How people use the Bible online

By Julianne Stanz | Special to The Compass | January 12, 2017

One morning I received a call from my mother in Ireland. “Have you ever read any of the ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ books?” she asked. I told her that I had. “The thing is,” my mother said, “I can open up any page of those books and read a sentence or paragraph and it will always inspire me.”

“You can do the same with the Bible,” I remarked. “I never thought of that,” she said, and then went to grab a Bible. During the next few moments, we talked and prayed together and asked the Lord to give my mother the consolation that she needed that day. She opened the Bible randomly and her eyes went to a particular verse. The verse was 2 Tim 4: 7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

For a woman struggling with cancer, this verse was a true gift for her. It never dawned on her that she could use the Bible for encouragement in this way. “YouVersion,” a popular Bible app with over 120 million installations since 2008 and a billion uses or opens in 2013 alone, provides a unique window into how Christians read the Bible. Here are three interesting takeaways:

The Bible is used for personal encouragement

One of the most popular verses that Christians recall is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.” But the most popular verse searched online in the Bible is from Phil 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” In fact, the top five Bible verses are all ones that speak to a God who loves us, takes care of us and strengthens us in our worries and difficulties. A reminder for those particularly going through difficult times, the other five verses include:

  • Is 40:31: “… but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength …”
  • Mt 6:13: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
  • Jos 1:9: “…Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged …”
  • Phil 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything…”

The Bible is often used to make a point on social media

Which Bible verses do people share on social media sites, including Twitter and Facebook, and through email? The most frequently shared verse was Ps 118:24: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Of the 31,000-plus verses in the Bible, one of the most surprising verses shared on social media is from Eph 5:25-26, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.”

People like simple verses, but chapters with big ideas

For the users of YouVersion, it seems that when it comes to reading lengthier passages, chapters with deeper theological messages were preferred including:

  • Rom 8: “A Christian life lived in the Holy Spirit.”
  • Rom 12: “Sacrificial love and the challenge of loving God, neighbors and self.”
  • Mt 5: “The Sermon on the Mount.”

Regardless of how people use it (for encouragement, to support a point on social media or to study in depth), the Bible is timeless. It transcends life’s difficulties and triumphs. It is applicable for young and old. It nourishes us, feeds us and connects us to others.

At my mother’s funeral Mass, I read those same words from 2 Tim 4:7. As I was reading, my mind flashed back to the conversation that we had shared all those months before and I was reminded that the Word of God links us in life and death to each other. The Word of God holds profound surprises, encouragement and nourishment if only we would open it.

In this month when so many of us make New Year’s resolutions, how about making one that will change your life? Commit to opening your Bible at least once each day and see what God has in store for you. What are you waiting for?

Stanz is director of the diocesan Department of New Evangelization and co-author of “The Catechist’s Backpack.”

Related Posts

Scroll to Top