Wednesday, April 9, 2014
THE BIBLE BECOMING LESS RELEVANT TO AMERICAN CULTURE ACCORDING TO BARNA RESEARCH GROUP
Today, Barna Research Group released the findings on it's annual "State Of The Bible" survey. The results are not good, from a faith based standpoint. In the study, Barna found that the Bible is becoming less relevant to today's American culture, at the same time, findings indicate that the majority of Americans agree that moral and ethical values are in decline. Interestingly, while 8 in 10 Americans agree that the country is in moral decline, most do not attribute a departure from the Bible as a contributing factor, but rather point towards entertainment's influence as the main culprit. I believe that the lack of Biblicaly based values leads to poor entertainment choice, which does contribute greatly to the decline in today's morality.
Barna reported 5 key findings based on their study. Overall, Barna still views America as a "Bible friendly" nation, but trends indicate that this is rapidly changing. According to Barna, antagonism towards the Bible is on the rise, while those who view the Bible as God's word and relevant to daily life is declining, especially among the younger generations. As churches continue to embrace purpose driven and seeker/emergent concepts and Christians continue to live dual lives, this trend will only continue. If believers do not lovingly model Biblical lifestyles, how can unbelievers see the Bible as anything other than an ancient book of platitudes and parables?
Barna's first finding is that, for the first time ever, just as many people are ambivalent towards the scriptures as those who embrace the Word. Nineteen percent of Americans see the Bible as God's word and actually read it at least 4 times per week. At the same time, nineteen percent of Americans see the Bible as nothing any more special than any other book written by men, stating emphatically that they do not believe it is the Word of God. Just 3 years ago, only nine percent of Americans felt this way. A 10% jump in 3 years is alarming to say the least.
Barna's second finding is that young Americans categorized as Millennials(born between 1984 and 2002) are far more likely to hold the Bible in disdain. A full 39% claim to have never read the Bible - ever. This is very troubling, as this group is moving into positions of leadership and influence. Even as 50% of Americans, overall, claim to believe the Bible has all the information needed to lead a fulfilled life, only 35% of Millennials hold this view. What kind of Biblical legacy will the generation being raised by Millennials inherit if only a third of Millennials currently believe the Bible is worth passing on?
Barna's third finding is that Americans do not have time to read the Bible. This is a common complaint I here form many fellow believers. The truth is we find time to do things that are important to us. Of the 47% who claim to be frustrated that they do not have time to read the Bible, I wonder how many miss their favorite show each week or miss dinner regularly. We have time to do what we see as important, so if you are in the 47% who claim lack of time as the reason for not reading, chances are reading your Bible is just not a priority.
Barna's fourth finding is that fewer people attribute lack of Biblical influence for the moral decline of society. As stated above, entertainment is blamed by most Americans for the decline in moral values. Because the culture sees the Bible as less relevant, less impact is attributed to it's decline in societies esteem. As fewer people hold the Bible up as inspired, fewer people will realize that the current moral decline is accelerated by lack of Biblical standards of conduct.
Barna's fifth finding, and most encouraging, is that technology is affecting the way people utilize scripture. Of he those who claimed to be newer readers of the Word, 26% attributed it to downloading a Bible app onto their phone. I have the ESV app on my phone and find it to be a very useful tool. As technology grows, so to will access to Bible helps and teachings.
The spiritual future of America does not bode well if current trends continue in the same direction. Bible teaching churches are challenged with holding firm to the truth of scripture while at the same time presenting the Word in a way that is relevant to a younger generation that embraces immorality as a cultural norm. The temptation is to move to a more seeker sensitive model that allows people to feel accepted and loved without ever confronting sin and it's destructive nature. Sin is still dangerous, even if our society endorses it in every way imaginable. The Bible is still the inspired Word of God and does not change with the whims of the culture. I would like to encourage you, as a believer, to take the time - make the time- to read your Bible daily and ask God to allow it to speak to you and shape your lifestyle. The future of America just may depend on it!