I am a tech guy. I love innovation and possibilities when it comes to technology. One of my friends calls me first whenever something doesn’t work on any of his devices.
As a pastor and worship leader, my favorite tool was my iPad. It is loaded with applications for writing, reading and researching, note taking, Bible study, sermon writing, worship leading, and much more.
When I was a kid my dad brought home a Commodore 64. I used one of the first word processing programs on that computer, and played a game called Lode Runner where you were a white stick figure running back and forth on different levels of white lines.
So when Bible apps became a thing I jumped on them. I have two favorites, one for casual reading and one connected to my ministry library. I highly recommend Bible apps.
But this week at a prayer meeting, I saw a few pastors on their phones, and I assume they were checking on Bible verses. That got me thinking: While I love my Bible apps, and rely heavily on them, are they making me lazy?
Please don’t misunderstand me. These are great tools. And I’m not as “old school” as some readers might judge me to be as they read this post. If we get defensive about it, chances are we need to take a look and be honest about what our gut tells us.
What do we really know?
We are told to study the Scriptures so we can be approved by God. Is that in the Bible? If so, do you know where? What Bible version it? Is this the message intended by the writer?
If it sounds like the Bible, it may not always be. But in this case, yes, it is in the Bible. One point if you knew that.
Where is it? Sounds a bit Old Testament as it sounds like a rule and you have to do it to win God’s approval. Bzzt! It’s in the New Testament. Did Jesus say it? Nope. It is in a letter by Paul. Paul had to correct the Corinthians a lot. No again. He wrote this to his protege, Timothy. Oh, and there are two letters to Timothy.
I have to confess. I always get this Scripture reference mixed up with another one. This quote is based on 2 Timothy 2:15, from the King James Version:
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
But the original word here doesn’t mean “study”. It means to make haste, to be diligent, or to be zealous. I dug that up here. Sure, my tools helped me learn that, but only because I was actually hungry to learn what the Scripture meant.
Can I be hungry for the Word of God without having a paper Bible? I sure can. By the way, I never said I needed a paper Bible (though I have several and tend to give them away after a while). I said my Bible app might be making me lazy. Just felt like we needed to clear that up.
A lessened experience with the Word?
If we add a little bit of knowledge and mix in a few boundaries, we can make great headway with any kind of Bible.
Why do we need to do that? Bible knowledge is low in our churches, and resources are super available and cost effective. (Free. Let’s say it, they’re free!) There has to be some explanation for the disconnect.
Here are some ways I believe our Bible apps are making us lazy when it comes to knowing God’s Word. Any one of these can lessen our experience with the Bible.
- Book Location and Type
Have you noticed most Bible apps have a search field on their screen? In most cases you can just type in the Scripture reference our pastors so conveniently provide in their PowerPoint slides, and hey, there it is.
Did you know there is an old Sunday School song to learn the books of the Bible in order? Crazy right? That’s got to be a hundred different books with names from a language almost no one knows, right?
Bzzt! again. Books without straight up English names are names of people or places. While there are a few Hebrew names for the books, there aren’t as many as you would think. There are only 66 of them, and you can break them up into smaller groups.
Did you know the books of the Bible have a particular arrangement? They are not in strict chronological order from beginning to end. They are grouped and each group has a purpose, even if there is only one book in that group (like Revelation).
Do our Bible apps tell us this? I don’t see it. Not bold and in your face. Although sometimes you get an app where the grouping is in different colors when you are looking up a reference without the search bar.
- Scripture Addresses and Memorization
Every verse in the Bible has an address. You may know this as a Scripture “reference”, but I like the idea of an address. If your brain is like mine, you probably know a lot of addresses. But how many “references” does it want to remember?
I already confessed how I regularly get the address for the verse in 2 Timothy confused with another one. It’s only in the next chapter. But I haven’t corrected myself. Why not? Because in the same search I can enter a Scripture reference, I can enter a few words and find the verse I’m looking for.
There was a time when I thought, “As long as I know it is in the Bible and have a general idea of where it is, I’m good.” After all, when the writers of the New Testament quoted from the Old Testament, they did not have a chapter and verse address to jot down. You had to know where it came from.
Those sentiments have changed in the last little while. Ready for another confession? I stopped actually memorizing Scripture and settled for an idea of Scripture, the gist of it. Talk about opening the door for problems.
- Focus and Attention
I have a friend who could waste an hour reading one page. It is not because he is dull or intellectually deficient, and his ability to read is quite good. But reading is something he just cannot do for more than a few minutes before he has to start again.
For folks like him, the Bible apps are great because they can read the Scriptures to you. You can sign up for a reading plan and a real voice will read the Bible at your speed. What a great help to people who were always discouraged by their inability to move ahead in knowing Scripture.
Of course, if we are not diligent about how we go about listening to Scripture in this way, we can miss it entirely. Maybe you already know what I mean.
You tried to listen to Scripture when driving, or in a crowded room through headphones, or out in the park on a lunch break. Did you get distracted? How far did the app continue to play before you realized your mind had wandered? Did you go back to the last verse you remember hearing, or did you let the app check off your reading for the day?
Remember that second verse found in 2 Timothy?
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT)
How effective is the Word of God in accomplishing its mission when we aren’t paying attention?
Technology is meant to make things easier on us. Our Bible apps are great at that. We have multiple translations, original language tools, highlighting, note-taking, sharing, and so many other ways to interact with the Bible through them.
Embracing the technology is not the issue here. I highly encourage the use of Bible apps. Some of the information we miss can be just as easily lost with printed Bibles if we never take the time to notice or learn why things are the way they are.
But just like a printed Bible can become just another book on our shelves, coffee tables or night stands, an app can be just another way we allow the Bible to become a small slice of life in a giant pie of other apps and distractions.
Discover the various groupings of the books and where to find them. Memorize the words of the Word and their addresses. Don’t check off your reading plan without truly hearing or reading the message preserved through the ages. Let’s be purposeful about using our Bible apps to maximize our experience with Scripture.