Thursday, March 31, 2011

Technology Changing The Way Christians Study The Bible

Posted on Mar 30, 2011 | by Michael Foust EDMOND, Okla. (BP)--When pastor Dennis Newkirk stands before his congregation at Henderson Hills Baptist Church in Edmond, Okla., to begin a sermon, he gives a nod to technology. While "open your Bibles" may have been sufficient a decade ago, Newkirk also encourages members to "open" their iPhones, iPads, smartphones and tablet computers.

When it comes to the Bible, there's plenty of "apps for that."

"At first when the iPhones and iPads came out, people were hesitant to bring those into church because people kind of looked at them like they were text messaging during the service," Jeff Wilson, communication and innovation pastor at Henderson Hills, told Baptist Press. "What [Newkirk] has done is he has legitimized what we're trying to do. It's given the people the freedom to be able to go through and open that and do that without having any type of negative connotations."

It's an acknowledgement that as technology changes, Christians also are changing the way they study the Bible. There are Christian apps on every smartphone platform, but among the two most popular platforms -- Android and iPhone's iOS -- there are literally hundreds of Bible and Christian-themed apps, helping believers with everything from Scripture memorization to lesson preparation to Bible study to witnessing. Many churches and Christian ministries have their own "apps." Some of the apps allow users to listen to or watch sermons. ("App" is short for "application" and is another word for a software program.)

The most popular Christian app, by far, is the YouVersion Bible app, developed by a multiple-site-campus church known as The free app -- downloaded more than 13 million times -- offers several translations and allows users easily to post verses directly onto Facebook and Twitter. Users can search for keywords or follow a suggested Bible reading plan. The app also allows churches to upload a pastor's sermon notes -- something that Henderson Hills Baptist is doing. That means Henderson Hills members who have the app can read the biblical text and the sermon notes, all on their smartphone or tablet computer. Users also can write their own notes on the app.

"We're encouraging that," Wilson said. "We are seeing more and more people who are doing it."

Ed Litton, pastor of First Baptist North Mobile (Ala.), has several Christian apps on his iPhone. A C.S. Lewis app gives him a daily quote from the famous author. A Scripture memorization app helps him commit verses to memory. Litton uses Olive Tree's free Bible app to read Scripture. He teaches a men's discipleship group by using either his iPad or iPhone.

Apps, Litton said, are helpful because they are handy, quick and easy to use.

"In between those moments of in-depth studying, if I am thinking about a text, one of my apps will help me while it's on my mind," Litton told BP. "That's been practically day to day how I have used them the most."

Litton also has downloaded apps from other churches.

"It helps me keep up with what they're doing," he said. "A lot of guys put their podcasts or their services on apps."

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