The YouVersion Bible app has been downloaded over 100 million times between various mobile operating systems, and the app is available in over 400 languages. It’s an inexpensive way to expand Bible reading for overseas missionaries, and it’s an easy way to always have the Bible with you.
When I lead a small group and I ask people to turn to a specific book and chapter, over half of the people pull out their phones. Saying “make sure you bring your Bible” to the group or a church in general doesn’t mean much anymore, because everyone already has their Bible with them, at all times.
And while I use the Bible on my tablet or phone several times a week, I typically discourage people from making a habit of this.
I think the Bible should be primarily read and engaged in hard copy form.
Why? Here’s 3 reasons.
1. Context is king.
It’s difficult to read Jeremiah 29 and understand its full context. So we read Jeremiah 29:11 and become inspired, and post the verse to Facebook. All this is quite easy on the app. But what gets lost is the story of Jeremiah leading up to those verses, as well as what happens after. It’s considerably less inspiring when the context is understood.
The single most important factor in understanding a specific verse or passage in the Bible is the context. Being able to quickly move from one text to those surrounding it, makes understanding the context a breeze, but when you’re tied to a screen only showing your specific verse(s) of interest, this makes seeing the broader context a more difficult task.
2. Not all apps are created equal.
The Bible app in my phone is located directly next to a camera app, a blog reading app, and a weather report app. The Bible says that is useful for teaching, rebuking, and training in righteousness, but it’s ability to do those things in an entirely different level than what a weather app might teach you.
Most apps are built to connect with a felt need. “Is it going to rain? I’ll look at my weather app.” The Bible answers questions such as, “what is my purpose in life?” or “am I valued?”
Subtly, when you see The Bible next to any other random app you begin to see it as just one more thing to check when you’re bored or when you have a question, instead of the one thing that can impact your life in a transcendent way.
3. Distraction often hinders formation.
The Bible deserves a singular focus. On a phone or computer or tablet you are inundated with an overwhelming amount of notifications. Texts and emails coming every 3 minutes if not more quickly. Not to mention the score update of your favorite baseball team at the top of the 4th inning.
My best writing often comes when I’ve sat in the same place for over 2 hours. I produce 2 hours of junk, and finally, 15 minutes when it all connects. Without fail it takes at least 2 hours for the distractions to fade away so that focus comes to the forefront.
I think reading The Bible is similar, though I do hope we can connect with the message of a passage in faster than two hours. Instead of setting yourself up for becoming distracted, why not turn your phone off for 30 minutes, open up a hard copy of The Bible, and allow God to form Himself within you, with a few less possible distractions.