Digital Spiritual Formation

By Rev. John White, II, Contributing Writer

How do we grow in grace? What tools are available to us to feed our souls?

My bishop, Adam J. Richardson Jr., tells the story of having then-pastor, Frank M. Reid, III, for revival at Bethel AME Church in Tallahassee. Arriving at the airport to pick him up, Dr. Reid had several suitcases. One of them was full of books. That was then.

As we continue to embrace technology as a tool for ministry, have we embraced digital resources so that we aren’t carrying around a bag of books? Instead, do we have apps or software programs that allow us to access thousands of books to learn more about God, God’s Word, and God’s people?

My wife and I were talking one day. Since we are both preachers and have invested heavily in our digital libraries, she suggested that we include them in our wills since as we grow older, our digital libraries will be much more massive than our physical libraries.

As we continue to search for resources to assist us in becoming better followers of The Way, have we considered that we don’t have to go to a Christian bookstore or even wait until the book arrives from the publisher? Let’s make sure that we are taking full advantage of digital books.

I know some will say you can’t highlight passages in a digital book; but yes, you can. Others will say you can’t take notes in the digital book; but yes, you can. Still others will say they like to hold the book in their hands and to smell it. Some just aren’t ready to give up an actual book.

In our recent mid-year meeting, Pastor Terence Gray of St. Mark AME Church in Orlando shared a presentation on preaching. He encouraged the clergy who attended to develop a spiritual life that is aided by resources. He asked me some of the resources that I use, not to prepare sermons but simply for spending time with God, and all of the resources were digital. I press this point because, in our hyper-busy lives, all of us must find ways to hear from God. One way is many when you can travel and have all of those resources at hand digitally, regardless of location and without the hindrance of extra bags.

One of the most used apps is the You Version Bible app, developed by a church in Oklahoma. You Version provides more than 1,200 different translations from more than 900 countries along with note-taking space, sharing on social media, audible options, study materials, and daily reading plans based on interests. It boasts users in every country of the world and has more than a quarter of a billion downloads. Oh yeah, it’s free! “We are humbled by how many people use the Bible App on a regular basis,” said Bobby Gruenewald, Life.Church Innovation Pastor and YouVersion Bible App founder. “When we decided to make the Bible available as an app, we never could have imagined how much it would revolutionize the way people engage with Scripture,” he continued.

Our church sends daily email devotions through our website, email, app, and social media. This is just one of the ways that I spend time with God digitally. I have several devotionals that come to me daily via email as well books that I read that keep me connected with God. One of these is Dr. William Watley’s book, Prayer a Day. Most new books offer a digital version and many older books’ publishers have created digital formats to sell alongside the other products they offer.

Our 2016 Book of Doctrine and Discipline was first published digitally with very little downloads according to the president/publisher. Let’s see how many downloads accrue during this quadrennium. While we are at it, can we get the Book of Worship and the Hymnal available digitally as well? This will enable an entirely new generation have those tools—digitally—in their libraries?

Digital book formats include Kindle by Amazon, The Nook, iBooks, and Google Books. Some Bible apps include The Bible App by You Version, Olive Tree’s Bible, and GloBible.

The Rev. John F. White, II is the pastor of Immanuel Temple AME Church in Pembroke Pines, Florida. Their website is http://theit.org/

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