Encyclopedia Britannica will no longer publish a print copy of its iconic encyclopedia. After 244 years, sales had dropped to such a low rate that changes had to be made. The cost of $1440 for the print copy couldn’t compete with the $70 price tag for the online version.
I like to hold a book in my hand, and I look to look at books on a bookshelf. I imagine I will always buy and own paper versions of books. However, anyone who can count can see bookstores going out of business while Amazon with its Kindle division of e-books thrives. The book of the future is certainly digital.
This is a great time for discipleship in the church. One of the last barriers to every-member ministry has been breached. Martin Luther wanted every believer to have access to the Bible so that the Bible could transform every believer. He translated the Bible from Latin into popular German to facilitate that goal. The printing press made books financially accessible.
Now, with the advent of cloud-based Bibles, the Bible is truly accessible all disciples, no matter where we are. I have Bibles in the Kindles on my smartphone, computer, and iPad. Over 35 million people use the Bible on apps released by LifeChurch.tv. My college students can do quality Bible research on www.blueletterbible.com, and I can read the notes to my NLT Study Bible online.
The wonderful thing about this is whenever I have a spare five minutes, I can read my Bible, or a Bible devotional. Small groups can meet and access study materials and group questions. Disciplers have another tool for ongoing mentoring through text messages, Google Docs and YouTube.
Here’s what I’m really thinking this afternoon: Our churches need to aggressively teach believers how to access the best information. The days when Christians needed to go the pastor or Bible teacher to gain access to Bible information are long gone. The days when believers need to carefully select online tools and use them for spiritual growth have just begun.