When I was a young pastor, one of my favorite sounds was to hear people turning the pages in their Bibles as they looked for that morning’s text. That sound has largely been replaced by the sound of silence, as many people use the Bible app on their phones or tablets. In fact, I still remember the first time someone used an iPad to read his Bible in one of our worship gatherings because I kept trying to figure out why his face was glowing.
The number of digital resources available for Bible reading and study has exploded in ways I never could have imagined when I became a Christian in the late 1990s. Logos, iPad apps, and iPhone apps seem to have eliminated the need to carry around a physical copy of the Bible. After all, why would you carry around a fifteen hundred-page book when you can access it on a device that fits in your pocket?
For several years I attempted to have my daily devotions on a Bible app on one of my devices. At different times I used my iPhone, iPad, Kindle app on my Macbook, and Logos. After trying this for a while I found my devotions lagging and returned to a physical copy of the Bible as an experiment. Reading a physical copy of the Bible rather than a digital device seemed to be more fruitful for me, and now I do almost all of my Bible reading in my Thinline ESV. Here are a few reasons why I made the switch back to a physical copy of the Bible for my devotions and have no plans for returning to digital.
I Can Write In My Bible
One of the major problems I had with reading the Bible on a screen was I found my attention wandering. While many apps have note-taking capabilities, reading with a pencil in my hand turns me from a passive reader to an active reader. (I use Tombow pencils for writing in my Bible.) Holding a pencil helps me to focus as I underline sentences, draw boxes around connecting words, and write notes in the margins. When I come back to those passages at another time, I can see insights that struck me previously. Bible apps have note-taking and highlighting capabilities, but I find that a pencil is much more effective.
I Can’t Do Anything Else with My Bible
I struggle with being easily distracted. As I have been writing this post I have been tempted to click the Google Chrome icon so I can check Twitter and check tomorrow’s weather. My phone has social media apps, my iPad has games, and my Macbook has work I need to do. The only thing I can do with my Bible is read it. When I have my morning devotions with only a Bible on the table it helps me to focus my attention on the Bible and the Bible alone.
My Children Can See Me Read My Bible
One of the things we want to do is build a love for the Bible in our children. We want them to love reading, hearing, and studying Scripture. We instill this through family devotions, catechisms, Scripture memory, and encouraging them to take notes during the sermon. They also need to see the example of their parents reading and meditating on the Bible. If I’m on my phone, they don’t know if Dad is reading the Bible, checking email, or scrolling through Instagram. When they come to the kitchen in the morning and see me reading my Bible, they see their Dad doing what he encourages them to do. Sometimes they will sit down and ask what I am reading, which leads to good conversations about the things of God. This rarely happens if they see me looking down at my phone.
I Remember to Read My Bible
I’m a bi-vocational pastor who also works a full-time job. I love reading God’s word, but many days I need a visual reminder to read the Bible. Before I go to bed, I usually place my Bible at my spot at the kitchen table so I will be reminded to read it and hear from God as I eat my breakfast. Looking at my phone doesn’t remind me to read God’s word and neither does seeing my laptop.
This post should not be seen as my saying Bible apps are bad for Christians. On the contrary, they can be helpful when you are in a place where you cannot get to a physical copy of the Bible and it’s easier to pull your phone out to pull something up in the Bible during a conversation. Logos Bible Software has been a great help to me in my sermon study. After doing the initial study for my sermon in my Bible I open Logos up and have a library’s worth of material at my fingertips. These resources are great for study and iPhone apps are helpful for convenience, but I am finding that for my personal Bible reading a physical copy of the Bible works best.
“The First 15 Verses that Every Christian Should Memorize“
For Further Reading:
How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart