Mobile and Digital

Theories and themes emerging from the World Wide Scripture Engagement Consultation
Author: Stephen Opie

"There is clear confusion among Christians about why they should read the Bible. For many, who have lived a Christian life without much engagement with the Bible, there is no perceived need to engage with it."

This paper, fruit of the recent WWSE Think Tank, seeks to engage with the 'Bible Engagement Crisis' in contexts where Bible availability is high but Bible use is relatively low. The focus is on the emerging generation who are less likely to use the Bible than the generations before them, especially using traditional methods.

After presenting the challenge, Stephen Opie outlines some of the strategic themes emerging, such as:

  • establishing relevance by listening first;
  • embracing technology, especially the Internet;
  • identifying grassroots movements and helping them to grow.
  [more...]
A brief introduction to mobile ministry and its place in world missions
Author: Keith Williams
Published by: Mobile Ministry Forum

An exciting growth area for Scripture Engagement practitioners is working out how mobile phones can be used around the world to encourage the use of the Scriptures.

This 5-minute video presents an introduction to the possibilities of mobile ministry:  [more...]

Author: Rev Mark Brown (2009)

So I offer the challenge: that we inhabit this digital space, become part of the culture and learn the language of what Marc Prensky calls the, 'Digital Natives'. Those of us who have adopted technology later in life he describes as, 'Digital Immigrants' and like anyone immigrating to a new country, there is a need to learn.

Mark Brown, CEO of Bible Society New Zealand, outlines some of the cultural shifts that need to be understood in order to encourage Scripture engagement among 'digital natives'.

At Bible Society New Zealand in response to the appalling Bible engagement rates amongst Christians we wanted to find out, 'Why don’t people read there Bible more often?' The overwhelming reason is that people are distracted, their attention drawn to other things as they scan their environment.

To stimulate conversation, the author presents some provocative predictions of how the web might influence the production, understanding and appreciation of the Bible.

The paper was presented at the symposium: Christianity in the Digital Space, at St. John's College, Durham, UK, July 2009. Notes on the subsequent discussion can be found here.  [more...]

Published by: Barna Group (2013)

The Millennial generation of young people are known as "digital natives". According to recent research carried out by the Barna Group in the USA:

"the most common way Millennials are blending their faith and technology is through digital reading of Scripture. It’s an escalating trend, considering there are just as many YouVersion (the free Bible phone app) downloads as there are Instagram downloads. And BibleGateway.com has become one of the top Christian websites today."

The research found that:

"Seven out of 10 of practicing Christian Millennials (70%) read Scripture on a screen. One-third of all Millennials says they read sacred Scripture on a phone or online, demonstrating how broadly the digital trends are shaping this generation."

In addition, 38% of practicing Christian Millennials said they search the Internet to verify something a faith leader has said. This might be during a sermon, as many bring their smartphones or tablets to church with them.  [more...]

How interconnectivity helps us better engage the Bible
Author: Robert C. Crosby
Published by: Christianity Today (June 2012)

"Not only do billions around the world now have access to the Bible online, and not only are many of them actually reading it, they're also actively engaging with the Word of God—and with one another in far flung virtual communities across the planet.

With these trends, the vocabulary of Bible dissemination is changing. For centuries, the buzzword was distribution, with a focus on quantity delivered. The new buzzword is engagement."

In this Christianity Today article, Robert Crosby examines Scripture engagement in the online world of smartphones, tablets and Facebook.

He points to four principles we can learn from online engagement:
Initiative: "Those who start simply, and simply start, rule the new roads."
Responsiveness: "The pulse of online Bible engagement is rapid response and connections."
Frequency: "To try repeatedly is vital in engaging people with Scripture online."
Saturation: "...a constant awareness of reaching broadly—that a small impact on one soul has the potential of reaching thousands more in a short span of time."  [more...]

Author: Lawson Murray
Published by: Scripture Union Canada, 2013

In the Jump Into the Word blog, Lawson Murray asks how the digital age will influence Bible engagement.

He makes a list of possible effects:

  • "the Bible will be read in multiple formats in an ever emerging variety of forms on a growing range of devices
  • availability and access to different Bible versions and translations will continue to increase
  • greater access to audio Bibles and podcasts may help us become better “hearers” of the Word
  • sharing thoughts and insights about the Bible may increase due to social networks like facebook and Linkedin
  • interactive software programs/systems, hypertext, blogs, posts and webinars uniquely facilitate biblical study and reflection
  • sharing favourite or meaningful verses will increase due to texting and tweeting
  • the individual’s opportunity and capacity to understand and interpret the Scriptures will increase
  • missions could prosper because nations closed to the Gospel will find it more difficult to restrict the availability of biblical texts
  • the Scriptures are readily available in any language or translation to anyone on earth with a smart phone
  • Scripture memorization may decline because Google, Bible Gateway, You Version and such make it easy to look up a passage or text
  • people will become significantly less likely to buy printed copies of the Bible
  • reading Scripture within a contemplative framework may decline
  • sequential reading will decline due to the fact that reading on the web develops inclinations to skip around, dip and dabble, browse or scan information
  • tendencies to read the Bible in short fast bursts will increase
  • concentration and meditation on the Scriptures will suffer because of what Cory Doctorow has called “an ecosystem of interruption technologies” (animations, hyperlinks, live feeds, pop-ups and so on)
  • qualitative depth of reading will be sacrificed for reading geared to a quantitative scope
  • e-books may augment a predisposition to uncouple content from form which may lead to tendencies to view the Scriptures as something detached from their incarnational form – the textual equivalent of Cartesian dualism
  • the role of the local church in the transmission and interpretation of the Scriptures will decline"

What do you think? Read the full article over at the Jump Into The Word blog and leave your comments.  [more...]

The Most Common Avenue to Increased Scripture Engagement
Author: T. Wayne Dye
Published by: International Journal of Frontier Missions (26.3 Fall 2009)

The choice of medium can make a difference, and better artistic quality enhances any communication. However, the most important quality is how relevant the message seems to be to the lives of its hearers. If a hearer (or reader or viewer) thinks the message can make an important difference in his life, he will make an effort to listen, even if the quality is poor. Conversely, if he thinks it says nothing personally relevant, he will ignore even the best presented message. This principle of personal relevance is critical to communication.

Wayne Dye expands upon his third condition for Scripture Engagement:

Accessible forms: People are able to read the Scriptures or hear them from others or by listening to electronic media.

The article describes different ways of making the Scriptures more accessible: storying, literacy, local performing and visual arts, audio recordings, cell phones and video.  [more...]