Bible Study Tools for the 21st Century
Technology has a strange way of liquidating tradition. Just look at farming a century ago versus farming today. In a previous era, food production was limited by crop rotation and the constant threat of insects and pests. The work was laborious and slow. But, in a beautiful way, the rhythm of seasons and labor ordered the lives of farmers.
Today, most farms grow food on an industrial scale. Pesticides protect crops from insects, and fertilizers annul the need for rotation. Combines powered by GPS make the work less laborious, and transportation infrastructure enables widespread distribution.
On the one hand, many mourn the loss of traditional farming and are wary of the economic and environmental impact of industrialized farming on local communities. On the other hand, these new farming technologies have yielded more affordable food and less global hunger.
Given a choice, most people would not return to earlier eras of subsistence farming, yet we feel the tension: What has this technology taken from us? Can it ever be recovered?
Something similar has happened in the information era.
Before the internet, your understanding of reality was largely shaped by three news stations. Your faith was shaped by your local community, what your pastor taught, and the books your church supported. Unless you were an expert at the Dewey decimal system, entire worlds of thought could exist beyond your conscious awareness.
Then the internet happened. Between 1999 and 2000, humans created twice the amount of information they’d created since the start of human history. Between 2000 and 2001, they doubled it again. And search engines allow people to access previously inaccessible worlds.
The world of knowledge before Google felt more stable and static. We transmitted new ideas through relational networks. Mutual trust gave an idea credibility. But now, it seems, no one trusts anything. As someone once told me, “You can show me a study to prove your point, but I don’t care because I can find a study to prove my point.”
Welcome to the googlefication of knowledge. Like farming, there are losses to mourn and new pitfalls to navigate, but information technology also opens new vistas to explore.
With this great power comes great responsibility.
Taking Your Digital Consumption Seriously
The responsibility is simple: ideas have consequences, so the ideas you engage with are consequential.
If your view of reality is shaped primarily by cable news, secular podcasts, TikTok influencers, Instagram models, streaming Magnolia network, and watching Netflix—well, you will become what you consume.
No one has limitless time. With so much information, it’s tempting to spend what time you do have on mindless entertainment or fruitless news media. But if you do this, you’ll discover your love for Jesus will grow cold. Rather than being discipled by him, you’ve been discipled by FOX, CNN, or Rachel Ray.
In response to this threat, many Christians advocate for a return to pre-digital life. There’s merit to this. Less time on social media and in front of a TV is probably good for your soul. But such approaches are usually short-lived. After a few months, we find ourselves glued to our screens, back to devouring content that makes us more like the world.
This is why I’d propose an alternative: get picky.
If you’re going to consume content (hint: you will), then choose to be wise about what content you consume. The information age hasn’t merely provided us a with wealth of secular information, but also of spiritual wisdom.
What if you recalibrated your social media feed, podcast subscriptions, and entertainment such that they trained you to love Jesus?
I believe this is possible, but only if we sacrifice the time we once gave to secular media unto God. We do this by finding podcasts, social media influencers, email newsletters, and YouTubers who encourage us to grow close to God.
Drawing Close to God Through Your Phone
As a church, we’ve worked hard to provide digital alternatives to poor content online. We believe that while digital content can’t do the full work of discipleship, it can do some discipleship: specifically, renewing your mind so that you think more like Christ.
Here are some of my favorite ways to deepen my faith online (from inside and outside our church). This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it is designed to guide you toward healthy content.
If Bible reading is a challenge, you should spend ten minutes every day listening to Ten Minute Bible Talks. Turn off the talking heads and bloggers and connect with God’s word. If you’re interested in following Jesus as a woman in your twenties, stop reading Glennon Doyle and Rachel Hollis. Going There is a great podcast that covers a wide range of relevant topics. If you’re battling anxiety and interested in meditation, then A Bigger Life—rather than eastern philosophy—can help you meditate on God in a biblically rich way. If you’re interested in politics and culture, Truth Over Tribe is a great start.
The Chosen is an excellent TV series exploring the life of Jesus through high-quality filmmaking. And if you want to understand the Bible, unpacking its books and themes, add The Bible Project to your regular diet. These videos are short, interesting, and informative.
If you’re looking for simple content that helps you address different felt needs, you should sign up for The Crossing’s weekly newsletter. We direct you to a new resource or article designed to help you know and love Jesus more. If you’re interested in deepening your understanding of the Bible, I recommend subscribing to the Ten Minute Bible Talks newsletter. Every week, you’ll take a short (yet deep!) dive into the world of the Bible.
You know yourself best. If you listen to podcasts, maybe it’s time to swap one out for something that draws you closer to God. The same goes for what you read and watch online.
Digital technology has changed how we live, so we need to change how we live in the digital world by taking seriously our personal responsibility to curate Christ-centered content.
Does Jesus Have Access to You Inbox?
Explore the Bible, find spiritual encouragement, and learn how to develop a deeper connection with God through the TMBT Newsletter.