A while back I read a couple articles about preachers preaching from iPads instead of from a traditional on-dead-tree printed Bible. They were both from seminary professors, one against it and one for it.
A Silly Discussion
First of all I think the whole discussion is silly.
All of the arguments presented in the article against using an iPad (or other electronic tablets) to read scripture from when preaching are entirely based on appearance and perception. Jesus flat out told us that’s the wrong way for us to form our opinions.
Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.— John 7:24
The issue is not what medium the preacher is using to read scripture from. The the really important thing is the substance of what the preacher is communicating to his (or her) audience.
So I’m not arguing a point here because it’s really a non-issue. Instead I’d like to share a little about my own experience studying and teaching/preaching with an iPad.
As many of you know my life changed course here in my 40’s as I moved across country to attend a Bible college. When I first started school I had about the dumbest smartphone still in existence (a 6 year old Palm TREO). While technically I did have an electronic Bible app on the phone, for all practical purposes the text was too small to read and the app was too hard to navigate.
I never really used it.
Instead I did all of my Bible study via conventional on-dead-tree printed Bibles.
Enter the iPad
Near the end of the first term I got an iPad and it has totally changed how I study the Bible.
Lookup – The first thing that the iPad changed is how quickly I can find passages in the Bible. Because I can get to any verse within 4 touches of the screen I suddenly was able to keep up with some of our professors that would go rapid-fire though scriptures in their lectures.
Retention – Because I’m a visual text guy, I retain a whole lot more when I can read what’s being said over when I just hear it. As a result I’ve gone further down the road to renewing my mind faster than I would have with an on-dead-tree Bible, especially when it comes to sitting in class under those rapid-fire professors.
Translations – The next thing that made a big difference is that my Bible apps have a ton of different translations in them. That means I can quickly review a passage presented in several different ways so it truly sinks down into my heart and stays with me longer without having to have 17 Bibles in a stack beside me and taking all the time to flip though all those different translations.
Search – Finding passages is much easier with an electronic Bible than with an on-dead-tree Bible. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought, “what was that verse again? Something about something-something…”
With my iPad I can do a quick search and get the exact wording quickly even when I don’t remember where it was located in the Bible.
Original Languages – In one of my apps, the translation I use most day-to-day has the Strong’s numbers built in. So I can simply touch a word on the screen and the Strong’s entry pops up. So even though I’m not a language scholar I can still quickly get a feel for what the original Greek or Hebrew words are behind the translation(s).
Highlighting – I was never one for highlighting in my Bibles, mainly because I never carried highlighters around with me. I usually had a pen – with black ink. That meant that I’d end up with messy, wavy underlines throughout my Bible. Often my messy underlining made passages harder to see and read.
With my iPad I can highlight in whatever color I want. (I made a custom teal highlighter I like.) That way I can highlight any passage I see that relates to a particular subject with 1 color so it sticks out to me. It’s nice that the highlights carry across all the translations in the same app.
Oh, and everything is still easy to see and read.
Notes – This is one of the huge advantages I’ve found with my iPad. With an on-dead-tree Bible there is precious little room to make notes before they start obstructing the text. Now I can add notes on all sorts of stuff. I can use different symbols for the note placeholders, which again lets me quickly see passages that relate to a specific topic.
And the best part?
When I reference other verses in my notes those references become links that go straight to those verses. So I have an instant lookup feature right in my notes.
Tags & Categories – I can assign different tags and categories to all of my notes and highlights. That again makes it easy to go through what all I’ve found in the Bible that relates to a particular topic.
Syncing – All of these references and annotations that I make when I’m studying are automatically synced across my iPad, iPhone, along with desktop and laptop computers. It doesn’t matter which device I’m using. If I add a note or a highlight in one, it is automatically added to the others.
Great Study Tool
So as you can see, my iPad has become a great study tool for me. It is helping my heart absorb more scripture in less time that would be happening with traditional printed on-dead-tree Bibles.
But what about preaching from an iPad?
Here’s what I’ve found.
Preaching From an iPad
Just like when preaching from printed notes and Bibles, it really helps to be organized when using an iPad to teach from. Preparation time is never wasted time and a little preparation before you get up in front of people to start talking will help out considerably.
Chose your apps – talking about which apps to use could be a whole new discussion. For now, here are the ones I use.
- OliveTree – This is my main Bible app that allows me to do all the things I mentioned above. I’ve tried several and this is the one that works best for me.
- Evernote – Usually this is where I put my speaking notes. I also use Evernote to organize much of the rest of my life.
- Dropbox – Dropbox is great for when I want my notes to have more formatting than is easy with Evernote. I’ll type up my notes on my computer in Microsoft Word and then save the document in my Dropbox. Then it automatically syncs with my iPad for use when speaking.
- GoodReader – GoodReader will let you download documents from Dropbox and other cloud storage services so that you can access them when not connected to the internet.
- Pages – Pages is Apple’s word processing program (a competitor to Microsoft’s Word). I haven’t used it myself yet. But it has been highly recommended by several folks I know and trust so I am considering it. The big advantage is that you can organize and access your documents offline from inside the app after syncing it with iCloud.
I’m sure there are other apps that might work well. I was using these services long before I had my iPad so they have been working for me.
Organize your apps – Because the iPad makes it easy to swipe horizontally with 4 fingers to change between apps it’s a good idea to open the apps you expect to use in teaching in the order you plan to use them. Then you can quickly swipe back and forth between them without any fuss or distraction.
Lock the rotation – I usually lock the rotation on my iPad before I get up to speak so the text isn’t swinging around when I’m trying to read it in my hand. To do that in the new iOS 7 swipe up from the bottom of the screen to open the Control Center and click the top icon on the far right that looks like a padlock.
Mute the sounds – I slide the little toggle on the side of my iPad to mute the sounds when I’m speaking (or anytime I’m in church for that matter.) No point in having it make potentially awkward noises, especially if the message is being recorded.
Extend Auto Lock time – I extend out the Auto Lock settings to 10 minutes (they default to 2 minutes). That way I don’t have to worry about the screen going blank when I’m speaking and having to enter my code to get back to it. Just remember to set it back to 2 minutes after you are done speaking to save your battery.
Consider Font Sizes – In the OliveTree app I can increase the font size to make things easier to see when I’m talking. I’ve found that having bigger fonts all around makes it easier for me to maintain eye contact with the audience when speaking. I don’t need them as big when I’m studying.
Practice! – Like everything new there will be an adjustment period while you learn a new way of referencing your electronic Bible and notes. The time to figure out some of those differences is when you are preparing to speak, not when you are in the pulpit on Sunday morning.
Running out of battery charge – iPads have what I consider to be good battery life. I usually go a couple of days without needing to charge my iPad with moderate use. However if you are not paying attention it is possible that you might run out of power. Fortunately it charges pretty fast. So keep an eye on your battery level and charge it when it starts to get low.
No Internet access – Evernote and Dropbox won’t work without internet access. Evernote does have off-line notes with their premium account, which I don’t have. I found GoodReader will let me download my documents from Dropbox to access them off-line. That has become part of my backup plan. I download my message notes when I have internet access at home so I know I can get to them if I run into connectivity issues.
iPad crashing – This has only happened to me once. It was during class when I was taking notes. I consider this a low probability thing. But that one time my iPad was useless until I could plug it back into my computer and reload the whole operating system. So apparently it can happen from time to time.
Have a Backup Plan
I’ve been working online for the past several years and one of the big things I’ve learned in that time is that tech stuff breaks. Even when we do everything as well as we are able things totally beyond our control can still go wrong sometimes.
Therefore it is good to have a backup plan. I’ve already mentioned that I use GoodReader to pull my notes down in case I can’t get internet access where I’m speaking.
It is also a good idea to have on-dead-tree paper notes and Bible handy in case the unthinkable happens. There is nothing at all wrong with teaching from paper notes and a printed Bible. Be ready to switch gears if needed.
The way I see it, the enemy’s job is to keep the Word getting out. If he sees you are prepared and determined to get the message God has given you across no matter what comes up then the enemy will most likely leave you alone on that front and go mess with someone who is less prepared to see if he can knock them off balance instead.