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5 Benefits of Using a Physical Bible When You Preach

Leadership / Teaching Techniques //

First off, let me say that I love my digital Bible…er…Bibles. I have several Bible apps on my phone. A few on my tablet. More on my computer. And I use them a lot. But never when I preach. (And yes, I already know this post is going to be unpopular with some of you.)

I understand more and more pastors, youth pastors, and family ministry folks are preaching from their tablets or phones. After all, having the Scripture right there is handy – even logical.

I still think you should preach from a physical Bible. (There…I said it.)

This goes for more than “preaching from the pulpit.” This applies to speaking to students at youth group, teaching the younger kids in Sunday school, reading the Bible as a small group, or delivering a keynote or breakout session at a conference.

If you’re considering moving on to something else, please stick with me. You owe it to your audience to at least consider these benefits.

Reason 1: You will become a more dynamic communicator.

If you preach and teach the Word, I would imagine that you want to be as dynamic and engaging as possible. After all, I’ve never heard of anyonewanting to bore people with their teaching!

Since I also do communication coaching, it’s really hard for me to watch someone speak without having at least a little bit of my inner coach evaluate how they are communicating.  One thing I have noticed is that people who speak from a digital Bible – especially an iPad or other tablet – move around significantly less than people who use a physical Bible.

They are more tied to the podium (even if the podium is a music stand). They don’t walk around as freely. They rarely carry their “Bible” with them, while people using a physical Bible (like the small, lightweight one I use) frequently have their Bible in their hand. An iPad almost always stays on the podium.

Reason 2: You will reinforce the uniqueness of the Word.

This one is subtle –and more significant – than most of us ever imagine. As I said at the beginning of this post, I love my digital Bible. I am so grateful that I have the Bible accessible to me all the time, everywhere.

That said, because the Bible is so accessible and so available, it has lost some of its uniqueness. It’s just like every other book on my Kindle. It’s just like every other app on my smartphone.

Of course, we’d never say that out loud. And yet, we live in a day and age when people are looking at their phones an average of 110 times a day. (Yes, there’s a recent study that backs this up.) Throw in tablet usage and you and I glance at a screen – NOT including work-related computer screens – every nine minutes.

Looking at a screen is common. Looking at a physical Bible is not. If you want a simple way to reinforce the uniqueness of God’s Word, let your audience see you holding a physical Bible. (Tweet that.)

Reason 3: You will avoid becoming a slave to technology.

This goes back to my work as a communication coach. The number of times I have seen a sermon – or any speech for that matter – come to a screeching halt because of a technical glitch is mind-boggling.

Even when the technology is working perfectly, it is the rare communicator who preaches from a tablet or phone who doesn’t risk losing his audience because he pauses too long to switch between notes, the Bible, or slides. You are giving your audience permission to stop listening, mentally check out, or – gasp! – check their own phones.

I am not saying you should never use technology. You should. But you should always ask yourself this question: If ALL of my technology went down would I still be able to deliver this message?

If you have a physical Bible – and printed notes if you need them – your answer will always be “Yes.”

Reason 4: You will connect with a generation that often feels alienated.

This one was reiterated to me just this past Sunday. It was before the service started and I was talking with the church’s lead pastor. My Bible was on the seat, but the printed program was on top of it, so you couldn’t see it. I had already taken my phone, wallet, and keys out of my pocket and placed them on the seat. (By the way, I highly recommend having nothing in your pockets while you speak.)

That’s when a guy came up to us, saw my phone on the seat and the phone the pastor had in his hand, and said, “You guys and your electronic Bibles. What ever happened to bringing your Bible to church.”

You might be picturing a grumpy, old guy, pointing  at us with his cane as he scolded us. Not the case. My guess is this guy was in his early-50’s. And he was teasing us more than anything. He was a very pleasant guy who helped me with several of the details of the morning.

However, I couldn’t help but look around at the people his age and older who were told since they were young that you should carry your Bible to church. For many of them, there is something comforting – even honoring – to see their pastor reading from a physical Bible.

It costs us nothing. It honors them. Why not do it?

Reason 5: You will avoid distractions before you speak.

I have fallen prey to this one myself. And I see it way too frequently in others as well. We are so accustomed to checking text messages, Facebook, Twitter, or our favorite news feed whenever we get a free second.

Sadly, we let this habit creep in just before we go into the service – or even while we’re sitting in the service getting ready to step up and preach! If we have our phones or iPads, we are tempted to check them. It’s such a habit, we don’t realize we’re doing it…until we’re actually doing it!

Even if you use a physical Bible (or make the switch after reading this), but keep your notes on a tablet or phone, make it a habit to switch your phone into “Airplane Mode” at least 20-30 minutes before the service starts.Then, when you get those seconds or minutes of down time, you’ll spend them focusing on the One you are preparing to share with your congregation or students.

If you are a pastor to adults, students, or kids…

Please know that I honor you and the work you do. I am in it with you and pray that all of us share the Word as powerfully, clearly, and dynamically as possible. Using a physical Bible is one simple way to increase the chances of doing exactly that.

Questions: Do you preach from a physical or digital Bible? Is there another reason I missed?

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About the Author

Keith Ferrin is an author, speaker, blogger, and storyteller who is passionate about helping people read, study, engage, and enjoy the Bible. He was a youth pastor for six years before writing and speaking fulltime. He is the author of three books, including Like Ice Cream: The Scoop on Helping the Next Generation Fall in Love with God’s Word. He and his wife, Kari, have three kids who are the source of both his big smile and gray hair. They live just outside of Seattle. Keith also holds to the belief that coffee and ice cream are proof of a benevolent God.