What Bible format do you use at church – a traditional leather-and-paper Bible or a digital version on your iPad or smartphone?
Or, more importantly, what Bible should you use at church?
This debate is garnering attention and gaining steam – and it ain’t going away any time soon. Some argue adamantly that old-fashioned paperbound Bibles are best to bring to church. Others, with e-readers and smartphones being so commonplace now, argue with equal amounts of passion that its most convenient to use digital Bibles, since there are many good apps available – many for free – the most popular being YouVersion.
As a pastor, I’m not so sure. I’m torn, in fact. I see both sides of the issue, but for me, it’s an emotional and mental one. And it gets more complicated because I preach from my iPad.
I study in a paper Bible and underline, circle and write notes in the margin. I love hearing a roomful of onion skin pages of dozens of Bibles being turned in unison in a church service. I love seeing people with their Bibles open on their laps.
And yet, I do understand the convenience of using an app on your phone. It allows for easy carrying (bring you phone, you’ve got your Bible – simple as that). It allows for multiple translations, word searches and other features – all right in your hand. However, it brings with it temptations and distractions. Two taps and I can check my email. Two more taps and I can check Facebook, Instagram and my Twitter account. Within seconds, I can completely zone out from attempting to engage the Bible and tune out what is being said up front.
As I mentioned, I preach from my iPad. I assure this is not for status reasons, but for pure practical purposes of ease and organization. And yet, I get incredibly uneasy when I see a white electronic glow illuminating people’s faces as they look to their lap.
As I look around as I’m teaching I have this incredibly loud thought in my head:
Are they reading the passage, studying further what it has to say? Are they tracking with me? …or have they zoned out and they are reading Facebook updates, tweeting or checking to see what time the Eagles’ game starts this afternoon? I need to be more engaging with my teaching!
It’s a strange experience to have all this running through your head as you are attempting to communicate the truth of Scripture to the congregation. And these thoughts never enter my head when people have their Bibles open on their laps. Maybe I am just insecure or am an over-analytic preacher who needs to chill out. But I think it. It’s hard not to. (The other thought I have when I am teaching is: do any other pastors feel this way or am I the only one?)
What about you? What are your thoughts on the issue?
What do you use at church?
And if you read your Bible from your smartphone or e-reader device, do you also look at other apps, websites and social media sites? And, if you do, how many times would you estimate you do that during church?
And should churches institute a policy or position regarding this issue or leave it in the hands (quite literally) of the congregation?
What would be some additional questions that might help people and congregations work through this issue with prayerful discernment?