I love my iPad. It's a powerful tool for both my ministry and personal life. I can return e-mails from it, watch videos on it and show fundraising presentations with it.
I've even gotten used to preaching from it. At our Dare 2 Share conferences I used to preach from a giant notebook. I'll never forget the days that Propaganda and Zane would come out with their sleek iPads to preach from and I'd come out with a full-sized notebook that looked like it was on steroids. In this super-sized notebook were all the notes for the entire weekend, youth leader training, student manual and dramas. It had everything and then some.
This year I made the switch from using my fat notebook to a skinny iPad Air. I was nervous I wouldn't be able to make the switch, but I did. It has worked out really well. I don't think I'll ever go back to preaching from paper.
But, although I've made the switch to an iPad for preaching, I'm switching back to a hard copy of the Bible for my morning devotional times. For the last few years I've used my iPad during my quiet times with God. It's been easier to read from (because it's backlit and I can make the font size bigger for my getting-older eyes) during my early morning devos.
But, in spite of its many benefits, I'm giving up having my devotionals on an electronic device. Here are four reasons why:
1. I can underline, take notes and mark up my Bible in a way that honors the past lessons God has taught me.
Sure I can highlight verses and jot notes on my iPad. But there's something about the scribble of your own handwriting that marks the pages of your Bible with a customized imprint that begins to build a treasure trove of truth God has taught you. Over the last twenty five years of ministry I've used two primary Bibles to study from on a regular basis. There are countless times I've referred back to my own personal notes in the margins of these two Bibles to reflect on spiritual insights I've received from God along the way. Every Bible I've ever owned is it's own scrapbook in a way, full of snapshots of what God was teaching me during that particular time of my life.
2. Although an iPad is easier to read from it's harder to study from.
One of the great things about Bible reading is being able to cross reference easily. If I'm reading in Romans and want to check out a passage in Psalms that Paul quoted (like he did in Romans 4) it's just a matter of turning some pages. I can quickly get there and get back and read as many cross references as I like in the amount of time it takes to turn the pages. This process really enables me to get to know the Bible in a fuller, deeper way than just reading.
3. Bible mastery comes quicker from a hard copy of the Scriptures.
Because of all the underlining, note-jotting and cross-referencing the Bible is easier to master. After studying the same Bible for years I can tell you which side of the page many verses are on and what the context is. One of the reasons for this is that I've learned to master these verses by turning to them time and time again during my personal devotionals. Unlike an iPad Bible app or online version of Scripture every page of my personal Bible can look unique, almost like it's own little work of underlined, highlighted, note-scribbled art. It's this visual, visceral portion of reading from an actual Bible that, so far, can't be duplicated on an iPad…for me anyway.
4. My evangelism is stronger when my mastery of Scripture (and it's mastery of me) is strongest!
I've had countless evangelistic conversations with Mormons, Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses, atheists and agnostics over the years. Because I've been able to get to know the Bible more and more in my personal study time it's been easier and easier to engage others evangelistically by knowing and quoting Scriptures. It's hard to imagine this level of mastery coming from just reading the Bible on an iPad or iPhone.
Having said all this I'd much rather have somebody reading the Bible from an electronic device than not reading the Bible at all. Technology is a huge blessing and we should use it. But, as for me, I'm going back to the old way of studying the Bible because I think its benefits outweigh its liabilities.
What do you think and why? Hard copy or electronic when it comes to personal Bible study?