Study reveals most, least “Bible-minded” cities
By Laura Haas –
A report from the American Bible Society ranking 100 U.S. cities from the most to least “Bible-minded,” revealed the majority of highly “Bible-minded” cities are located in the South and the least in the Northeast and West.
For the purpose of the study, an individual was considered “Bible-minded” if he or she had read the Bible in the past seven days and considered the teachings of the Bible to be true.
Major Christine Poff, The Salvation Army’s national consultant for Christian education, said that the results were not surprising.
“The majority of the cities that were more Bible-minded fell within the Bible Belt,” Poff said. “In the Bible Belt evangelical Protestantism is a significant part of the culture and church attendance across the denominations is generally higher than other parts of the country.”
The study also found an inverse relationship between population size and “Bible-mindedness” meaning that larger cities were less likely to be “Bible-minded” than smaller cities and towns.
According to the American Bible Society, the ranking will help organizations engage in more effective ministry by understanding where people are coming from in their relationship with and understanding of the Bible.
The first doctrine of The Salvation Army affirms the Bible’s position as the central guide for the work and mission of the organization.
To ensure the continued interest in and engagement with the Bible, National Headquarters is in the process of updating current programs and developing new ways to share the Bible with those who come in contact with The Salvation Army.
“Many of the new curricula are incorporating more media-based learning,” Poff said. “We also need to use technology, apps, social media to promote the Word, to give opportunities for learning and for being connected in community.”
The Army has also partnered with the American Bible Society to develop a Bible-based reading instructional program for first-time learners and ESL students in the Eastern and Central Territories. It uses biblical stories and words to teach individuals about the Bible and how to read and write at the same time.
“This however, does not replace the coming together in physical community and developing relationships that provide support, encouragement and accountability,” Poff said, adding that all of these programs mean nothing without meaningful relationships and discipleship.
When Major Algerome Newsome, area commander in Chattanooga, the most “Bible-minded” city in the nation, first moved to the area, members of the community were quick to brag about the special status that the Christian faith holds in their town.
“When I arrived in Chattanooga just over two years ago, I was greeted with the phrase ‘Welcome to the Buckle of the Bible Belt,’” Newsome said. “They are proud of the self-proclaimed title.” Yet Newsome added that while the community is familiar with the Bible, there is still work to be done.
“Bible knowledge does not always equate to Bible action,” Newsome said. “The Bible has always been central to the mission of the Army. The Book of James reminds us that ‘faith without works is dead.’”
Knowledge of the Bible has not led to harmony in the community. It hasn’t even ensured harmony among believers. The large number of Christians in Chattanooga leads to more discussion and often, disagreement, about the needs of the community and how to go about meeting them.
“Unity in the common purpose of God evades the community,” Newsome said. “This is evident by the growing number of new churches popping up as well as the number of churches that are splitting and traditional churches that are dying.”
The study revealed an openness to the Bible in many communities and room to deepen relationship to it.
“It isn’t about all the programs we do, or the curriculum we produce, or the things we do for others,” Poff said. “It’s using those things to connect and develop relationships with our youth and the people we come into contact with through social services, women’s ministries, corps activities, and so on. Through those relationships we can teach the Word and minister to the soul issues.”
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