These days, it is more convenient to pull up your favorite Bible app on your phone than to carry a physical one to church. After all, in many cases, Bibles are thick and cumbersome (especially if you have one of those ESV Study Bibles). Using your phone as your Bible also frees up your hands when leaving the house, which is especially helpful if you have young children. In theory, by having your phone with you, you will always have your Bible near!
While all these things are true, the convenience of using your phone as your Bible has several drawbacks which you may not have considered. Therefore, I want to offer a few reasons why you might consider bringing an actual Bible to worship on Sundays.
It Minimizes Distractions
When you have your Bible on your phone or tablet, the temptation to multitask is extremely strong. Already in our daily lives, the evil one creates numerous distractions to keep us from feasting upon the solid food of God’s word. Phones and tablets thus become tools that keep your attention on anything else besides God’s word.
For me, I know that if I am using a Bible app, I am often tempted to check Twitter or Facebook. Even though I have notifications turned off, I am still curious if I have any new emails. I scroll through lunch ideas on Yelp. These actions seem to happen almost unconsciously, because this is what I do on my phone throughout the week. I revert to the same habits I have cultivated, and my phone becomes an enemy to listening intently to the words of Christ. I become like Martha, distracted and troubled with many things, rather than being like Mary, who chose to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to his teaching (Luke 10:38-42).
It Focuses Your Attention
By bringing a physical Bible and using it in the worship service, we are able to turn off the noise of the world and focus our attention to the living and active word of Christ. There are several ways in which having a physical copy of God’s word enhances our ability to focus. First, unlike a Bible app, we are given a sense of context for a particular passage or book. We can feel the pages as we turn, knowing whether we are at the beginning, middle or end of the Bible, a knowledge that is important as we consider the place of the passage within redemptive history. Furthermore, within a particular book, we can see the context of what is being said rather than just the tiny portion visible on our screen.
Second, we are able to find cross references mentioned in the sermon much quicker and are then able to compare the texts being considered. Third, it is much easier to take notes and underline key words on paper than it is on a digital device. Fourth, it develops our memory to learn where passages are located in the bible. I have been using the same Bible for many years now, and as a result of using it, I can visualize in my mind where a passage is on the page, even when I cannot remember the exact chapter and verse.
It Sets a Good Example
Believe it or not, other people may be looking at you in the service. This is certainly true if you have children. The level of engagement you have in the service will communicate how important they think the worship service is. By bringing a physical Bible, you communicate to your own children a high view of and reverence for the Scriptures. It is my prayer that when my children think about our worship services, they remember their parents opening a physical Bible.
Even beyond our own children, new believers may be looking to you to know what they should be doing in the service. If they look and see you on your phone, they may assume you are totally disengaged. However, if they see you with your Bible open, following along with the Scripture reading and sermon, it implicitly teaches them what they should be doing.
While failing to bring a physical Bible to church is not a sin, I do hope you consider why it may be more beneficial than merely using your favorite Bible app. Nevertheless, even if you decide to continue using a digital version of God’s word, do not take for granted having the Scriptures so readily available. God’s word is living, active, and the very means by which Christ sustains us in this life. May it always be said of us that we remain people of the book.
Chase Sears (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) serves as the Lead Pastor of Oak Park Baptist Church. He lives in Charlestown with his wife, Sarah, and their five children.