The Influence of Technology on Bible Usage
The Barna Group’s “State of the Bible 2018” study focused on seven key findings regarding views of the Bible by American Christians. Of great significance is its findings on the use of technology to read the Bible. A close look reveals four key ways technology influences Bible usage among American today.
Influence 1: Internet Usage to Find Bible Content
Though nearly nine in 10 Bible users enjoy the printed Bible (89%), other formats continue to increase in importance. For example, try asking anyone under 30 years old what a Bible concordance is. Some people remember those phonebook-like volumes that listed the occurrences of every place a certain word was used in Scripture.
Today, most people searching for a term or phrase can more easily find it by typing a few words into Google or a Bible website like BibleGateway.com. Further, complex searches with tools like Logos Bible software provide comparative research with numerous English versions, other languages, and Greek and Hebrew words for deeper research.
Additionally, people seeking Bible teaching resources are also finding them online. While many Christian bookstores struggle to grow, a flood of articles, blogs, e-books, podcasts, and videos continue to increase online. The great need of today is not more information, but discernment regarding how to find the most helpful Bible information.
Influence 2: Smartphone Usage of the Bible
A whopping 55% of Americans now use their smartphones to access Bible content. This includes both the Bible and Bible resources.
By comparison, in 2012 only 23% of American adults claimed to use a smartphone to access the Bible. In six years, this number has more than doubled, making smartphones one of the most rapid areas of changing technology regarding Bible usage.
In pews on Sunday mornings, more people are using their phone to look up Scripture, take notes, and perform their own Bible research. Pastors will be further challenged to accurately teach the Scriptures, as attendees can instantly verify what is being taught.
Influence 3: An Increase in Audio Bible Listening
Barna’s study notes, “More than one-third listens to a teaching via podcast (35%) or audio version of the Bible (36%).” This is up from 30% in 2012, a noticeable increase.
Part of this shift may be due to the rise in available audio Bibles. While audio Bibles now exist in nearly 1,200 languages online, Americans are finding their preferred versions at Bible.is, Bible.com, BibleGateway.com, and other destinations that offer free audio Bibles.
Another factor involves increased smartphone usage with larger data plans. Audio Bibles tend to use up data to stream, but newer phone plans now provide much larger limits or unlimited plans that no longer impact streaming in the same way.
Instead of telling people to “read” the Bible during devotional time, we can increasingly encourage people to “listen” to it. Either method (or both methods) can be effective to meditate on God’s Word day and night (Psalm 1).
Influence 4: The Importance of Bible Apps
42% of American Bible users now access Scripture through a Bible app. YouVersion offers the most popular app, yet many other options exist (such as Bible.is, BibleHub, BibleGateway). Faithlife.com, for example, offers access to all of a person’s Bible tools via its app. You can literally access thousands of resources, ranging from the Hebrew text to Bible maps, all from the palm of your hand.
You can even view real time usage statistics for the YouVersion Bible app. For example, at the time of writing, more than 10 billion chapter requests have taken place, with Jeremiah 29:11 as the “most shared Bible verse.”
Technology can offer great advantages for using and applying the Bible, but the goal is to utilize technology for good. Those who teach the Bible increasingly need to understand how readers consume Scripture and Bible study resources to more effectively communicate.
Bible users can benefit from the wide variety of technological tools available—if they can use them without the distractions of other aspects of technology. Ultimately, our goal must be to grow in understanding and living God’s Word regardless of the way we receive it, seeking ways to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves.
[We also invite you to access audio Bibles at JAshow.org, our Ankerberg app, or grow from any of our 11,000+ articles, podcasts, and videos.]