By Aaron Earls
When asked the greatest command, Jesus pointed to admonitions to love God and love others. When American Bible users were asked, they chose a different Old Testament passage.
As part of the American Bible Society and Barna Research’s State of the Bible 2019, respondents were given five prominent biblical commands and asked which one was the most important.
Out of the options, American Bible users were most likely to choose “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God,” taken from Micah 6:8.
Slightly less than half (46%) chose the Micah command, while 36% picked “love your neighbor as yourself,” a Leviticus 19:18 reference that Jesus included in his summary of the Old Testament law.
Adults were classified as Bible users if they read, listened to, or prayed with the Bible on their own at least 3-4 times a year outside of a church service or event.
Significantly fewer said the most important biblical directive is go and make disciples (8%), take care of the earth (5%), or care for widows and orphans (2%).
Bible users may have been hesitant to choose “go and make disciples” because they weren’t familiar with the command.
A previous study from Barna found 51% of American churchgoers had never heard of the phrase “the Great Commission.” When given a choice of five statements from Jesus, only 37% correctly picked Matthew 28:18-20 as containing the Great Commission.
Women are more likely than men to choose the Micah passage (51% to 41%), while men are more likely to pick the Great Commission (11% to 5%).
Millennial Bible users are the generation most likely to choose “go and make disciples” (11%) or “take care of the earth” (11%) as the most important biblical command.
A different survey from Barna found 47% of practicing millennial Christians say it is “wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes that they will one day share the same faith.”
This sparked significant discussion about the lack of evangelism among younger generations. However, the rest of Barna’s findings, as well as a recent LifeWay Research study on evangelism, provide a fuller picture of young adults’ tendency to share their faith.
As part of the 2019 Discipleship Pathway Assessment study, LifeWay Research found Protestant churchgoers 65 and older were the least likely to have had an evangelistic conversation recently.
“Young adults and middle-aged churchgoers are more likely to have shared with someone how to become a Christian in the past six months than older churchgoing adults,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor for Facts & Trends.