Lagos – On Sunday mornings, seeing people clutching Bibles of various sizes leave few in doubt about where they are headed.
At least, it is suggestive of where they are going or coming from – Sunday worship.
In churches, some pastors occasionally ask members of the congregation to lift up their copies of the Bible, and thereafter encourage those without them to endeavor to come along with theirs, to make the best out of the service.
Such is the importance placed on the Holy book; it is seen as a must-have that should accompany worshippers for church services.
With the internet age and the development of Bible apps, versions of the Holy book are readily available to download on phones and tablets, and many are embracing such apps.
Aside studying with such apps, some worshippers go further to make use of them on their phones during service, rather than the hard copies of the Bible.
So, rather than carry Bibles of various sizes on Sunday mornings or anytime they go for church services, all such persons need in their bags or pockets are their phones, and they’re ready to go.
A survey by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) revealed diverse views about the use of Bible apps on phones during church services.
How widespread is it? How do church leaders view it? Which group of people mostly embrace it? Does it make you less religious? Is it right? Do such phones not distract the users or other worshippers if they ring?
Many questions about the trend, and the responses are diverse … from the youth, elders, church leaders and others.
Mrs Ogochukwu Ndidigwe, a middle-age cell minister in a Lagos church, told NAN that Bible applications are mostly used by the youth in her local assembly, and sees nothing wrong with this.
“Youths are the ones that make use of Bible applications the most because they are more enlightened about smartphones and the likes.
“Although some of the phones sometimes ring out, the worshippers immediately terminate the calls, or they are cautioned by the ushers.
“For me, I see nothing wrong in using Bible applications; it is a matter of choice. I believe one can do whatever he or she pleases, so long as it doesn’t disturb other worshippers,’’ she said.
An Evangelist, Mrs Elizabeth James-Popoola, who pastors a new-generation church in Iyana-Ipaja, Lagos, also shares the view that the use of Bible applications by worshippers during service is rampant among the youth and teenagers who have smartphones.
“In my church, Bible applications are used by the young ones, that is, the youth and teenagers, especially the male.
“ These phones don’t usually disturb the service, because in my church, before entrance to the auditorium, worshippers are advised to put off their phones, if it not going to be in use, or put them on silent mode.
“ The usage of Bible applications in a way has helped worshippers to flow along with the sermon, as some people find it difficult to open the hard copy Bible swiftly,“ she said.
Victor Kenechi, a youth, said the practice seems more common with the female members in his church during service.
He introduces a different dimension:“ The usage of Bible applications from my own point of view is not right because even in the Bible it is said in the Book of Joshua Chapter 1 verse 8;“ this book of the Law shall not depart from thy mouth.
“ It didn’t say smartphone or tablet but ‘book’; so, technically, the Bible refers to itself as a book, not an application.“
Mr Ayomide Irale, another worshipper in Lagos, however, said he believes that Bible Apps are commonly used by male youths.
“The use of phones to read Bible apps sometimes poses as distraction; the phone has to be put on silence, to prevent it from ringing during services.
“We are in the 21st century; many of us use these apps, it is more convenient than carrying a Bible around.
“For example, some people do not know where first Chronicles is or where Ezra is.
“There are some strategic Bible verses that the pastor will quote that you’ll have to look at the table of contents in a typical Bible before you locate it.
“Locating a book of the Bible is faster using an app,” he said.
To Modupeoluwa Patrick, who also attends a Lagos church, the use of Bible application during service is a question of choice.
“ I have not noticed any case of the usage affecting the proceedings of the service in the church I attend.
“I would not restrict the usage to the aged or the young, because nowadays, some pastors and elders make use of their tablets and smartphones for even preaching, Bible reading and jotting“ she said.
Miss Adesewa Otoki, based in Lagos, also said that the use of Bible apps during church services could bring distraction.
“I have seen worshippers sometimes check their Facebook and Instagram during services under the guise of using their phone to read the Bible apps.
“Sometimes, these phones are not put on silence and may ring; it distracts other worshippers sitting next to such people.
“Other worshippers will also be looking over the person’s shoulder to catch a glimpse of what they are doing with their phone, if the app user is looking at Instagram or Facebook photos, the other worshipper will join in,” Otoki said.
Miss Betty Oghuma, also in Lagos, shares her view: “I personally don’t have anything against reading the Bible from a mobile phone, but I understand why society might frown against it.
“It is not what we are used to; people believe there is a chance that someone might glance at their WhatsApp, otherwise, I’m not personally biased against it,” she said.
A youth leader in a Pentecostal church in Arepo, Ogun, near Lagos, who simply referred to herself as Enobong, told NAN that she had not taken note of the level of usage, but was aware it was being done, both by the young and old.
“In my local assembly, there are hardly cases of phones ringing during the service; I don’t think it’s really about the pastor, but the individual, who will be distracted when such phones ring, and might miss a key point,” she said.
On whether it is proper to read the Bible from cell phone during service, she said, “Hmmm, it should not be, because individuals can be easily distracted when calls or chats come in.
“Their attention might be diverted from the service to other things.
“Also, people using their devices most times don’t focus on the pastor but on their devices,’’ she said.
Enobong said the phone apps should not replace the hard copy of the Holy Bible.
Mr Adeagbo Samuel, an usher in a Pentecostal church in Osogbo, said the trend was common among the youth in his church.
“Phones with the Bible Apps are always a serious distraction during church services.
“Many in the pretence of using the Bible apps, might end up using the phone to chat with friends,” Samuel said.
Another Pastor in a fast-growing Pentecostal church in Ogun, Lanipekun Lawal, however, says anyone using Bible applications on cell phones during church service must be responsible with the usage.
Lawal said the practice was predominant among the youth in churches, noting that the most important thing about the Bible was the content, and not the packaging.
He said that the content of the Bible was not originally written on paper, but on platforms like scrolls and stones, before it was later interpreted and compiled in form of a book.
“If it now transits from book format to electronic format, it is alright as long as users are responsible and mature in the use.
“Every generation relates to the technology available at the time.
“We never can tell what platform it will transit to in the coming generation, but the important thing is that users should be encouraged to put their phones in silence while in use during church service,” he said.
A 23-year-old graduate of Accounting, Miss Bola Oyeleke, said that using Bible apps makes it easy for her to have her Bible with her anywhere she is.
“Electronic Bibles are easier to access anywhere and anytime. Our pastors tell us not to limit Bible reading to church; so, I have become attached to the Bible app on my phone.
“I use it for my daily devotional reading and I don’t see a reason why I cannot use it during church service as well.
“The way I see it, there is no difference between the hard copy Bible and the digital Bible. The Bible app even gives me the opportunity to compare scriptures while the pastor is preaching, and I gain a better understanding of his message through that.
“I have disciplined myself not to allow other apps on my smartphone to distract me,” she said.
Miss Seun Adelegbe, a worshiper in a Pentecostal church, also said she preferred her Bible mobile application because “both the hard copy and the soft copy have the same contents.”
She expressed conviction that one does not need to carry the hard copy of the Bible “because even churches now have projectors that even display Bible verses for the congregation”.
Adelegbe, however, noted that she was always tempted at times to reply chat messages from friends, adding that “this is one of the disadvantages of using the application in church.”
Mr Uduehi Eugene, a cleric at the Living Faith Church in Offa Road branch, in Sokoto State, said Bible app is mostly used by the youth, due to the level of technology in the society.
The cleric said that their phones rarely ring, as there are instructions to put phones on silent mode, or better still, off; to avoid distractions during worship.
“As a man of God who understands the use of the Bible, I always advise against reading the Holy book from the handset.
“Although the use of this app does not affect the conduct of the church service in anyway, it is important for the worshippers to use the hard copy of the Holy book during the church service to understand the use of the book more,” he said.
Mr Tunde Omolehin, who worships at a church around Emir Yaya area of Sokoto metropolis, told NAN that the level of usage of the Bible apps in the church is 20- 30 percent.
Omolehin said that the application is mostly used by the young worshippers in the church, both male and female.
“Christianity embraces technological advancement, so I do not see anything wrong with the use of Bible application during the church service.
“As long as the phones are kept on silent mode not to distract church service, then it should be free for all to use,” he said.
Pastor Dipo Obisesan, the lead pastor of Ninth Hour Family Church, said that the use of phones in church by congregants could also be distracting for a preacher.
“When the congregants whom you are preaching to are distracted by their mobile phones during a sermon, it can also distract the pastor who needs their full and rapt attention,” he said.
Msgr. Gabriel Osu, Director of Social Communications Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, however, said that as long as it does not distract the users during service, there is no problem.
“I see many people using it; they follow the readings from their phones, and technology has come to help us advance.
“As long as it is not abused during church services, if it is strictly used during service and you don’t start looking for another thing, they can use it.
“They should not lose touch of what is happening; it is not a taboo, it is not a sin, and it is in the interest of bringing the message closer home to the people,’’ he said.
Rev. Dare Ajiboye, General Secretary, Bible Society of Nigeria (BSN) said that change is fundamental and must be embraced.
“It is either we move with modern day reality, or be left behind.
“We must address the issue of change. Change is a constant thing that cannot be disputed.
“Whatever views we may hold about the use of IT gadgets does not change the fact that we are in the IT age. We either move with this reality or be left behind.
“The Bible was initially written on clay, papyrus, skin, now on paper and speedily moving to digital Bible. We are in a transition period between the past, current and the future.”
He, however, said that “there would be those that may not be able to cope with the sophistication of our time“ and would prefer the hard copies.
“There are also those who will find it difficult to understand why they should not have the hard copies of different versions of the Bible.
“The Bible Society of Nigeria is moving with times, as we have digital Bibles on the YouVersion site, where people can download Bibles,” he said.(NAN)