Why is it so hard for Christians to read the Bible regularly?
Only 23 percent of church attenders read the Bible every day or most days of the week, according to research by the National Church Life Survey that was commissioned by the Bible Society. A further 7 percent read it once a week, while one-quarter of church attendees only read the Bible occasionally and 30 percent hardly ever or never read it.
We need to develop a reflex for turning to the Bible, and the daily rhythms of life seem to fit this best — Greg Clarke
CEO of the Bible Society Dr Greg Clarke says: “Studies have shown that around four significant Bible engagement activities a week really does change your thinking and behaviour. Less than that and we don’t budge.
“It’s about having a biblical diet, with all the benefits that flow from it. The main difference will be in our genuine knowledge of God and love for him. That’s where the Bible takes you.”
“We need to develop a reflex for turning to the Bible.” – Greg Clarke
Obviously, the busyness of life gets in the way of this important discipline, but perhaps in our age it has also been complicated by an overabundance of choice. Search for ‘Bible’ on the Koorong website alone, and over 8000 results pop up, including more than 200 audio Bibles.
“We are creatures of habit,” says Clarke. “We need to develop a reflex for turning to the Bible, and the daily rhythms of life seem to fit this best. Not as a straitjacket, but just to help us actually do it.”
So how do you overcome the overwhelming choices and build a simple Bible reading plan into your everyday life? Eternity has done the groundwork and pulled together a list of the best apps to help you engage deeply with God’s word this year.
YouVersion is the world’s most used Bible app, which celebrated its 10-year anniversary this year. Created by the US-based Life.Church, the app has now been installed on over 350 million devices. It features more than 1700 different Bible versions, including 1200 languages.
Hammond notes that this year he aims to make a lot more Australian content available through the YouVersion app.
The app offers around 5000 Bible reading plans, which have been compiled by churches, pastors and authors from across the world. The plans range in length, from three days to a whole year, and cover various topics, such as marriage, dating, new to faith, work leadership, prayer, faith, kids and youth. You can also search for plans relating to various parts or the whole Bible.
Some of the plans and Bible translations include audio functionality, and you can now even listen through your Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa device.
The plans also provide some devotional reflections, although YouVersion’s Australian representative Mitch Hammond says: “The main purpose is to help equip people with their daily Bible reading – to create that habit, so we keep Scripture as the hero of the story. So it’s not like here’s a quick Scripture and here’s a thousand thoughts. It’s more, here’s a few thoughts to set up the Scripture to be the centrepiece of each day.”
Hammond notes that this year he aims to make a lot more Australian content available through the app. And, perhaps best of all, everything on the app is free – no paid upgrades required.
- Thousands of Bible reading plans to choose from
- Compare Bible translations easily
- View the Bible text on screen, with some optional audio available
- Make bookmarks and notes
- Add friends to connect over your Bible reading
- Videos, verse of the day, shareable Bible verse images
- Kids’ version of the app also available
Bible in One Year
Bible in One Year is the brainchild of Alpha creator Nicky Gumbel (who is also Vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton in London) and his wife Pippa. Since the app was launched in 2009, it has a following of over two million users worldwide.
The Bible in One Year reading plan contains three Bible passages each day (all from the NIV translation): a reading from a Psalm or Proverbs, a New Testament reading and an Old Testament reading. The Bible passages are neatly tied together under a daily theme, with commentary from Nicky and Pippa provided after each passage.
Those who have engaged with Alpha will already be familiar with the warm, clear way in which the Gumbel’s relate biblical truths. But the beauty of this app lies not only in the quality of the commentary or how easy it is to use, but also in the fact that all Bible readings and commentary have audio, so you can listen to it on the go. This is, in fact, one of the few Bible apps that provides audio Bible readings and commentary (which is succinct and relevant) all free of charge.
You can also access the full Bible in One Year content through the YouVersion app (type ‘bible in one year’ in the search bar to find it on YouVersion).
- Available in five different languages and large text (adjust through settings)
- Simple and easy to use
- View the Bible text on screen, with full audio also available
- Start any time and cover the whole Bible in one year
Dwell launched in June this year after a highly successful Kickstarter campaign (in fact it was the fourth most funded app on this platform). It’s created by Lightstock, which also provides stock photos and videos to the faith-based community.
The app has some unique features including audio of Bible readings in four different voices, and it’s refreshing to hear an African voice alongside English and American accents. The only catch is that you can only access all voices through the paid premium version.
Another unique feature is the originally-composed music and nature sounds that play behind the audio Bible readings, with the option to choose which type of music you prefer: ambient, piano, guitar, and even piano and cello together. However, for those who aren’t a fan, it’s good to note that the music can also be turned off in settings.
The app content is organised into Bible passages and books, themed playlists and listening plans. You can add any of these to your queue to schedule listening and you can track what you have listened to already in a ‘Recently Listened To’ section on the home screen.
It’s important to note that this app is still in development. The English Standard Version is the only Bible translation available at the moment, but there are plans to introduce further translations, as well as more Old Testament books in the future. The app is currently only available for iOS devices, with an Android version expected to launch later this year.
The free version of the app has some ads that interrupt the audio, but you can upgrade to a subscription version for US $29.99/year. Dwell Premium lifetime is available for a one-time purchase of US $149.99.
- Sends friendly reminders to help keep your Bible reading on track
- Track your progress through the ‘recently listened to’ section
- Customised audio
- No Bible text on screen, only audio
- No devotionals available; purely Bible passages
She Reads Truth
She Reads Truth, developed in 2012, markets itself as a community, rather than just an app. After reading the daily Bible passage in the current ‘community plan’, you can swipe right to see or make real-time comments, encouraging you to connect with other women across the world who are following the same plan.
The app features seven different Bible translations and there are 70 reading plans. However, only a handful of these plans are free (one of these freebies being a Bible-in-one-year reading plan). To access the other plans, you need to upgrade for US $1.99 a month.
There are helpful introductions and devotional reflections in the app plans. You can also purchase additional resources – such as study books, journals and a hard copy She Reads Truth Bible – from the website.
The app is designed with an Instagram audience in mind. It features nice images and free, downloadable Bible verse lock screens for your phone. Beyond aesthetics, it offers the ability to adjust the font size and night-time display.
- Add your own notes and highlights
- Set a study reminder
- Read the Bible text on screen; no audio available
- Make and read real-time comments about the daily Bible passage
- Free, downloadable Bible-verse lock screens for your phone
- Men’s and kids’ versions available