Interest in the Bible, even in some of the world’s most restrictive countries for Christians, remained high in 2021, confirmed perhaps by the YouVersion Bible app’s most popular verses of the year.
Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you,” was YouVersion’s 2021 Verse of the Year, shared, bookmarked and highlighted most often. The verse also was No. 1 in the U.S.
Other popular verses spoke to God’s provision and strength, which many needed as the coronavirus surged again in many countries, including the United States.
In several Latin American countries, including Mexico and Guatemala, Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand,” was the favorite verse.
In Singapore and the Netherlands, Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,’” led searches and shares.
Proverbs 16:9, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps,” was No. 1 in South Korea. Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart,” was the favorite verse in Ghana.
Worldwide, YouVersion Bible app users read 55.8 billion chapters, played 8.2 billion audio chapters and created 2.4 billion highlights, bookmarks and notes.
Users also played 500 million videos and completed 1.4 billion Bible plan days. Young users completed 5.6 million Kids Bible Experience stories.
YouVersion founder Bobby Gruenewald said his team is encouraged to see high levels of Bible engagement in 2021 after a record-breaking 2020.
“It means people are turning to God and the Bible for answers to their questions,” Gruenewald asserted. “Even our Verse of the Year points to the heart of the YouVersion community to seek God and know Him more.”
Prior to the start of the global coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, YouVersion saw spikes in Bible engagement every Sunday, typically 20% higher than the rest of the week.
However, there has been a noticeable shift in patterns over the past two years, creators said. In March 2020, when people weren’t able to attend church in person, weekday Bible engagement increased by 10% and continued to rise in the following weeks.
As churches began to reopen, Bible engagement spikes on Sundays returned, but not at the expense of daily engagement habits. In 2021, Monday-through-Saturday engagement was still up by 24% compared to pre-pandemic levels.
“Coming off of a record year in 2020, we’re excited to see that so many people are continuing the daily Bible engagement habits they created last year,” Gruenewald said.
The fastest-growing geographical areas for both app installs and daily Scripture engagement were Central Africa and Southern Asia.
Specifically, Pakistan, an overwhelmingly majority Muslim country that ranks No. 5 on Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch List of countries where persecution of Christians is highest, saw a 106% jump in Bible engagement in 2021.
Other countries where persecution is high saw increases in engagement as well. In Vietnam (No. 19 on Open Doors’ list) and Laos (No. 22), where communist governments often crack down on Christians, engagement increased 43% and 53%, respectively.
Gruenewald said it encouraged him to hear stories from those who are using the app on a daily basis.