Bible Engagement Blog: JumpIntoTheWord

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Trends Impacting Bible Engagement in Canada

Bible engagement, as with everything, is impacted for better or worse by a variety of structures, beliefs, factors and norms. Understanding the culture we live in is vital if we’re to effectively connect Canadians with Jesus and His Story.  So what are some of the trends impacting Bible engagement in Canada?

Individualism and Relativism

Canada is a “Me” society. Autonomy is the measure of most things. The majority of Canadians are focused on their personal aspirations and absorbed by their pleasures. What’s “right” is largely determined by “my point of view” and “what works for you”. Personal preferences and opinions trump truth. No single viewpoint is considered superior to another.

Church Attendance

Church attendance continues to decline. Weekly church attendance in Canada has fallen dramatically since its heyday in the 1950’s (53% in 1957, 24% in 1990, 21% in 2005). Only one in three young adults who attended church as a child regularly attend church now. Church attendance and Bible engagement rise or fall together.

Trends impacting bible engagment - religious attendance graphic - rev1

Atheism

Atheism has become a significant option to religion. In the 1960’s it was frowned upon by society, but today 15% of young Canadians classify themselves as atheists. Atheists are organized and connected. When the article, “Bible Reading in Canada” was published on the jumpintotheword blog, the Society for Atheists and Agnostics, as well as other atheists, tweeted the article to their networks. In just 36 hours more than 5,500 atheists downloaded the article! Why? They were celebrating the news about the decline in Bible engagement!

Immigration

Nearly 21% of the Canadian population (6.8 million people) are foreign born. In some cities visible minorities are actually the majority. More than 50% of the population of Canada’s largest city, Toronto, were not born in Canada. Most newcomers to Canada come from Asia. The largest visible minority in Vancouver, with 28% of the population, are from Chinese descent.

Community Cohesion

Ethnicity, divergent interests and different worldviews are increasingly isolating Canadians from their neighbours. Individualism is fostering private life at the expense of the community. Canadians are not really expected to know one another. Technology supports this trend. We read about the “gathering” of communities via the Internet, yet in most cases these people never meet in person.

Affluence

Canada is ranked sixth in the world for the highest quality of life and ranked ninth for purchasing power per capita. Since 1990 there has been a rising income inequality in Canada. Thirty-four percent of Canadians saw their wealth increase last year by about 14% while 38% of Canadians saw their wealth decrease by an average of 23%.

Trends impacting bible engagment - income inequality grahpic - rev1Rise of the “Nones”

Many Canadians are leaving religion in favour of a more individualized spirituality. The fastest growing “religious” group in Canada are people who identify their religious affiliation as “none”. The percentage of Canadians who identified themselves as having no religious affiliation is 24% (2011). In 1971 just 4% of Canadians were religiously unaffiliated. The rise of the “nones” cuts across all demographic groups and is evident among all age groups in all regions of the country. [Note: While “Nones” say they’re not affiliated to a religion, they’re surprisingly religious. Most of them do not identify themselves as agnostic or atheistic, 40% believe in God, 20% of them attend religious services annually, and more than 10% pray weekly]

Other Religions

Since 1981 there has been a 7% increase in the number of Canadians who belong to other religions – Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Sikhism. Taken together, one in ten Canadians adhere to these religions. Before 1950 there were virtually no Muslims in Canada (less than 0.01%). In 2011 there were more than 1 million Muslims (3.2%).

Trends impacting bible engagment - population by religion graphic - rev2Mainline Protestant Decline

Reshuffling of dominant denominations has occurred over several decades. Mainline Protestants (Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, United) are no longer in the spotlight. Eastern Orthodox Christianity is growing. Protestant Evangelicals and Catholics, though polarized religiously from society, occupy the religious centre stage.

Worldview

Canadians value peace, order, tolerance, good government, healthcare and social equity. In large part Canadians have a strong liberal tilt on ethical matters and define morality by what justifies their lifestyle. Increasingly, and usually without the guidance of organized religion, Canadian society is dramatically reinventing, refining, or undermining (depending on your point of view) morality.

Technology

While Canadians have a love hate relationship with technology, 86% say technology makes them more efficient in the workplace and 74% say technology improves their quality of life. Eighty-three percent of Canadian households have home access to the Internet (2012) – nearly double the worldwide average.

Religious Behaviour

There is a widening divergence of religious behaviour between Canadians born inside and outside the country. Canadian born persons who do not attend religious services increased by 15 percent between 1985 and 2004 whereas there was no decline in attendance at religious services among first generation immigrants. Attendance at religious services is higher among Canadians born outside the country than among those born inside the country.

Education

In the 1970’s, by an eight point gap, Canadians with higher levels of education were less likely to have a religious affiliation than Canadians with lower levels of education. In 2011 this had narrowed to a two point gap – 23% of college graduates had no religious affiliation verses 21% of those without a college degree.

Social Media

On a per capita basis Canada has the most social networking users in the world. Nearly 50% of Canadians use social media at least once a month. Facebook has cornered the market – signing up 93% of Canadian social media users. Social media is changing the way people interact, but the implications and impact of these changes are not yet known.

Have your say. What would you add to the above list?

 Sources:

Angus Reid

eMarketer

Canadian Bible Engagement Study

Canadian Internet Use Survey

Forum Research

Fotolia Research

Gallup Poll

Gini Coefficient

God and Society in North America

Haemorrhaging Faith Study

Human Development Index

Parliamentary Information and Research Service

Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Statistics Canada General Social Survey

Statistics Canada 2011 National Household Survey

World Bank 

© Scripture Union Canada 2014


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Ten Bible Engagement Facts Every Pastor Needs To Know

Here are ten key Bible engagement facts* every pastor needs to know:

  1. Bible engagement and church attendance are inextricably linked
  2. People who read the Scriptures a few times a week will usually attend church frequently
  3. Local churches that major on Bible engagement are more likely to grow
  4. Bible engagement is the primary factor that sustains and nourishes faith
  5. Robust conversations about the Bible are strongly correlated with church health
  6. Christians are built-up spiritually primarily through conversations about the Scriptures
  7. When confidence in the Bible is nurtured, church attendance is strengthened
  8. If people don’t have confidence in the Bible, they probably won’t attend church
  9. People who believe the Bible is relevant to life are more likely to attend church
  10. People who believe the Bible is the “Word of God” are six times more likely to attend church weekly

With the above facts in mind, how should the local church be aligned to better facilitate and encourage Bible engagement? Here are ten practical suggestions:

  1. Encourage everyone in the congregation to regularly read and reflect on the Scriptures
  2. Equip people with Bible reading guides, plans and resources that help them develop and sustain daily Bible reading disciplines e.g., Scripture Union Guides
  3. Cultivate small groups that facilitate vigorous conversations about the Scriptures
  4. Promote, preach and teach the trustworthiness, relevance, usefulness, inspiration and uniqueness of the Bible
  5. Create opportunities or forums for people to discuss the weekly sermon and associated Scripture text
  6. Train people in public Scripture reading so that the Bible is read dynamically, clearly and compellingly
  7. Have Bibles available in the pew and actively encourage people to use them during services and gatherings
  8. Provide opportunities for people to publicly share how God strengthens, supports, comforts, inspires, informs or guides them by His Word
  9. Give everyone who doesn’t have a Bible an age appropriate easy to read version (maintain a supply of Bibles, advertise availability of free Bibles)
  10. Highlight the importance of Bible engagement with an annual program, quest or activity that the congregation does together e.g., E100 Challenge

 

*[The ten facts are gleaned from the research findings of the Canadian Bible Engagement Study (CBES). The CBES is the first ever comprehensive national study of why Canadians do or do not connect with the Bible. World-class market research company Angus Reid Strategies, led by Angus Reid, conducted the survey. The CBES sampled 4,500 Canadians regarding their use, beliefs about, and attitudes toward the Bible. You can download the CBES for free at www.bibleengagementstudy.ca]

© Scripture Union Canada 2014


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Canadian Bible Engagement Study

The majority of Canadians seldom or never read the Bible – this according to the recently published (May 1, 2014) Canadian Bible Engagement Study (CBES).

Sad news from the CBES:

  • 55% of Canadians have never read the Bible
  • 50% of Canadians who read the Bible weekly in 1996 no longer do so today
  • 69% of Canadians believe the Bible has irreconcilable contradictions
  • 64% of Canadians believe the Scriptures of the major world religions teach essentially the same thing

Other news from the CBES:

  • 18% of Canadians strongly agree that the Bible is the Word of God (down from 35% in 1996)
  • 21% of Canadian Christians reflect on the meaning of the Bible for their lives at least a few times a week
  • 11% of Canadian Christians talk to others about the Bible outside of religious services
  • Bible reading frequency among Canadian Christians is roughly the same across all age groups
  • 80% of weekly Bible readers strongly agree that the Bible is the Word of God
  • 61% of Evangelical Christians strongly agree that the Bible is relevant to their lives
  • Confidence in, community around and conversations about the Bible helps deepen Bible engagement
  • People who strongly agree that the Bible is the Word of God are six times more likely to attend church weekly

One of the findings of the CBES is that the fate of Bible engagement and church attendance are inextricably linked. Church attendance, like Bible engagement, has been declining for decades (16% of Canadians attend church weekly – down from 27% in 1996).

While the Study hasn’t unearthed anything new, it is a wake up call. Hopefully God’s people will take a good long prayerful look at the state of both Bible engagement and the church in Canada . . .

The Canadian Bible Engagement Study is a must see (check out the engaging video) and a must read (Executive Summary and Full Report). Watch the video and get the free download of the CBES Report at www.bibleengagementstudy.ca

© Scripture Union Canada 2014

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