About a week ago, I received an email from YouVersion noting the top 10 bookmarked verses within their application. This is quite valuable information, especially if you are apt to advise people to use their digital tools in order to engage the Scriptures. Now, the fun comes in taking this kind of information and trying to make some sense of it. Upon receiving this, I tweeted an honest and business intelligence -like question:
Top 10 bookmarked verses in @youversion; the needs of digital believers can be summarized in these perhaps?
Why these verses? What about these verses speaks to the needs, or at the very least the attention spans mentally, spiritually, and socially to believers? Does this point to how mobile has fostered spiritual transformations (transformations)? Let’s see.
(1, 5, 6) Philippians 4:6-7, 13
Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus… I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me.
Anxiousness tempered with prayer and thanksgiving. Not exactly the instant nature of mobile. One could argue that this is intentional friction to life if considered on this frame.
(2, 7) Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding. Acknowledge him in all your ways, and he will make your paths straight.
Having moved to prepaid instead of post-paid, I am seeing my trust stretched (amazing what a buffer missing doesn’t do in terms of keeping you off track).
(3) Jeremiah 29:11
‘…For I know what I have planned for you.’ says the Lord. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.’
Do we know what Facebook, Amazon, Apple, etc. have planned for our uses of their devices and services? Probably not. But we do have a sense of God’s leaning towards us.
(4) Romans 12:2
Do not be confirmed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what’s the will of God – what is good, and well-pleasing, and perfect.
Well, it might be a bit late for this. There are more people who use mobiles (+4 billion) than who are Christians (~2.5 billion). What isn’t too late to happen though is a pattern of behavior that is distinct in it’s goodness, appeal, and viscosity while mobile and connected. I would argue that this verse isn’t taught in this way (again, a mobile filter here). But, if it were, what would Christ-thru-mobile look like?
(8) Romans 8:28
And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
This is not something people feel when their favorite platforms and devices are no longer supported. But, again, it is a state of mind and affairs of the believer. Accessing this verse on a mobile is probably in context of knowing that some moment isn’t, but that the word (and device) is timely in its encouragement.
(9) Matthew 6:33
But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given unto you as well.
The structure of this verse lends itself to having to read all of the context before it. It’s not that you get anything, but only those things that are necessary for life and godliness. I hope it’s taken in that context by those bookmarking it, because if you are leaning on this to get that next mobile, you might be following the leanings of the wrong god.
(10) 1 Corinthians 13:4
Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious. Love does not brag, it is not puffed up.
Man. This is the kind of verse that makes all of those customized cases, skins, themes, and ringtones feel a bit worse for wear doesn’t it? Does our use of mobile demonstrate the kind of love being detailed in this section of Scripture? Or, is this marketer a reminder for the kind of love that needs to resonate through each service and application on these devices we use?
Interpreting the Data We Can See
Can the life of the digital believer on YouVersion be identified as Christ-following if we use just this snapshot? Clearly they walk through some of the more accessible passages in the text. There is also some kind of leaning towards the spiritual, emotional, and psychological health of the reader. We don’t know how often these are referenced, nor how often they are bookmarked.
To the the dismay of some, there isn’t one evangelical verse in here. To some, there is an almost hotel bible approach (NT, Psalms, and Proverbs) – so where are the minor prophets or even the Pentatuch?
If you teach the word, do you lean on these and other popular Scriptures as memory devices for the hope and help of the believers you are serving? Or, has this simple statistic from one of many applications that have been used on mobile devices shown the lack of a solid, secure, instructional view of the entire Bible (66 or 80 books)?
What Other Data Is There Worth Mining for Value
It is very true that just collecting and trying to interpret data for the sake of doing so is a fool’s errand. There’s a lot of knowlledge that can be gained, but very little understanding if it has no context. Something that I wondered in looking just at this snippet of data that YouVersion shared was what other kinds of information could they offer? For example, if there’s a top bookmarked verses, there’s also a least (where least is greater than 0 or null). There’s some kind of data wrapped around frequency of verses during times of the year? And possibly there is some regional variation towards which parts of the Scriptures are more tuned in towards than others. In a very simple sense of things, YouVersion and other similar service providers, sit on a bounty of information that’s just waiting for the right questions to be asked of it.
Would YouVersion, Logos, Accordance, Olive Tree, and others be open to these kinds of questions towards how people are using their applications? Shoot, it would just be interesting to compare the top bookmarked verses in each of these service-app platforms just to see how they are used differently. Would pastors/teachers be apt to know how to ask for this information (“hey, I know that these people following me in your app-service attend my church, is there any way to get a custom report towards how we all do in terms of general reading and searching data?” is the kind of question that I’m leaning towards. For those who use the group settings, this kind of information can be a boon.
What if we find out something that turns us off? Like people don’t read their Bibles but once a month in these apps. That many people are more apt to remember the app when their devices say to update, rather when they are admonished by their community to meditate on a specific passage (Joshua 1:8)? What could we do with the information then? Does mobile expose digital faith as helpful, a hindrance, or as just another Hebron between us and God?