory, while rightly acknowledging the power of the Holy Spirit, neglected a full understanding of other factors leading to life transformation. Personally, I am not only interested in people having access to God’s Word in the language of their heart but I am more interested in them applying it in their lives for the long term and having a flourishing relationship with God. I believe that in order for that to be fully realized, the local churches or language community must not view the language development program as belonging to the expatriate or sources outside the community."

This article reports on a study looking at the relationship between local ownership and sustainable use of Scripture to determine if more local ownership of a language development program leads to more sustainable use of Scripture. Other issues were also studied in order to more fully understand their relationship with ongoing Scripture use. In the end, it was discovered that indigenous language learning by expatriate language development program workers, capacity building for indigenous language development workers and the length of time since the completion of a language development program were important indicators of sustainable Scripture use.  [more...]

A case study of the spiritual and socio-cultural impact of the Bible translation strategy of the Ghana Institute of Linguistics, Literacy and Bible Translation on the Dega people of Ghana
Author: Thomas Atta-Akosah
Published by: University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg - MTh thesis (2004)

Abstract:
After participants had been told of the processes of Bible translation during a prayer partners meeting of Ghana Institute of Linguistics, Literacy and Bible Translation (GILLBT), one of them asked, "After the people have been given the Scriptures, what happens?"

This study has been an attempt to supply answers to such questions. It attempts to ascertain the impact that the Bible translation strategy (BTS) of GILLBT has had on the Dega people of Ghana, especially their socio-cultural and spiritual lives. The study uses Darrell Whiteman's conceptual framework of Integral Human Development to analyse how the Bible translation strategy has contributed to their human development. The BTS comprises linguistic and anthropological research, Bible translation, literacy and development and Scripture-In-Use.  [more...]

Prime Journal of Social Science, Vol. 1, Issue 7, 121-129 (2012)
Author: Jonathan E. T. Kuwornu-Adjaottor

Abstract:

"The need for the translation of the Scriptures into the vernacular to enable people read the Bible in their mother-tongues started in the third century BC in the ancient city of Alexandria in Egypt. Since the first mother-tongue translation – from Hebrew to Greek – many vernacular translations have been done. As of 2009, Bible Agencies in Ghana have translated the full Bible into 13 and the New Testament into 20 languages. The question is, are the mother-tongue translations of the Bible being used?

"The study which was conducted in Kumasi, Ghana, in 67 congregations of the Mainline, Ghana Pentecostal, African Indigenous and Charismatic Churches, and some New Religious Movements, in October-November 2009 reveals that 55.5% of the respondents had the Bible in eight mother-tongues in the Kumasi Metropolis; people from ages 41-60, constituting 77.2% of the respondents read the mother-tongue Bibles most; only 12.8% young people read the mother-tongue Bibles; 34.1% of the respondents read the mother-tongue Bibles daily; 32.1% at least thrice a week; and 33.8% once a week, perhaps only on Sundays when they carry the Bibles to their respective churches. Even though this research was limited to Kumasi, it serves as an eye opener as to whether Christians are using the Bible translated into the various Ghanaian languages. This research is significant in that it is the first of its kind in Ghana, and others can build on it."  [more...]