A new study recently conducted by a well-known survey group reveals that the majority of American cities have little to no interest in the Bible.
As per the commission of the American Bible Society, The Barna Group has released the results of its study on the most and least “Bible-minded” cities in the nation. While some cities and regions were more Bible-minded than others, the nation in general ranked quite low. Out of the 96 cities that were surveyed for the study, 91 of them had very little Biblical interest.
The study is based on nearly 43 thousand interviews with citizens from across the country.
“Individuals who report reading the Bible in a typical week and who strongly assert the Bible is accurate in the principles it teaches are considered to be Bible-minded,” The Barna Group explains, outlining how it came to its conclusions. “This definition captures action and attitude—those who both engage and esteem the Christian scriptures. The rankings thus reflect an overall openness or resistance to the Bible in the country’s largest markets.”
The region of the nation that was found to be the most Bible-minded–of no surprise to some–was the South, otherwise known as the Bible Belt. Three cities were tied for the top ranking on the list, all coming in at 52 percent: Knoxville, Tennessee; Shreveport, Louisiana and Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The least Bible-minded cities were spread throughout the country, but were most especially located in New England. Providence, Rhode Island came in at the bottom of the list at nine percent, next to Albany, New York at ten percent. However, San Francisco, California; Phoenix, Arizona and Las Vegas, Nevada also ranked very low at 16, 17 and 18 percent respectively.
The eastern and western regions of the nation were found to be about the same in spiritual climate. Philadelphia was among the most Bible-minded cities on the eastern seaboard at 28 percent, ranking slightly higher than Washington, DC and Baltimore, Maryland. Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington fell just a few percentage points below Philadelphia, at 25 and 24 percent respectively.
The study also found that population density, however, appeared to be a common denominator in terms of Biblical interest.
“Among the nation’s largest 30 cities, 10 of them are in the top half of the Bible-minded market rankings, while 20 of them are in the bottom half,” Barna explained. “Generally speaking, the more densely populated areas tend to be less Bible oriented.”
In analyzing the data, Barna said that the results of the study all depend on the way each person looks at it.
“The least sanguine way to analyze the results would be to emphasize the lack of Bible-mindedness in America; in 91 out of 96 markets a majority of the residents are not Bible minded,” stated David Kinnaman, president of The Barna Group. “However, a more optimistic way to view those markets would be to look at those cities with at least one-fifth Bible-mindedness—meaning those areas where at least one out of five adults are open to engaging and esteeming the Bible.”
“As ministry leaders in particular, it’s important to keep both vantage points in tension. Whether you live in a city ranked in the top half of Bible-minded cities or in the bottom half of Bible-minded cities, there are still tens of thousands of people to reach regarding both the message of the Scriptures and their importance,” he continued. “However, no matter what type of city you live in, there is also a significant remnant of Bible-minded individuals. The key is to not merely ‘preach to those insiders,’ but instead to equip and empower those who do believe with a strong and relevant message to take out into their communities, vocations and spheres of influence. They are the tipping point and can have great influence on the greater city.”