How Should You Feel About Bible Apps?
By Kevin Purcell
In many churches today, when the pastor says, “Turn to Matthew 22:1” a lot of the attendees will pull out their phones and start tapping on the screens. Others in the congregation get angry seeing those crazy kids with their smartphones. Here’s my question: why?
The number of people using a Bible app instead of a printer Bible increased in recent years. That’s because the phone conveniently fits in a pocket or purse. Most owners of smartphones take them everywhere they go. So, it’s just more convenient to use than a printed Bible. These same people might keep their favorite copy of God’s word in book form on their desk or nightstand at home and read out it when they do personal Bible study. However, taking the phone feels easier because it’s so easy to bring and never forget due to habit.
Despite the convenience, a digital copy of God’s word in a phone app comes with a few problems. Let’s take a look at them…
Distractions cut two ways. First, the phone doesn’t only store the phone app. It has games, text messaging, email and the Internet. It also includes notifications that pop up on screen during the sermon distracting the user from the content of the preacher’s sermon. Second, the phone distracts the people near the user. That’s because it’s different. We’re used to people carrying a leather-bound or hardcover Bible with pages. It’s not unusual, so it doesn’t distract people.
The first distraction is real. That’s why I recommend using the phone’s Do Not Disturb mode. You can find this usually by swiping down from the top of the screen or up from the bottom, depending on the phone and its software. Other than that, the user will need to control their impulses. If you get easily distracted do one of two things. Either keep the phone in your pocket or purse or use the phone to take notes so you focus on the sermon content instead of feeling distracted by the temptation to play Tetris or Candy Crush (a couple of games you can play on a phone). Most Bible apps include a note feature that lets you put notes on each verse or even on each word. Parents keep an eye on your kids and keep them on task or take away the phone.
People who get distracted by others using their phones usually do so because of their emotional reaction to the idea of using a Bible app on a phone. People look down on Bible app users. Should they?
Should People Use Apps
Some of the reasons I’ve heard stem from prejudice against new things. “I just don’t like it” usually means that it’s different than what we’re used to. So, we feel like it’s a bad thing. Others say the book is better because it’s a “real Bible”. If that’s true, then it’s a shame that Jesus and His disciples never used a real Bible. They didn’t have books.
Someone might respond by saying, “No. The scrolls were real Bibles too.” What makes a scroll or a printed book a real Bible while a digital Bible is not? The change from scrolls to books often was met with anger too. New technology leads people to feel threatened. It’s different and therefore inferior. However, today we can’t imagine not having printed paper books.
Now we’re entering a new era where the digital book is replacing the printed book for some people. Will they completely replace books? Not any time soon. But because of the benefits we find with digital books, I think that a Bible app can really help Bible students. Some of those benefits include…
- Bible references, commentaries and multiple translations in one place. I can carry a library of over 5,000 books in my phone with Logos Bible App on my iPhone.
- Note-taking. It’s hard to fit much in the margin of many Bibles, but my Bible app can fit a ton of notes since they don’t take up physical space. I have long notes with the equivalent of many pages of content on a single verse.
- Young People See the Bible as Cool. A lot of kids will enjoy using an app and it gets them into the Word.
- Share the Bible with Others. Thanks to Social Networks like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat to name a few, people can share the Bible with their friends right inside the app. What a great witness and what a wonderful way to extend the reach of the pastor’s sermon.
The next time someone next to you opens their phone during the sermon, give them some kind patience. They very likely might be reading the Bible and studying it carefully, looking Greek and Hebrew definitions or searching for the words of one Bible verse in the rest of the Bible extending their understanding of the pastor’s sermon further.
Phone users, enjoy using a Bible app. But turn off the notifications. Keep it in your pocket or purse if you can’t keep yourself from playing games or checking email during church.
Dr. Kevin Purcell is the pastor of High Peak Baptist Church off Exit 107 on I-40. He’s also written about church and Bible technology for www.ChurchTechToday.com and other publications. He covers Bible software and tech at www.KevinPurcell.org and on his YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/c/KevinPurcellBehindThePulpit.