My faith was greatly impacted in college by a church that challenged me to be a student of the Bible. That love for personal Bible study has motivated me to become an advocate for biblical literacy—a need highlighted by a recent Lifeway Research study that found only 45% of regular church attenders read the Bible more than once a week.
Before becoming a pastor, I always viewed the main responsibility as preaching. But now I understand why the role isn’t called “Senior Preacher.” As a pastor, I have a responsibility to build stronger disciples in Jesus Christ, and that’s an impossible task apart from the Bible.
To help combat biblical illiteracy at our church, we have turned to an app called YouVersion. I think of it as an example of what Paul meant when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:22: “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” YouVersion is a 21st century response to Paul’s approach.
With over 200 million downloads, the app is a helpful tool that any church can easily use. It’s free, can be carried on any smart phone or tablet (or accessed by a computer at bible.com), and offers valuable opportunities for biblical accountability and community.
A long-time church member stopped by my office last month and said, “I want to grow closer to the Lord.” After listening to his testimony of faith, I inquired about his personal devotional times. He admitted to not reading the Bible much, and so I asked him to pull out his phone. We quickly downloaded YouVersion, and got him started on a daily reading plan through the Gospel of John.
He texted me later that night to tell me he finished the entire book of John! “Should I just go onto Acts?” he asked. Since then, he has not only finished Acts for the first time, but is now re-reading it to gain a better understanding of the story. He credits his success to the ease of YouVersion.
We’ve used YouVersion with recent converts to Christ. I helped them get the download and choose a reading plan. This has provided these brand new believers with a clear plan and goal for their Bible reading.
As with other forms of social media, you can “friend” others through YouVersion. As you do, your homepage fills up with news of their progress through Bible plans or verses they highlighted. So I not only learn from my own Bible reading, but that of others in my church. And anytime one of my friends has been offline for a while, I know to check in with them.
Two weeks in a row, highlighted Scriptures from members of my church made their way into the messages I had been working on for that week. They were thrilled to know their personal study of the Bible had influenced my own.
Even my 10-year-old daughter switched to YouVersion on her Kindle last year and I use it to monitor and comment on her reading.
I also use my YouVersion newsfeed as a prayer list. As I see the names of friends and passages they’re studying, I pray for their study and usually let them know I’m praying. And watching comments between our members regarding a particular passage is a great encouragement to me as their pastor.
We as a church also use the YouVersion live component. This allows us to create “events” for each upcoming sermon. People can read the Scripture passage and interact through polls, or by posting comments or questions. And again, it’s 100% free.
I should tell you, YouVersion doesn’t pay me for my advocacy. I’m merely sharing how this Bible app has had an impact on our church. Like many churches, we’re often slow adopters when it comes to technology. And while a digital Bible is no better than a traditional Bible, it’s time we used every opportunity available to us in building biblically literate believers in Jesus Christ.
Heath Tibbetts pastors First Baptist Church, Machesney Park.