3 Lessons I Learned From Reading the Bible Digitally for 31 Days

I’m a big morning person, I love almost everything about the morning hours, whether it be the growing daylight, the perpetual stillness, or a steaming mug of coffee, I simply cannot go wrong getting up early. However, my morning routine (borrowed heavily from Michael Hyatt’s here) was too rigid and regimented, and I didn’t have room for creative freedom. Another problem: it was all analog. Old fashioned journal, bible, books, etc., the only digital part was playing music on my phone. This is not inherently bad, but when traveling or in a different setting, I needed to lug everything with me–not convenient.

So I scrapped it–all of it. I chopped it all apart and dove into my philosophy of a morning routine. What came out of this process was the essentials: my Bible and my journal and I converted to all digital (via Logos bible software for mobile and Evernote for the computer). The freedom in creativity I felt from the self-inflicted control of my old routine was amazing! I felt not only free, but also efficient and millennial doing it electronically. I stuck with it for 31 days.

Digital Bible

Then I experienced a crucible moment. I needed to do some reflecting, praying, and reading the Scriptures to hear the heart of God and see where he was moving. So I whipped out my phone and began “flipping” through the Bible trying to remember what I had read, what had impacted me, and some notes from previous reflections. Nothing but a few highlighted texts here and there. Not helpful. So I pulled out my leather-bound Bible. What a difference! I could easily flip through the entire text, passages jumped off the pages, past notes and reflections were written in the margins, and post-it notes scattered throughout full of important words from the Lord I had received.

My soul felt at home in that moment. I quickly wrote these 3 lessons from reading the Bible digitally:

  1. The Bible is always with me. I can pull it out in line at Starbucks, waiting for a meeting to start at work, or on the Transit Bus. However, in reality I pull up Twitter or Instagram or Letterpress long before I think to open the scriptures. It is nice to quick look up a reference, but outside of that, reading the Bible did not become spontaneous for me.
  2. Highlighting verses is a breeze, synced across all devices, and searchable in-app. This is a huge plus, except when I want to flip between a passage in the Gospel of John and a cross-reference in 1 John. For me, I’m an underliner, not a highlighter, so I found it distracting. I understand that is my preference and not everyone agrees.
  3. You can takes notes, like writing in the margins, but they are not the same thing. Yes, you can search the notes. Yes, an indicator tells you of an available note in a passage. But it requires tapping it and seeing your note out of the context of the verses. I love underlining because I often summarize or synthesize my thoughts in the margin next to it. When I open up my leather-bound, it’s there, popping out, almost distracting me. When I open my Bible app, I see something is there, and it doesn’t distract me from the text, but it does not call to attention to the value it holds.

Leather-Bound Bible

I understand these lessons are subjective and influenced by my preferences. But I would ask you: What have you experienced? What have you learned from reading the Bible digitally? What do you prefer?

Share your thoughts below!

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9 comments

  1. I couldnt agree more. While digital bible is certainly an efficient means of gaining access, the ink and paper version holds more impact for me and a greater sense of “holding” the Word of God. I particularly appreciate the spacial recognition of places and passages. When you remember its ‘on the top left” kind of thing. Great reflection.

    1. Spacial recognition/memory isn’t something I even thought about–but you’re absolutely right! So often I can’t remember the exact reference, but I know where it is in relation to the page. That, in my experience, largely goes away with a Bible app.

  2. I mostly use the digital Bible for my reading plan and go back to the good old paper Bible to get into the the Word deeper for personal devotion and study.I highlight and underline in both digital and paper versions,but never write notes in them,have always done that on a separate piece of paper,this may explain the mess on my desk.
    The digital is good for quick access when one is out and about or when you forget your Bible,but that rarely happens.

    1. Greg–thanks for the additional thoughts! An app for a bible reading plan does increase the convenience for adhering to the plan. And also, in most non-Western cultures it is irreverent to write in a holy book, so the notation argument wouldn’t hold well there. Great points, and at the end of the day, getting into the Word is the most important, how to get there is a preference.

  3. Totally agree with you bro.

    For me, the issue was focus. It’s harder for me to be distracted when I’m holding a physical moleskin and a physical bible, and easier for me to just see a notification (which, on my phone, are basically only Texts and Calls) and go off on that rabbit trail than it is to just leave my phone docked and pull out a single use thing.

    I do find that I prefer my digital bible(s) and study programs for in depth study and exegesis, but for general reading for spiritual growth, physical is the way I go.

    I will add that I still back up my notes to Evernote using a photo of my moleskin (they’ll index the words you write and make them searchable, which is awesome) but that’s primarily for archival purposes.

    1. Nick–I couldn’t agree more with using “analog” for distraction free devotional times and “digital” for in-depth studying. It seems to all go back to use and function: personal needs to be unplugged, data driven needs to be digital.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  4. Ryan, I deeply value your insight and wisdom into technology uses and how you have furthered my skills and uses of technology. I agree with your post! I admire your heart and desire to continue to learn and grow and share with others what you’ve learned.

    1. Julia–thanks for sharing, and more importantly thanks for bearing with me with all the technology trends I take us through! You are a great help to me in processing the best uses for technology in our lives.

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