Year after year, when uncertainty and tragedy strike, people turn to the Bible for answers, and 2020 proved to be no different. The two most-used digital platforms for Bible engagement—BibleGateway and the YouVersion Bible App—have released data on the Bible verses and themes most searched, shared, and read in 2020. In what has been a year defined by surprise and uncertainty, the results…really aren’t that surprising.
This year, searches for Scripture on Biblegateway.com related to four key themes—pandemic, politics, end times, and social—occurred ten times more often than they did in 2019.
Meanwhile, the Bible verse most shared, bookmarked, and highlighted on the YouVersion Bible app was Isaiah 41:10: “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” This verse was also very popular last year.
Other highlights from YouVersion show how the app continues to grow in downloads around the world and suggests that the Bible is becoming more and more accessible to more people:
Over 52 million app installations this year alone. To date, the app has been downloaded 450 million times.
22.4 million installations of the Bible app for kids, which YouVersion partners with OneHope to provide.
Nine of the countries that experienced an increase in Bible engagement are located in Africa. Notably, Ethiopia saw the biggest increase of Bible engagement compared to last year at 61 percent, followed by Rwanda at 38 percent, and Kenya and Zimbabwe both at 37 percent.
A couple European nations also made the list of countries where Bible engagement increased the most. The United Kingdom saw a 21 percent increase and Belgium saw a 28 percent increase.
BibleGateway.com: The Four Themes of 2020
BibleGateway’s most popular Bible verse of 2020 was John 3:16, followed by Jeremiah 29:11. While those two verses almost always top the list of most popular Bible verses (regardless of the year), BibleGateway found some interesting trends appear in keyword/keyphrase searches for Scripture. The site identified four main themes that garnered a massive amount of searches this year.
Key topics: disease, pestilence, plague.
Key verses associated with the searches: “Worship the LORD your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you” (Exodus 23:25) and “Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security” (Jeremiah 33:6).
Key topics: praying for government, obeying government authority
Key verses associated with the searches: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:1-2) and “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Romans 13:1).
Key topics: signs of the end times, end of the world.
Key verses associated with the searches: “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people” (2 Timothy 3:1-5) and “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36).
Key verses associated with the searches: racism, justice, equality, oppression.
Key verses: “When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers” (Proverbs 21:15) and “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow” (Isaiah 1:17).