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Digital vs. print: Readers weigh in on Bible choices

When I stepped to the pulpit of the Roswell Church of Christ in Kansas City, Kan., on a recent Sunday, I made an, um, embarrassing miscue.
I left my Bible on the front pew.
I owe my personal blooper to two facts:
• I’m a writer, not a preacher, and standing in front of an audience to share God’s word always makes me a bit nervous.
• I’ve converted in recent years to digital Bible reading and study, so I’ve become unaccustomed to carrying around a thick, printed version of the Scriptures.
Much to my relief, the kind brothers and sisters of the Roswell church — where I had spent the weekend working on an upcoming feature for The Christian Chronicle — forgave my lapse.
Three years ago, I wrote a column headlined “Texting during worship? No, just reading the text.” I reflected on the increasing number of Christians using smartphones and other electronic devices to access the Bible and take notes during worship assemblies.
Given my Roswell experience, I decided to revisit the subject. I asked readers of the Chronicle’s blog: Do you use a printed Bible or digital version at church services?
The 75 readers who responded by press time split almost evenly between print and digital — with a number of folks saying they use both.
“When I preach, I still carry my print Bible to the pulpit, but I have all of the Scriptures on the projector,” said Mike Miles, who preaches for the Westside Church of Christ in Ames, Iowa. “In my personal study, I use BibleGateway.com and YouVersion on my smartphone, though I still like flipping through my print Bibles for their handy, convenient commentaries.”
Theresa Gill, a member of the Nettleton Church of Christ in Jonesboro, Ark., met her future husband, Tim, on the online social networking site Facebook.
But when it comes to Bible study, she prefers the leather-bound King James Version that Tim gave her when they first met. “I just love the feel of my Bible and enjoy turning the delicate pages,” she said. “(There’s) nothing better to me than an old, marked-up Bible that says love.”
Jon Burnett, a member of the Waldorf Church of Christ in Maryland, said he considers his iPad a wonderful tool for Bible study and uses the tablet computer almost exclusively for sermon and Bible class preparation.
In worship assemblies, though, he fears his iPad could be a distraction.
“Otherwise, I have a tendency to go my own way — like following a personal tangent in the middle of a lesson,” he said. Moreover, he’s afraid his 3-year-old, Lizzie, might not understand why she can’t color or watch videos on the iPad during the service.
Angela Brown, a member of the Margaret Street Church of Christ in Milton, Fla., describes herself as a “Bible version jumper.”
That’s why she enjoys the ability to carry her printed New International Version of the Bible along with her iPad, which allows her to access other translations and make legible notes.
Her husband, Michael, leaves his Kindle Fire at home and takes his big New King James Version Bible to church, his wife said.
Brown said she’s planning to buy her children, Michael, 17, and Hannah, 14, electronic devices so they can get more out of their Bible studies. “I don’t worry about them getting sidetracked or surfing the net while in services because they have been raised to know why we are at worship,” she said. “Plus, they know Mama will do a search history if I think they have misused them.”
For some, however, digital Bibles still carry a stigma. “I prefer to have a printed Bible to use when I am teaching class, doing Bible studies with others or just my daily reading,” said Tom Henry, a member of the 47th Street Church of Christ in Wichita, Kan.
“I feel it adds reliability to what I say,” Henry added. “My source is the Bible and not an Android website somewhere. When teaching someone, which is more believable: Acts 2:38 read from a phone or a well-used printed Bible? I will use the printed page.”
Patrick Odum, minister for the Northwest Church of Christ in Chicago, uses an iPad when preaching.
“I have many different translations, the Greek and the Hebrew and commentaries available at my fingertips, and I find it as quick or sometimes quicker to flip between passages,” Odum said. “Not to mention the fact that I hate wearing my reading glasses in the pulpit, and I’m getting to the point where I need those!”
The iPad allows him to enlarge the text lettering as much as he likes.
“I did have a lady say once that she wished I still used the Bible when I preached,” Odum said. “I showed her the app and asked which Bible she wanted me to use.” 

Bobby Ross Jr. is Managing Editor of The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected].

  • Feedback
    Along with one of the men in the article, I use an e-book version of the Bible because I can vary the print size–I make it large enough for my wife to read also. I have the New English and the New American Standard versions on my Kindle, and frequently compare verses between the two versions. While the Kindle isn’t optimal for that use, I use it that way [and wish I had the NKJV on it also!
    Allen Helt
    Henderson Church of Christ
    Henderson, TN
    October, 11 2012

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