The digital Bible revolution is a hot topic in today’s church.
My vocation allows me to do a lot of traveling and speaking and I have discovered there are many mixed feelings about the use of digital Bibles. I often get asked by pastors and leaders, “Can people really experience the depths of the Word of God by glancing at it on their phone?” and “Can you really replace having a physical Bible that is showered in highlights and personal notes with a Bible app?” Pastors and leaders also often wonder whether people are really looking at their Bible in church or just texting a friend.
I recently spoke with a pastor that was emphatic about not embracing the smartphone revolution. He told me that his desire was to get people to fall in love with their Bible and read it every day, and a phone app can’t provide that experience.
I took some time to challenge him about today’s culture and how much it embraces the digital app experience. Here are some things I pointed to:
- The number one means of communication today is the cell phone. From texting, to emails, to calls and social apps, this is how today’s generation connects.
- The average app phone user has at least 10 apps they use daily. This means it is their preferred way of seeking information.
- Bible apps include great study tools to help people go deeper, quicker.
- According to one survey, 84% of people say they can’t go a day without their phone because it’s part of who they are. One in four people check their phone every 30 minutes.
- There are almost 2 billion smartphone users in the world, and that number is expected to double in the next couple years. It’s grown beyond a fad to a way of life.
I asked him this question: “If the majority of culture today carries a smartphone with them daily, wouldn’t there be value in encouraging them to use a Bible app that they always have with them?” Why would you want to fight against the trend when you can use it to your advantage? I told him we literally have hundreds of thousands of people using the Bible and Journal App to listen to the audio Bible while they drive, read on their lunch break, and even post and share Scripture with other people. I believe it helps people spend more time reading the Bible because they always have it with them.
He didn’t agree with me. He had his own list of reasons to not use a digital Bible app:
- People are less likely to spend meaningful time reading the Bible on a tiny screen.
- People are easily distracted when on the phone. Most people he talked to admitted to checking Facebook while taking sermon notes.
- Pop-ups from the app make it hard to concentrate.
- People may like apps, but that doesn’t mean they’re beneficial.
- Bible apps don’t engage people like physical Bibles do.
- Apps are just a fad.
At this point we decided to agree to disagree, but I did challenge him to consider a “both/and” rather than an “either/or” mentality.
There are many pros and cons to both sides of this discussion and I would love to hear your thoughts on it. I’ve spent more than 15 years of ministry trying to help people pursue God in a meaningful way. My book Pursue God challenges people to use whatever Bible works best for them. I focus on why and how you should pursue God. I’m very much of the belief that we should use all resources that help us get closer to God, digital or print. For me, I just want to help people seek after, pursue, and encounter God more.