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Building on the Black Church’s Bible Legacy

How African Americans outpaced the country in Scripture-savvy—and why ministry leaders expect even more from them.
Building on the Black Church’s Bible Legacy
Image: Illustration by Daria Kirpach / Salzmanart

African Americans have held tight to their Bibles over the years. Amid cultural shifts in beliefs and reading habits, their demographic consistently outranks other racial groups for their reliance on the Word. Last year, the American Bible Society (ABS) once again named African Americans “the most Bible engaged in the US.”

They are more likely to own a Bible—93 percent of African Americans do, versus 82 percent of Americans overall—and more than twice as likely to say Bible reading is crucial to their daily routine, according to the society’s 2018 State of the Bible report.

“Generally, African Americans are deeply spiritual people. In my generation, many of those that were not church attendees, or even Christian, still had a great respect for the Bible,” said Mark Croston, national director of black church partnerships for LifeWay Christian Resources. “Black people love to quote and tote the Bible.”

Their tight relationship with Scripture grows out of a rich spiritual tradition and can carry on even when other markers of faith fade away. African Americans know biblical narratives on suffering and deliverance because they have lived them and experienced God’s fulfilled promises for themselves, African American church leaders say.

The latest statistics touting African Americans’ engagement with the Good Book present an opportunity to build on the legacy of the black church and bring deeper understanding.

“The results of the survey are encouraging, but they also serve as a core motivation to continue the great legacy of orthodoxy and orthopraxy,” said Earon James, lead pastor at Relevant Life Church in Pace, Florida, and pastor-in-residence at The Witness—A ...

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