Tuesday, May 08, 2012

On Bringing a Physical Bible to Church

Do you still bring a physical, "ink and paper" Bible to church on Sundays? With the popularity of the iPhone and iPad, many people are leaving their bonded leather at home in favor of their Bible app. It is very convenient to have the whole Bible in your pocket and not have to keep track of a heavy physical Bible. But, I've got a few concerns about this growing trend.

One concern is that iPhones and iPads carry an irresistible temptation to do something other than concentrate on the Bible. You can listen AND see what others are doing on Facebook or Twitter. You can listen AND shoot a text to a friend. Which of course, seriously reduces one's ability to actually listen and concentrate on God's Word.

However, my main concern is another subtle temptation: The temptation to turn the device off during the sermon.  For example, I preach for about 45 minutes and I usually refer to particular words, phrases, and verses all the way through the sermon. Each and every point I make is hopefully tied to the passage I'm preaching from. I don't want people to assume I'm saying true things, I want them to see it in the text itself. I do not just read a text and then tell unrelated stories for 40 minutes (if this were the case, I'd encourage you to bring your iPhone and read a good expository sermon instead).

But, iPads and iPhones turn themselves off after a few moments to preserve battery life. Or, they are intentionally turned off by the user to preserve the quickly fading battery. What this means is that the Bible is not "open" during the whole sermon. The listener cannot just look down to an open Bible and see where the preacher is getting his point from. He's got to turn the device back on, be distracted by the picture on the welcome screen (tempting him to daydream about the beach from the family picture), and then "slide to unlock." By this time, you've probably missed the life-changing point the preacher just made about the word, "therefore."

Now, please don't hear what I'm not saying. I'm not saying you are more spiritual or a better listener if you bring your Classic Reference Bible to church. I'm positive you can listen well with a fully-charged electronic device (I hope so because I hear they are the wave of the future). I'm simply asking you to evaluate whether it helps you listen and follow along or whether it tempts you to "check out."  If you are a person who does everything on your iPad all week, it may be a wise idea to bring your physical Bible to church as a reminder that what is about to happen is different than everything else in my life (you are going to hear God speak). It may help you engage with the text and listen attentively if you have nothing else to distract you.

But, if you can remember to charge your device up on Saturday night, and if you can set it to not power down every few moments, and if you can keep the Bible on your screen so that you can quickly reference the text itself, go for it. I'm your biggest fan.


Peter Bowyer said...

I couldn't agree more, Pastor Justin. I wrote a post on very similar lines myself a little while ago - http://peterbowyer.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/distractions.html

sypialnie sklepik waw said...
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flm369 said...

I know plenty of people who use their "classic reference bible" in lieu of the bible app they have on their mobile device, but as soon as they feel their pocket vibrate they whip it out and are texting and tweeting without skipping a beat. And conversely I know plenty of people, myself included, who are capable of using a bible app effectively without feeling the need to catch up on Facebook or send a quick email.

So to me it sounds like the real culprit here is addiction to texting and social media and the need to be constantly connected. It doesn't matter if you read from the bible, an iPad, or from an ancient Hebrew scroll; if you have heart issues of this nature they will manifest themselves in some way.

Long story short, I think pointing our fingers at the iPad is not addressing the real problem if Christians are incapable of unplugging from social media for a few minutes. We need to take a deep look at our hearts and decide if we are developing an unhealthy affection for our technology and have the discipline to unplug whenever necessary.

Sent from my iPad (haha I couldn't resist)

pastor justin said...

I totally agree with you regarding the deeper problem.

However, if you read the article again, notice that the distractions of the devices are not my main concern. My main concern is that these devices do not encourage a sustained look at the text while the preacher is expositing it.