When Bible League International created a free app, some were skeptical. Will people become more engaged in their faith because of technology, or is technology just one more barrier to faith?
According to its website, the concept behind the WordPower™ app of Bible League International is to “encourage you each day in your walk with Christ” by propelling the devoted into a deeper meditation of Scripture. But can a technology replace the personal journey of discovery that is central to a life of faith?
Personal Becomes Public
Social media platforms have changed the way people communicate with each other. Instant communication to the world has had a corresponding effect on how people broadcast their personal lives. Faith, once a deeply personal and private matter, has become a topic for personal revelation online.
With the Pope posting updates on Twitter and people of faith creating videos as they testify, has the private aspect of worship been relegated to history?
Informed By Millennials
A study by the Christian website Barna.org looked at the prevalence of faithful who access the Bible, scripture, or spiritual information on line. Millennials (people born between 1980 and 2005) were found to be the largest demographic for Internet based faith. This comes as no surprise as technology has infiltrated every area of millennial life. The realm of faith should be no exception.
This next generation of faithful is changing the way scripture is read with 70% reporting they study the Word on a screen rather than from a physical Bible or other religious tome. For the people at Bible League International, this was a motivating factor in creating their app.
“We have to be available on the devices young people are using.”
The downside of the new communication technologies is that people are being inundated with information. There are so many places to visit and points of view to be found that the dissemination of information has taken a backseat. And nowhere is this as important as it is in faith.
Past generations became versed in a faith through years of study and quiet contemplation. By reading and re-reading the Bible, the words and ideas that shape their faith, a person was able to develop a deeper connection to God. Leaders fear that scholarship will be replaced by rote memorization of spiritual trivia.
Spread the Message
When early missionaries were sent out to spread the word of God, they did so with the belief they represented the scriptures. They were the “experts” preaching the word to the faithful and unconverted from a position of authority. Missionaries spent years in preparation for their missions.
Today, thanks to the Internet, everyone has access to a multitude of spiritual information. This has created a new breed of laypersons that want to share their beliefs with the world. While admirable in philosophy, these enthusiastic proponents are not grounded in the teaching the way traditional missionaries were.
The potential for spreading inaccurate information was a driving force behind the Bible League International app.
“We developed WordPower™ using the teaching found in scripture. We want users to find the connection to God through his Word,” Bible League International said.
Not all religious leaders are worried about the effect of technology on faithful devotion. Paul Jesep, a policy analyst, corporate chaplain, and author of “Lost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis: Learn to Live and Work Ethically” sees the new technologies as an opportunity.
“The challenge for spiritual leaders is to re-create a modern means to communicate the wisdom to the notebook and smart phone generation,” Jesep said.
In an article posted on Patheos.com, Jesep said religious leaders must embrace the new technologies or become a piece of history.
“The technology generation must re-create the ancient lessons making metaphors relevant to them even though too many spiritual leaders hostile to science have made religious metaphors into facts and thus superstitions,” he said.
Like many of the secular challenges inherent in new technologies, the key is to find a balance between the practices of the past and the opportunities of the future. Accessing and growing spiritual faith through technology presents an additional outreach tool. It also opens new doors to discussion with church leadership in new ways.
Social media is another means of sharing and evangelizing the Word of God to the world. Chat groups and online forums bring together the faithful and opens up new avenues of discussion.
The road to Jesus has many paths on the information highway. Whether reading the Bible on a cell phone or on a book handed down through the generations, the Word is the Word. This is an exciting time in the history of communication. By joining the technological revolution, institutions of faith like Bible League International are delivering an ancient message in a brand new way.