I didn’t think I was going to like it. But I do. By the way, if you’re one of those people who immediately scrolls down to the bottom of any review to see if the person recommends – or doesn’t recommend – what they’re reviewing, allow me to save any strain on your finger-scrolling-muscle and say: Give it a try. You’ll like it.
Before jumping into the benefits and drawbacks, let me start by saying I’m a big fan of using a physical Bible for reading, studying, and preaching. (If you preach or teach the Bible, please read this post.) If you are planning to hunker down in a specific book of the Bible, I would still encourage you to put your tablet, smartphone, or computer away, grab a physical Bible, and dive in.
However…a Bible Read Thru is different from a Bible Study.
In case you’ve just stumbled across this blog, I’ve been doing a Rapid Bible Read Thru for the first four months of every year since 2010. (In 2017 I wrote a book about the What, Why, and How of doing a Rapid Bible Read Thru. You can read reviews or grab a copy right here.) While I’ve read different translations each time, a few years ago was the first time I used a tablet as my primary reading Bible.
NOTE: There are lots of Bible apps out there. Since the free YouVersion Bible App is the one I used – and the most popular Bible app in the world – that’s the one I will reference for this post. However, the same benefits and drawbacks apply no matter which app you choose.
First…the 5 Benefits
1. I spend less time looking up the passages.
My favorite way to do a Rapid Bible Read Thru is chronologically. (You can see my four favorite chronological plans – and even download a free printable plan – by clicking here.)
Since there are lots of times when books overlap, you can end up spending time switching back and forth instead of reading. Having the whole plan laid out for you keeps you immersed in the narrative. (Hmmm…sort of the purpose of a Rapid Bible Read Thru!)
2. I am not tempted to look at the notes in my study Bible.
Do you see a bold “a” in your Bible and feel a moral obligation to go down to the bottom of the page and read the note? I call this ping-pong reading. Read a little bit. “Ping” down to the notes. “Pong” back up to the text. And on and on it goes.
With the Bible App, there are no notes at the bottom of each chapter. Occasionally, there is an “a” or “b,” but you have to click it to be taken to the note. For some reason, that’s nowhere near as tempting for me. Once again…I remain in the Word. Lovely.
3. Copy/Paste makes note-taking much quicker.
I try to take very few notes when I’m doing a Rapid Bible Read Thru. That said, when I do take notes, being able to tap…copy…paste is quick and gets me back to reading. (Do you see a pattern here?)
4. I can supplement my reading with listening.
Every year, someone tells me they’re doing an entire Rapid Bible Read Thru using the audio Bible embedded into their Bible app. While this certainly isn’t “bad,” I highly recommend using an audio Bible as a supplement…not a replacement. (More on that topic in this post and this post.)
I love listening to the Bible. Sometimes I’ll take sections (like Psalms for example) and simply listen to a few while I drive, mow the lawn, or walk home after dropping my daughter at school. Seeing it on the page AND hearing it helps me engage with the Word…and remember it.
5. It’s always with me.
I don’t carry a physical Bible and a printout of my chronological reading plan with me all the time. On the flip side, it’s extremely rare that I don’t have my smartphone, my tablet, or my computer with me.
The YouVersion Bible App stays synchronized across all three of those devices. While I do a vast majority of my reading at home in the early morning, it is nice to be able to pick up right where I left off if I find myself early for an appointment, sitting in an airport, or having missed some of my reading earlier that day.
Now…the 3 Drawbacks
1. It is TOO easy to get distracted.
As I mentioned, the Bible App is with me whether I have my phone, tablet, or computer. That also means so is email, social media, to-do reminders, etc. I am guessing you know how incredibly distracting these can be. Even when our desire is to meet with the Living God. One little “ding” and our eyes and mind are somewhere else. Ugh.
You might not know this, but every smartphone or tablet I’ve ever seen has a quick way to turn off notifications. On Apple devices, it’s called “Do Not Disturb.” On Android devices, it’s called “Blocking Mode.” Turn. It. On.
2. It is only setup for a full year.
This isn’t a huge thing, but it would be nice to customize it for four months (or any amount of time other than a full year). Better yet, I’d love to simply have it scroll to the next section in chronological order without breaking it up into amount-per-day at all! I took this screenshot back in 2015 when I was almost halfway through my Rapid Bible Read Thru. As you can see from the picture below, the plan thought I was on May 15th. (I actually took the screenshot on February 16.)
When it’s broken up into “days” it is extremely easy to get into a check-this-off-my-to-do-list mentality. That’s why I highly encourage you to read for an amount of time not an amount of content. This obviously isn’t an insurmountable obstacle, but it would be nice not to have to think about it at all.
3. It’s less “special.”
Ok…hear me out. We live in a digital age. That’s not going to change. More books are read digitally every year. More movies are streamed. More pictures are taken on phones (and almost never printed).
Holding a book while you read feels different. And a Bible feels even more different than any other book.
Something about holding a Bible helps me connect with the story – and the Author – in a different, unique, special way. That connection doesn’t seem to happen as deeply when I read a digital Bible.
Finally…HOW I used it.
- The YouVersion Bible App. I have it installed on all my devices.
- OneNote. I like it better than Evernote, although both are terrific, come on every platform, and they’re both free.
As I mentioned in the bulleted list above, I do nearly all my reading on my tablet. Since the OneNote app is on the same tablet (and my phone and my computer), I usually don’t have anything else with me – except my coffee.
I open OneNote and the Bible App right at the start so I can switch between the two without any lag time.
When it comes to taking notes, I have three methods I use:
- When you tap a verse (or verses), a bunch of options appear at the top. (Sharing on Facebook/Twitter, highlighting, add notes, etc.). I ignore them all except the one that says “copy.” Tap that, switch to OneNote, hit “paste” and the whole verse – with the reference – is right there in my notes.
- Sometimes I want to take a note or jot a thought or application. In that case, I usually just pop over to OneNote, write the Scripture reference (so I can find it later), and jot a quick note.
- Color-coding. Once I’ve either copied the verse or written my note in OneNote, occasionally I will highlight the note with one of two colors. Yellow means “I want to share this with my Tuesday morning group.” Red means “I want to study/internalize this after I’m done with the Bible Read Thru.
That’s it. Pretty simple. But as I’ve said many times, “Simple gets applied. Complicated gets set aside.”