With our high-tech society, most retailers these days ask you if you wanted a printed receipt or a digital receipt. Digital receipts allow them to use less paper, so there is a cost savings to the company there. Of course, there is also a darker side of it, they want your e-mail address so they can send you all of their ads and try to get you to come back into their store and spend more money. But alas, most of the time, I get a digital receipt. It is easier to keep track of, and helps when looking at the budget to know where money is going. But the paper or digital debate isn’t just in the business side of life. It is also the subject of debate amongst church-goers when it comes to their Bible. There is definitely an age gap associated with this debate, though there are certainly outliers in each. But if you are 50 or older, most likely you carry a paper copy of the Bible to church and maybe to work. If you are below 50, most likely you have your Bible on your tablet or smartphone. There are advantages to both of course. And in my mind this debate is settled very easily, whichever one you are more likely to use is the right option for you.
If you have ever attended Westlake Baptist, you know that my sermon outline is on my iPad. However, I always have a paper copy of the Bible in my hand while I’m preaching. However, for the longest time when I would do my private devotion time with God, I would use my iPad or my iPhone. I have so many bookmarks and highlights in my YouVersion, I would be very sad if I lost them all. And that is one reason why I love the digital copy of the Bible. I can highlight and make notes to my heart’s content, and know that they are stored on a cloud. Let’s face it, there is only so much room to write a note in a paper copy of the Bible. I don’t have those limitations in the digital copy. I can also share notes and highlights with friends, and they can do the same with the digital copy of the Bible (at least through YouVersion). I am currently doing a Bible reading plan with other people using the digital version of the Bible. We can keep track of each other’s progress to encourage or to nudge along to keep the habit of daily Bible reading, as well as, read any notes one or all of us make. It truly is a great discipleship tool and accountability tool. However, just like doing a digital receipt at your favorite retailer can have a downside; there can be a downside to solely using a digital copy of the Bible. Warning, I’m about to sound like the “old guy.”
I have what we tell our middle son, Noah, is his super power, ADD. I can go from on topic to chasing a squirrel in less than 5 seconds. Many times, my office is like my mind, cluttered and unorganized. Some days I wonder how I get anything accomplished. And over time I noticed something about myself as I used my iPad to do my devotions. Sometimes, I would struggle to stay focused on my reading or in praying. It was never intentional, but again, I get easily distracted. Since my iPad and my iPhone share notifications, my iPad can easily go off 10 or more times with various notifications. Try as I might to ignore them and keep focused on what I am doing, many times I find myself checking the notifications. I am one of those people, who hate to see unread notifications on my phone, laptop, or iPad. Each day before I leave the office, I put any unread e-mails into a folder that I come to first the next day. Yes, I realize you can turn off notifications on your smartphone and tablets, but then I forget to turn them back on, and since I don’t see the notifications, I don’t know that I need to go respond to things. It’s that whole out of sight, out of mind thing for my brain. So, now I try to use my paper copy of the Bible to do my devotions. I still go in to the YouVersion app to highlight, make notes, and more from my reading. But I try to make sure that I don’t use it unless I have to for the actual reading. There is one other downfall, at least in my mind, and I’m open to the fact this may only be in my mind. With a digital copy of the Bible, when the pastor or teacher says, “Turn to (book of the Bible)”, all you have to do is tap the top of the screen, and you can find that book. People learning the books of the Bible is becoming a lost art. Again, as long as you are bringing your Bible to church, I’m a happy pastor. But I have to say there is something neat about hearing pages flip. There is something special about highlighting and making notes in your Bible. A pastor several years ago told me that he uses a Bible to preach from until it is worn out. Then it becomes his personal study Bible that he goes back and highlights and makes notes in. He does it to help him put lessons together with cross-references and things. But he said the main reason he does it is so that he can pass it down to his kids as they get older. They can see what God would saying and teaching him through the years. I thought that was a fantastic idea, and so I have begun to do the same. Each time I wear out a “preaching” Bible, I ask someone to make a box, and put a plaque on it with the dates that I used that Bible, and one day, Lord willing I will pass them down to each of my kids. Let’s be honest, you can’t do that with a tablet. Those things will only last for so long :).
Maybe you aren’t like me, and you don’t get easily distracted. Maybe you prefer a paper copy of God’s Word. Maybe you prefer a digital copy of God’s Word. It really doesn’t matter. What really matters is that we read it to know God, and seek His help in obeying Him. Neither a printed or a digital copy will show you are more dedicated and committed over the other. My philosophy is this, which ever one you will use, that’s the right one for you, and there is plenty of room at the table for both groups.