Faithlife says there’s been an increase this spring in sermons published on its online platform that discuss injustice, eschatology, suffering, sickness and other topics related to the coronavirus pandemic as well as the recent protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
Every week, at least 1,000 to 1,500 new sermons are published by pastors using the Logos Bible Software onto Faithlife.com, a website that provides tools and resources for worship and Bible study.
About 75% of those sermons include keyword tags created by the author that highlight the subject of the sermons, according to the company.
Faithlife compared the popularity of sermons that were posted to the platform from March 15 to May 31, 2020 to the popularity of those topics over the trailing year, beginning on March 19, 2019.
“We identified 30 sermon topics that increased in popularity during the spring of 2020, including Church, Sickness, Fear, Hope, Prayer, Power, Government, Eschatology and Injustice,” Faithlife data scientist Marshall Brown wrote in a report.
“Many events have transpired in the last few months, beginning with the global covid-19 pandemic and the shut-down of most in-person Church services, Easter Sunday (April 12, 2020), and most recently the nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd, which coincided with the weekend of Pentecost on May 31, 2020."
With over 100,000 people dying in the United States after contracting coronavirus, sermons tagged with “suffering” doubled from 8% to 16% since last March.
Meanwhile, sermons tagged with “hope” increased from 13% to 23%. Sermons touching on “sickness” quadrupled from 1% to 4%, sermons tagged with “eternity” increased from 15% to 21% and sermons on fear jumped from 12% to 22%.
As there has been some debate from Christian pastors over whether the coronavirus pandemic is part of an End Times prophecy, sermons tagged with “eschatology” have increased from 1% to 6% since March 2019.
Considering that most churches in the U.S. have canceled in-person services to abide by bans on large gatherings this spring, sermons tagged with “church” increased from 12% to 26% while sermons tagged with “government” increased from 4% to 11%.
“Church, and what it means during this season of social distancing, continues to be a popular topic of discussion in sermons,” Brown explained. “This includes Church fellowship and also sacraments traditionally performed at church services such as the Lord’s Supper.”
Sermons tagged with “prayer” increased from 10% to 19%, according to the data.
“Initially, we see quick increases for the topics Fear, Sickness, Prayer, Church and Comfort. Church, and prayer continue to rise later in April and May, and are joined by topics Hope, Service and Family, while fear and sickness trend back down,” Brown wrote.
On Pentecost Sunday, less than a week after Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody on May 25 that inspired nationwide protests, Brown stated that there was not only an increase in sermons tagged with the “Holy Spirit” (as expected for a Pentecost service), there were also increases in sermons tagged with the topics of “injustice,” “power” and “government.”
Since March 2019 to May 31, 2020, sermons on injustice doubled from 2% to 4%, with much of the increase occurring since mid-March 2020, according to a graph.
Sermons tagged with the topic of “love” increased from 28% to 37% since March 2019.
“This data shows that church leaders across the country are helping their congregants understand how the Bible speaks to the current events of our culture,” Faithlife Founder and CEO Bob Pritchett said in a statement. “The data is clear that faith leaders have been bravely fighting on the spiritual frontlines as their congregants have been affected by the pandemic, recent tragedies in the Black community and subsequent protests.”
Faithlife, founded in 1992 and formerly known as Logos Research Systems, partners with over 500 publishers to make more than 120,000 Bible study resources available to customers worldwide.