On Bringing Your Bible to Church

For various reasons, the practice of bringing your Bible to church is slipping away from many. Because of a number of factors—the fact that many of you have six little kids, the fact that eight psalters are quite enough to haul around, the fact that the text of the sermon is on the outline—has led to some thinking that it is not necessary to bring a Bible to church at all. And, on a practical, physical level, it might not be necessary—but here are some other considerations.

Bringing your Bible to church is an important liturgical act. By it, you are making the statement that we want to be a congregation of Bereans, searching the Scriptures to see if these things are so. This remains the case even if some of you, as I did, grew up seeing a great deal of emptiness in the ritual. As a small boy, I was drilled in Sunday School on finding my way around in the Bible, for which I am exceedingly grateful. But the Bible drills were overseen by people who didn’t know what a covenant was, who didn’t believe that God decreed all things, and who thought that Jesus drank grape juice. Just carrying your Bible around can be as hollow as just carrying around a prayer book. But don’t over-react. If you are steeped in Scripture, and you bring your Bible, it is an important symbolic and liturgical act. The Bible is central to our faith.

Second, the church is our mother, as Paul says in Galatians. Now you should know to honor your mother, but one of the ways to honor her is to grow up into individual maturity. A two-year-old who defies his mother is not honoring her. A forty-year-old with no job, living in the basement, is not honoring her either. “Your mother cuts your meat for you” is a taunt or not, depending on the circumstances. If all you know about the sermon is what comes off the outline, you are being fed, but you are being fed in a high chair. But if the message makes you think of other connections, and you have your Bible open on your lap, and you go to check them, then you are growing up into a mature interaction with the teaching of the church.

And last, realize that each generation has the capacity to step a little farther in the direction you set. Someone who has read the Bible fifty times can easily follow along without bringing it. But the next generation might not have that background knowledge to draw on, and yet continues the practice of not honoring the Scriptures by bringing them. The generation after that will likely be even farther away, which is not what we want at all.

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Ian Miller
Member

Hmm. What about the Bible app on the phone?

john k
Guest
john k

In our cultural context, the use of the Bible in book form risks alienating prospective Christ-followers.

Ian Miller
Member

I don’t follow?

john k
Guest
john k

Sorry, it was an attempt at satire. But can’t you imagine that kind of advice from a church consultant? I can flesh it out a bit more:

In today’s culture, an assembly of people in which the majority carry and consult a personal bound volume is oddly old-fashioned and out of touch, given the modern obsession to be up with the latest technology. You want 20- and 30-somethings to resonate with the relevance of your church.

Ian Miller
Member

I think having a Bible app instead of a Bible to hide your faith is bad. I don’t think that’s the point of most people’s choice to get the Bible app.

Jane
Member

I don’t quite think that’s his point. I think he’s satirizing those whose first concern seems to be avoiding alienating those who make superficial judgments about whether others are sufficiently hip, and then use those judgments as a justification for avoiding the gospel.

Ian Miller
Member

I guess so – but that seems similar to hiding your faith – just an expansion on the why.

Jane
Member

No, I don’t think it’s about hiding, it’s about being up to date and modern. Paper and binding is so old school and you must completely not understand life if you’re still using it. And in fact, we’re sure you’re legalists who don’t believe the gospel is for people who carry tablets or phones.

It has the *effect* of hiding, but I don’t think the intent of hiding is what john is getting at.

Ian Miller
Member

Hmmm. The idolatry of the modern? Though I would counter argue (and forgot to post yesterday) that the idolatry of the past is just as open to Plato’s “well, what about the lost memory of oral culture – why do you need a codex at all, why can’t you just memorize the whole book?” argument.

Chidi Ihejiamaizu
Guest
Chidi Ihejiamaizu

You cannot modernize God, You cannot civilize God, you cannot westernize God and you cannot upgrade God. The old time religion is good enough for me so I cherish the old rugged cross. Many so called ipad Bible App carriers also have pornographic images on the same ipad that houses their Bible app. That’s an insult to God. Don’t ever allow the Devil take away your Bible from you for that is his stock in trade.

BdgrGrrl
Guest
BdgrGrrl

Not everyone who has a Bible app on his or her phone or tablet has pornographic images on it. If he or she does not, why can’t these people use a Bible app with a clean conscience? They have nothing to hide.

Samuel Adams
Guest
Samuel Adams

Ditch the black suit, black tie, white shirt…and your smiling friend.

Jane
Member

I have to assume there are no pew Bibles? Because if there are pew Bibles, I don’t see any sense in this at all. If there are not, then I agree.

Jennifer Alwine Miller
Member

The only thing is, most pew Bibles don’t have a concordance or cross references, so checking out those “connections” you think of could prove difficult. Just a thought. :)

Jane
Member

If you’re checking cross-references and looking things up in the concordance in the middle of preaching, then I’m not sure you can be listening very well, anyway. I think this is mostly about following along.

john k
Guest
john k

Any thoughts on bringing my Bible as an app on phone or laptop? The search capability is better than any bound concordance. Or should I be a Bible Luddite?

Arwenb
Guest
Arwenb

I’m inclined to think that the difference between bringing the Bible in codex form and bringing the Bible in bits and bytes is the difference between drawing a building plan with pencil on paper, and drawing it on computer with mouse.

You get the same end result, but it’s worked different parts of your brain (heart, mind, spiritual discipline, whatever) in the process.

…next you know, Mr. Wilson’s detractors will accuse him of issuing a fatwa against e-readers….

Matthew Hoover
Guest
Matthew Hoover

For a long time, I brought my tablet computer and used the Logos app. I benefited from having the search right there, and regularly referred to or updated my Evernote bible database. There’s no Wi-Fi at church so the distractions were at a minimum. I met some consternation from other saints, but their concerns seemed to be either nostalgic or to stem from the idea that intense and focused reading is easier with a printed book. I think I agree in the case of Bible reading, but that’s not the kind of Bible reading I do in church during a… Read more »

B. Josiah Alldredge
Guest
B. Josiah Alldredge

My kids refer to my kindle as my Bible anyways…

Jerrod Arnold
Guest
Jerrod Arnold

This was almost exactly the process I went through as well. I miss being able to quickly record thoughts I have during the sermon for later reflection, but it really bothered me to think of what might be happening in my children’s minds. I have tried the pencil/notebook recording method, but it takes me significantly longer to do so, and I get distracted easier.

geoffrobinson
Guest
geoffrobinson

Same as everyone else. It’s on my phone. I bring my phone.

Katecho
Member

I agree with Wilson’s point that a bound Bible has symbolic value in worship (just like carrying forward an offering to symbolically own Christ as our King). Others have noted that children don’t easily identify their parents’ attention to multipurpose digital devices with Bible reading/study. That can give exactly the opposite message intended. On the other hand, I also think there’s a possibility of showing disrespect, in the moment, by flipping around in the Bible, conducting one’s own self-edification learning project, when the focus of the occasion is actually corporate worship. There is certainly value in personal Bible study, and… Read more »

Jane
Member

I find that most Christians’ mental image of the Bereans has them flipping around in their Bibles (allowing for some suspension of disbelief concerning the availability of printed scriptures) while St. Paul is speaking, to try to catch him in something. I suspect it was much more like hearing him out attentively, and then going and looking through the scriptures to see if what he said they said, was what they said. And the somewhat ironic thing is that “everybody’s favorite scripture for checking up on your pastor to find out where he’s wrong” is actually a scripture for checking… Read more »

Samuel Adams
Guest
Samuel Adams

Dummy. They didn’t have Bibles back then.
They had little papyrus tracts being distributed by itinerant zealots.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

As a highly distractible person, an open Bible on my lap during the sermon would find me playing pointless games such as nine men’s names starting with N in Numbers, or seeing if a simple alphanumerical substitution code reveals some hidden message. Despite my 66 years on the planet, I still need to be sitting with hands folded and eyed glued to the preacher if there is to be some hope of holding my peripatetic attention.

John Warren
Member

Paul doesn’t say the church is our mother. He says “these two women are two covenants” (Gal. 4:24).

Arthur Sido
Guest

Yep. It is a stretch to say that Paul is saying that the church is our mother. Our mother is the New Covenant and the church is a necessary reflection of that but it is not the same as saying the church is our mother.

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

And that woman giving birth in Revelation?

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

What then do you make of the heavenly Jerusalem of Galatians?

John Warren
Member

These are metaphorical illustrations that are not expanded on in any kind of doctrine anywhere else in Scripture. On the contrary, the Church is doctrinally described as the body of Christ and the Bride of Christ (unless you’re a mid-Acts Dispensationalist, which I highly doubt :) ). If the church is our mother, then Christ is our father.

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

What do you make of Jesus being called our brother?

John Warren
Member

That makes God the Father our Father, too. The Church wasn’t Jesus’s mother.

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

In what way is the church a necessary reflection of the motherhood of the new covenant?
What do you mean by the new covenant acting in motherhood?
How, if at all, is this related to the woman in Revelation who gives birth to the folks that the dragon is attacking?

What I’m trying to discover is whether you unease is related to Roman Catholic use associations?

John Warren
Member

My unease is related to Roman Catholic *and* Eastern Orthodox focus on a creature named Mary. And let’s not limit it to them: all people are prone to do this. As Calvin said, we are idol factories. Paul’s use of the motherhood of the covenant of Jerusalem above was an illustration in passing, never developed into a doctrine of the Motherhood of Heavenly Jerusalem. The Covenant is the purpose of God, so you might as well as say God’s will is our Mother. The woman in Revelation is Israel (Rev 12:1: “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her… Read more »

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

When you identify Paul’s use of the motherhood of the covenant as simply an “illustration in passing” that was “never developed into a doctrine”, are you saying the church is not for Paul (and should be for us) an obvious & necessary reflection of the nature of the covenant? Paul (the Spirit, really) came up with this illustration, right? You’re saying it was “never developed” into a doctrine? If it wasn’t doctrinal, was it untrue? Inaccurate? Could it me that your unease to things Roman & Eastern have led you to discount and poo-poo the very words of God as… Read more »

John Warren
Member

The Church is a result of God’s covenantal actions, but the connection you make by saying “an obvious & necessary reflection of the nature of the covenant” seems to be making an equation the Scriptures never make (i.e., the Church is our mother). Too much of a stretch. Saying that something is an “illustration in passing” in no way poo-poos the very words of God. I’m seeking to keep things in proportion, by looking at the relative emphases God’s Word places on stuff. I see very little emphasis on this ‘mother’ idea. Yes, Paul, under the movement of the Spirit,… Read more »

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Eve is our mother.
Our humanity and being is tied to her.

She and we were promised salvation to & by & in her seed.

So she was and is the mother of the church (including herself as a member).

So her children = of her body = of herself = the church — all those whom God chooses to redeem.

As the church this motherhood endures horrific childbearing pain to produce and nurture and protect us (see Genesis and Revelation passages).

All creation now joins her in this effort.

John Warren
Member

She’s our *physical* mother. That’s it.

The church is a spiritual entity, and can only have a spiritual parent. That’s God the Father.

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

“Physical”? That’s all you got from your mommy and grams, John? Genes, only?

John Warren
Member

What are you trying to convince me of?

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

That we are brothers, you and me, and Jesus.

And all the lovely ladies in our lives, all the way back to Eve, are our sisters and mothers.

Like the Aspen, we are almost one single organism, one body.

We were conceived in Eve our mother, and in all the subsequent connected mothers, to whom the promise of a Savior seed is given.

The Promise makes the church, from Eve on.

It formed and shapes the organism and so it / Eve / the church is our mother.

John Warren
Member

Yes, we are brothers, with Jesus. And yes, we are one body. But the fact that *in the Church* we have many sisters, mothers, and brothers (Mark 3:35, Mark 10:29) doesn’t make the Church my mother. It makes the Church consist of those who sometimes act as my brothers, my sisters, my mothers. Your argument about Eve being our mother, thus the church being our mother, is a huge stretch and mixes spiritual and physical categories, and requires some good solid doctrinal statements from Scripture to back it up. I fear that you may be elevating motherhood to a divine… Read more »

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

We Catholics refer to holy mother church, but my understanding is that this is metaphorical. The church is our mother in that she holds us close, nourishes us, instructs us, and seeks us out when we go astray. She is there at our beginning and at our end. But, in strict theological terms, the church is the bride of Christ.

Arthur Sido
Guest

I didn’t grow up in the church but I have always carried a Bible to the gatherings of the church. A pew Bible is nice if you forget yours or for visitors who might not even have their own but I sometimes make notes or underline stuff (now electronically) and that is frowned upon in most churches in their pew Bibles. I think the bigger issue is the general disconnect most sermons have from the Scriptures such that a couple of verses up on the overhead is sufficient because the pastor isn’t really working from the text anyway.

John Warren
Member

I mostly agree with this, as long as your Bible in your lap doesn’t become a distraction from the preaching. After all, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” It doesn’t say “faith comes by reading”. Which is another way of saying God uses the means of the Church (preaching that gets heard by the congregation) to beget and grow faith.

John Warren
Member

(I’m replying to myself–ha!) Or the Bible App in my lap. Really easy for me to get distracted by all the Bible study features available just by clicking.

John Minter
Guest
John Minter

I use Logos on my iPad. I like being able to set the font size a bit larger and display white text on a black background. I code a lot in my work and I find this has less eye strain.

sean carlson
Guest
sean carlson

I think this shift is more disturbing to those of us for whom the practice used to be the norm. I do bring my bible to church but there’s no sense of “ought” in it. Frankly, in today’s culture, I’m just happy that people show up!

Andrew Lohr
Member

Before the 1st gulf war, the pastor at New City Chattanooga would say (before the sermon) ‘If you brought your Bible, hold it up!’ (Not an innovation forbidden by the regulative principle, not an act of worship, you understand.) He was called up as a chaplain, and during the war the session put in pew Bibles.

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

The thing about bringing a prayer book might make more sense.
You come to say please and thank you to God, not to have a bible study.

For at least half the history of the church there was no bible.