Hey Christian, put down that phone!
Well, if you’re using it to read this Bible study tip, you can pick it back up.
But, I’m here to tell you that you don’t need that digital Bible on your phone or tablet for Bible study! Quite frankly, you’ll probably be better off without it. Put your phone away and dust off that Bible on your bookshelf! This is how you should be studying.
Alright, enough with the shock value. As someone who enjoys Bible software and currently makes a living from it, I seriously want you to consider using a physical Bible in your Bible study, instead of relying on your digital software. Sure, digital Bible study has its benefits, but so does taking it old school. This week we’re going to look at how a physical Bible wins over its digital counterpart.
One reason we study the Bible is so we can learn where things are. It’s important to know where that verse on courage is when you need it, or that one on loving your neighbor. Scripture memory is one way invaluable tool to this end, but so is spatial awareness. Our brains naturally learn and remember things based on their location in physical space.
With a Bible app all you have is a glowing screen glaring at you. The words on the screen may move, but they are always contained within the same proximity of the screen. There is zero spatial memory that can take place on a phone because Genesis 1:1 appears in the same physical space as John 1:1.
On the other hand, a physical Bible is tactile. As you navigate to a verse, you can visually see how far into the Bible it is. Depending on where it is, you might even struggle to keep your Bible open if it’s too far in the front or back. You can also see the words and their location on the page: left or right page, top or bottom, first or second column. These images get imprinted on your brain. So now, you have visual cues to know that Genesis 1:1 is at the very beginning of the Bible, whereas John 1:1 is a little more than eighty percent through the Bible.
Sure, you might not always remember the words in a verse to use a search, but your brain can remember that location. This means you can take your Bible, flip to the approximate location and skim until you find it.
Even with the vast number of Bibles I’ve owned over the years, I can still picture where a passage is in a specific Bible. In my mind it goes something like this: I know it’s in 2 Corinthians, on the lefthand page, second column, two-thirds of the way down the page. Ah, there it is!
You completely lose the benefit of spatial awareness with a Bible app.
Another benefit of using a physical Bible is its ability to slow down your mind.
In this fast paced digital age we have trained our brains to consume massive amounts of information. So much content passes our eyes that we lose quality for the sake of quantity. As the amount and rate of information increases the less important it becomes. In turn, we become skimmers. And, Bible study is the last place we should rush through content.
A physical Bible forces your mind to slow down because it occupies a different plane of thought. The simple fact that it is a different medium means that your mind will process the information differently. When you do this, your brain more readily retains the information. This is because we’re no longer ingesting data at the same rate or in the same manner as everything else we consume.
The use of a different medium in Bible study forces your brain to categorize this knowledge differently than everything else you read. This makes the information more readily accessible when you need it most because it’s not blended with everything else you consume.
When you study with a Bible app you’re more apt to skim, like you would anything else on your phone. This behavior minimizes Bible study and means that God’s Word has less of an opportunity to work and transform you.
Remember, Bible study is about connecting with God and growing your faith, not checking off boxes.
Another benefit to using a physical Bible is you often use pen & paper in tandem. This too benefits your Bible study.
For me, typing is much faster and far more efficient than writing with pen & paper. Yet, something magical happens when I write out my thoughts as I study. My thoughts are clearer and have a greater opportunity to permeate my soul. When I’m done studying, my thoughts stay with me throughout the day, and I can more easily recall them. It is also a great aide to my moments of occasional meditation.
The act of writing is another way we can slow down our minds and process information differently. The result is better retention and more time spent thinking about God’s Word, which is what we want.
Plus, there’s nothing like the feeling of flipping through an old notebook of Bible study notes and seeing your growth over the years. This is Bible journaling at its finest.
I don’t know about you, but I easily get distracted. I won’t even tell you the number of times I checked Facebook while writing this tip.
In our age of notifications, beeps, and buzzes, it’s easy to lose focus. This is especially troublesome when trying to spend time with the Lord. The task becomes all the more difficult when the very device that causes your distraction is the same one you’re using to study God’s Word.
For example, you’re trying to understand Paul’s language in Romans 6, but you get a text from your friend about meeting up later. You might ignore it, but now it’s in the back of your mind that you need to respond. Or, what about the email that needs a response? What’s new on Twitter? The list goes on and you get the idea. There is no end to the distractions, and our eyes have been trained to not ignore notifications.
Sure, airplane mode can help; but, it’s still too easy to find distraction.
Our phones are a distraction not worth having, even if you have the willpower to resist.
One of the things we often neglect when we approach the Bible is that it is a special book. In a world where everything is going digital and becoming a commodity, we should not let the Bible lose its luster or allure.
While I wholeheartedly agree with all the benefits of digital Bible study, a physical Bible is something unlike everything else in this world. Even when it comes to being a book, it is uniquely different from every other.
When you use a Bible app, the Bible becomes words on a screen among many other words that appear on that same screen throughout the day. What sets it apart or makes it different? When you hold a Bible in your hand, you can immediately tell it is different and special.
There is a reason why Bibles get bound in expensive goat and calf skin: so it can be treasured and marked as different from the rest. Don’t let the Bible or your study of it become a commodity and unlike the rest.
Now that you’ve seen the benefits of kicking it old school in your Bible study, here are some quick tips to help you make the most of those times.
Have I convinced you that you don’t need a Bible app? Even if I haven’t, I hope you can see the advantages of taking your Bible study offline.
Your challenge this week is to use only your physical Bible. Put away your phone or tablet, and dig into God’s Word the old fashioned way.
After the week is over, I want to hear from you. Were your studies decidedly different? Were you less distracted? Could you remember more of what you read throughout the day? Let me know if you noticed any difference in your studies, good or bad.
Leave a comment or email me. I look forward to hearing from you!
This week, meditate and journal on the following passages: