Last week, I began the process of considering how the tech revolution is appearing in churches. If you check out iDisciple, you’ll get a good overview of the situation. Let me say, I am pro technology. I am not necessarily on the cutting edge of tech. When it comes to technology, I am really quite an amateur. I can safely say that I have no clue how it works. The fact that my iPhone can function as a camera, a builder’s level, an alarm clock, a GPS and more is absolutely astonishing to me. As far as I know, iPhones are built in Santa’s workshop with a little “elfin magic” behind the screen. I even watched a YouTube video of a guy taking his iPhone apart and am still just as mesmerized.
So, as I consider how technology is impacting discipleship, I am doing it as a user, not a developer. The technical aspects of things are beyond my seminary training. That being said, let us first consider how technology is changing the way we utilize the Word of God.
Every smartphone, e-reader, and tablet has Bible options. It didn’t take long at all for developers and publishers to recognize the need to make the Bible available to users of these devices. Before I give you specific recommendations, let me say why I like the Bible in electronic form.
- Versions. Thanks to the various apps available, you can have the Bible in countless versions. From the literal NASB to the paraphrased NLT, they are widely available and are not hard to find for free. Many apps provide versions in countless foreign languages if you happen to speak and read countless foreign languages. A bookshelf full of Bibles can be consolidated very easily and at no cost.
- Reference. At the same time that you can access various versions, you can also have access to countless reference tools. Though original language support is not the best, many apps give you the tools to cross-reference other verses as well as including Strong’s references for the Greek & Hebrew. One app that I am a fan of allows you to take notes as you study. Those notes automatically sync with another note-taking app, allowing the information to be shared across multiple devices and platforms.
- Convenience. This seems like a dangerous word when it comes to studying the Bible. For some reason, we tend to think making Bible study easier and more convenient somehow “cheapens” the experience. But, there is something to be said about being able to read your bible on your phone or tablet. It is one device capable of storing an entire library and it is easily carried wherever you go. One of my favorite apps will even “read” the scriptures to you if you are in a place where you can’t read.
My favorite apps? I’m an Apple guy – sorry Android users.
- Lifechurch.tv’s Bible, also known as YouVersion, is outstanding and it is free. It offers you dozens of versions. It even has a “live” option, allowing churches to build their worship service online. Users can then revisit songs via YouTube videos, see the pastor’s sermon notes, and see various announcements. This app is also socially connected, so it is easy to tweet verses or share them on Facebook. This app will stream the audio for several different versions so you can listen to them. Better save this feature for Wi-fi, though as it will consume data. This is a great all around Bible and more app.
- BlueLetterBible is another great all around Bible app. It is also free. This is the app I use for simple original language work. It allows for a basic interface with Strongs. It is not an exhaustive resource for Greek & Hebrew, but it is a great place to start. Also has the option of many different versions. It has some limited reference material available, but it is not the greatest. This app is kind of buggy in that it crashes if you move too fast, but overall it is another great free resource.
- The HCSB Bible Reader is great for study and note-taking. I am a fan of this translation out of B&H Publishers. It is my primary preaching and teaching version. Therefore this app gets a lot of use. It is relatively cheap, $3.99 in the app store. My favorite function is that notes are cloud based and supported by Evernote. This means any notes I take on my iPad in this app are automatically available on my iPhone and my laptop. This is great for a busy pastor who ends up having to study whenever and wherever there is an opportunity. This app is based on the popular Olivetree interface.
There are MANY more apps out there for Bible study purposes. But I am a fan of free and cheap. You can spend LOTS of money outfitting your device with God’s Word, but you can accomplish some serious Bible Study without spending a dime. If you search “bible” in the app store, you’ll find more than 1,000 iPad apps and more than 1,000 iPhone apps. Like all things, some are better than others.
As you explore the various Bible options, beware of some of the following issues…
- User created content. Some apps allow a “community” to add content and reference material. Some is good, some is not. Just use discernment.
- Look out for “in-app” purchases. You’ve got a cool new app that was free, but to make it fully functional, you have to start downloading paid add-ons. They can get expensive in no time at all.
- Many apps allow you to download versions. Many do not. If you are in a situation where you do not have Wi-Fi or sufficient cell coverage, you might not be able to access content that you haven’t actually downloaded.
- Make sure you’re relying on reputable content providers. There’s no one making sure that someone’s Bible app is legit. Again, just a word of caution as you start to look through the app store.