All of the information you need is now readily available at your fingertips. On your smartphone. Or, so it seems. But, with all of the resources available to them, are our students missing out on some things? These days, when you ask students to open their Bibles they are more likely to pull out their phones than a printed copy of God's word. And though it's great that they have decided to download a Bible app or bookmark BibleGateway, maybe something's missing. Here are a few thoughts.
Memory. How well are your students doing at scripture memory? Psalm 119:11 says "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." (NIV). Yet, most of our students struggle to remember any scripture, let alone remember scripture references. Scripture memory has always been a discipline, but are cell phones and search engines making our memories lazy? Is this even more true for Millenials who are so connected to technology?
Why? Psalm 119:11 speaks of hiding God's word in our hearts. And how are we to "meditate" on it "day and night" (Psalm 1) if we have to go to a phone to get it? There is something about being able to turn over the words of scripture in our minds that is formative for us as His people. If our students do not know His word well enough, how will they be able to recall it in a moment of temptation, or dwell on it for formation?
Depth. Our online media habits may not be conducive to deep Bible study. "Because many of us try to consume so much information, most of us are forced to mostly skim highlights and summaries just to keep up," writes Tim Bajarin on time.com.2 It's not that we can't go deep online, it's just that we don't usually. It takes special discipline to make that happen. Staying off of Facebook and Twitter, ignoring email notifications and pop-up ads. Are we asking students to spend time in focused Bible study? Time away from media might be a best practice for going deep in God's word.
Context. It would be dangerous to make a medical diagnosis from the first result in a Google search, yet a similar thing happens when we isolate a verse from the text that surrounds it. It makes a big difference, in the book of Job, whether God is speaking or one of Job's friends. It helps us understand the Old Testament and ultimately the New Testament if we know how the books of history fit with the books of prophecy. We need to know about the unique purposes of each of the Gospels, and how the letters fit with the book of Acts. Can we get this from a search engine? Or does the simple visual and physical experience of the Bible in print help us to put those things together cognitively?
Thanks to today's technology, the Bible is readily available in more forms and translations than ever before. And there are benefits to having these tools at our fingertips. I'm definitely not saying we should discourage our student from having Bible apps or using online tools, but we do need to help our students think about how to use these tools effectively, and maybe even know when to use the good old fashioned print version from time to time. Why not challenge your students to bring their printed Bible next Sunday, in addition to their phone? After all, we never have to wait for it to recharge, load or buffer.
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1Sparrow, Betsy, Jenny Liu, Daniel M. Wegner. Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips.http://www.sciencemag.org/content/333/6043/776.abstract#aff-2, July 4, 2011.2Bajarin, Tim. "Who Needs a Memory When We Have Google?" http://time.com/69626/who-needs-a-memory-when-we-have-google/#, April 21, 2014.