Are you making the most of technology in your spiritual life?
I grew up in a traditional Baptist church where a leather-bound Bible was part of going to church. As much a part of church as clip-on ties and Easter suits, carrying a Bible showed others around you that you were serious about following Jesus. I looked forward to sword drills and the opportunity to publicly display my verse finding skills.
When I got my first iPhone, I downloaded Facebook, Twitter, email, games, and loaded it with all the music I owned. The thought of having a Bible on my phone didn’t even occur to me. Then, my wife and I traveled to Indonesia, and the Lord shifted my perspective on smartphones and technology.
While on the island of Sumbawa, thousands of miles from the modern comforts of America, I noticed an unexpected similarity. Many Indonesians had smartphones, and they were also using apps to access important information, play games, and connect with others.
We live in a world inundated with technology — self-driving cars, smart TVs and phones, watches that record health data, interactive digital pets. Advances in technology make it easy to find the best restaurant, the shortest route, and rent a movie, and most of it can happen right on your phone. What if technology can help you follow Jesus better?
The first time I heard the term “digital discipleship” and thought about using a Bible app, I cringed. It just didn’t feel right. Did it really count as reading the Bible if it was just an app on my phone next to apps I use to tweet, read news, or play games? When I considered it further, I realized my fears were rooted in tradition and not grounded on truth. Technology is neither good or bad; how you use it is what’s important.
If I want to use technology to help me grow in my relationship with Jesus, I have to change the way I use the apps on my phone.
Am I taking notes or tweeting?
While technology is helpful, it can also interrupt what's important.
If you're using apps and websites to study the Bible, take notes during church, or remind you which Scripture to read, it's important to stay focused. When notifications compete for your attention and you try to study around a constant barrage of pings, dings, and glass sounds, your divided attention keeps you from paying full attention to anything.
During a message at church or a moment of reflection, take the time to stop the interruptions and focus on listening to the Holy Spirit while you read Scripture. Tell your notifications who's boss and use the "do not disturb" feature. Set your status to "away" or silence your phone. Airplane mode works great, too, by eliminating incoming status updates, text messages, and other interruptions while you're trying to focus on what's important.
Does my smartphone count as a Bible?
The Bible has taken on many shapes, sizes, and forms, but "all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" — from the giant Bible at the front of many traditional churches, to the pocket-sized New Testament handed out by the Gideons to the app on your phone (2 Timothy 3:16).
How you access the words in the Bible may change as technology evolves, but the words don't have to be written by hand, printed by a letterpress, or mass produced on giant printing presses and bound by leather to be called a Bible and considered as God's Word.
Technology can help you follow Jesus better, but a relationship with Him was never meant to be squeezed between notifications.
Whether you carry a traditional Bible or access one on your smartphone, what's important is that you're taking time to read and listen while minimizing the distractions you can control.
Technology can help you follow Jesus better, but a relationship with Him was never meant to be squeezed between notifications. In case you were wondering, I still read a well-worn, red letter edition NIV translation of The Holy Bible, and I also take my Bible app wherever I go.
Did you know NewSpring has a mobile app? Stream sermons, read articles, and stories, and listen to every NewSpring worship album – all from your phone!