According to Pew Research, nearly two-thirds of Americans are smartphone owners. Today, smartphones are used for more than texting, calling and email. Many use their smartphones as a gateway into the online world- accessing bank information, real estate listings, health concerns and even educational courses and resources. More recently, smartphones have even taken over religion. The American Bible Society's State of the Bible 2015 study reports that 50 percent of Americans read the Bible online. Rather than pulling the Bible out of the slot of the pew, many Americans sit and read along with the glare of the screen through Bible Study apps. It's no wonder the apps come by the hundreds- apps are quick and easy to use at just the touch of a button. However, apps are changing the way the Bible is being studied. While it has many benefits, there are many speculations that technology is getting in the way of the true purpose of the Bible: understanding God's word. While apps make reading scripture easier, it does not mean it is better understood. It is our job as followers of Christ to form our own interpretation of the Bible; now, we have a smartphone to translate it for us. By reading from apps like Bible Gateway, there is also a possibility that the Bible scriptures could be altered; you never know how accurate your information is. Whereas with a hard copy of the Bible, you are reading a universal, stable version. Pastor Gary Cox of Grace Presbyterian Church agrees. “One of the gifts that God gives to His church are pastor/teachers who are to equip God's people to do the work of the ministry,” said Cox. “A major part of that process is proper instruction of believers from the Word of God.”
Using apps and social media to share scripture and testimonies is great to a certain extent, but using a keyboard and a screen to deliver holiness defeats the purpose of one-on-one human interaction and meaningful, deep conversations with others at a Bible Study. The fast-paced sharing, clicking, “tweeting” and “liking” of social media platforms hold us back from having a connection. It has been confirmed by a study at the University of Michigan that social media networking makes us “anti-social” and depressed, further concluding the negative effects of technology on one of the most important parts of our lives: our religion. However, these apps can also have benefits. For one, because of their ease-of-access, Bible-oriented apps are quick and can be taken anywhere. While you're waiting in line at the store or taking a jog, you can read or listen to scripture. The most popular Christian app is YouVersion Bible app, an app that allows users to post directly to Facebook and Twitter and search for keywords or follow a suggested Bible-reading plan, according to Baptist Press. The app also allows churches to upload their pastor's sermon notes. Several different apps even have a copy-and-paste feature that lets users drag and drop scripture into their notepad on their smartphone. While these apps can have many pros, it is important that we take a look around and assess how smartphones are overtaking our spirituality. Instead of using an app to study the scripture, we should avoid the “share” button and instead become at one with the complexity and context of each scripture. Don't broadcast everything online when you can easily discuss it with a friend or fellow followers of your church on the phone.