Think back to the last Summit session you went to. When the lecturer said, “look in your Bibles to John chapter three,” did you notice what the room was using to follow along with the passage? Were they using actual, hard-bound Bibles, or was it a mobile device?
I normally just listen along since I can never seem to get to the passage in time no matter what medium my Bible is on, but when it comes to personal scripture reading, I mostly reach for my iPod Touch and YouVersion’s Bible app. I own a few physical Bibles of varying translations and they certainly don’t go unused, but my iPod is usually on my person and serves my purposes quickly and easily.
The other advantages mobile Bibles have compared to physical Bibles is that they provide a quicker way to get to the passage the preacher mentioned when following along at Summit or any worship service. Instead of fumbling through pages in a near-futile effort to get to the right page, you can get to the book, chapter and verse in as little as three clicks. Also, many apps have multiple translations, in case you like to be right on cue with the speakers.
One of the big disadvantages mobile Bibles have is the kind of stigma a mobile device – or any electronic device – gives off when used in worship settings. You see examples of this every day in chapel: there’s one guy who might have it out for just a few seconds and those surrounding him stare daggers in response. But in today’s age of “there’s an app for that,” he could be doing anything, even following along fervently with the scripture in the sermon.
Perhaps mobile devices are seen as a temptation. After all, you could be following along in your mobile Bible one minute and with a few clicks get back to your Facebook conversation, email checking or Street Fighter II.
That’s not to say I’m encouraging the alternative and potentially distracting uses of mobile devices, but it’s a fact that in many worship settings, mobile devices just aren’t accepted yet. The iPhone is only about four years old, and the smartphone is only a little bit older.
There may be a day when these platforms mature and become even more widespread that they will earn a better reputation from onlookers. An electronic back-lit Bible may even become the new norm someday.
My message to mobile Bible readers, as the Lord said to Abram in Genesis 15:1, “Do not be afraid…” It’s ultimately between you and God what you’re doing on your mobile device, not the onlookers surrounding you. Once they catch on a bit more, people will realize you’re using your device for good, not evil. It took some time for electronic devices to be accepted in the classroom, and it won’t be long until they’re accepted in your place of worship.
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