With mobile phones, tablets and desktop computers within easy reach, Christians have many ways in which to learn, ponder their beliefs and strengthen their faith. Here are some ways you can cultivate your digital discipleship.
- Digital Word. Every Sunday I take five Bibles to church. But you won’t see me carrying them. That’s because they are all within the Bible app on my mobile phone. It’s handy to have scripture with me at all times, in several different translations and with the ability to do searches. The app I use is produced by Olive Tree, but there are many other options, including the website-based Bible Gateway, which has dozens of English translations, along with versions in many other languages. It’s also available as an app.
- You’ve got mail. Many organizations and individuals offer regular emails with inspirational content. Even if you can’t read them every day, having these in your inbox becomes an invitation to pause, reflect and pray at any point in the day. Check out “Inward Outward,” with short daily quotes curated by members of Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C. Another popular email meditation comes from the Center for Action and Contemplation and features meditations by author and speaker Richard Rohr. Sign up here: https://cac.org/sign-up/ For Advent and Lent, Goshen College produces daily devotions, which you can subscribe to at https://www.goshen.edu/devotions/
- Bite-sized devotions. Can Twitter help you pray? Mennonite pastor and educator Carol Penner thinks so and offers up short prayers and photos through her Twitter account, @carol_penner. Mennonite author and pastor April Yamasaki tweets Scripture verses and points to devotional reflections under the Twitter handle @SacredPauses. The online community at The Virtual Abbey offers prayers every morning and evening via Twitter, at @Virtual_Abbey. They’re also on Facebook.
- There’s an app for that. As the title suggests, the phone app “Pray as You Go” is an audio devotional designed for times when you can’t sit down in a quiet spot, like when you’re commuting. The daily segments last between 10 and 13 minutes, and each one includes music, scripture and a time for reflection. It’s based on Ignatian spirituality and is produced by Jesuit Media Initiatives. You can download the app on an Apple or Android phone and the same content can be accessed through your computer browser at https://pray-as-you-go.org/. The mobile app for the Anabaptist prayer book Take Our Moments and Our Days is based on the books by the same name. It follows the church year with scripture readings, written prayers and song suggestions. You can use it for personal prayers or to lead a group in a devotional time. Check out the Apple or Android app store for the free download.
- Can’t hold a book. Cooking, driving, cleaning, walking, exercising, gardening—there are many times when your mind and spirit could be fed even if there isn’t an actual book nearby. The local public libraries in my area offer patrons the option of downloading audio books, at no cost. Find out what apps your library uses and then search there for titles by authors who teach and inspire you. I keep a list of titles I’d like to “read” this way in the app Goodreads, which also allows me to keep track of and rate the titles as I read them.
- A host of hosts. I love listening to podcasts, hearing a wide variety of hosts sharing information and inspiration from many places and perspectives. A favourite is “On Being,” hosted by master interviewer Krista Tippett, who features guests talking about spirituality, poetry, ethics, music, science, and the complex issues that confront our society. A few podcasts are emerging with Mennonite connections, like “The Ferment,” hosted by farmer/writer Marcus Peter Rempel and musician Alana Levandoski, and “Shifting Climates,” a podcast about climate justice and the church. Also in the Anabaptist stream are the podcasts produced by The Meetinghouse network of churches. More information is at https://www.themeetinghouse.com/teaching/podcasts/.
- Holy earworms. When I was growing up, my father helped set the mood every Sunday morning by waking up the household to recorded sacred music. I’m old-fashioned and still use CDs in the car and at home. But you could just as easily use a music-streaming app on your phone or tablet to listen to meditative music that helps calm your emotions, focus your thoughts, and pray.
And a bit of humour. Sometimes disciples can take themselves too seriously. For a light touch and a peek at the funny things that people of faith sometimes say and do, check out the Unvirtuous Abbey on Facebook.
None of these digital tools substitute for joining other Christians in regular worship, participating in real-life faith formation activities, doing personal Bible reading, and praying with other believers. But they all harness the technology we already have at our fingertips and they invite the Holy Spirit to continue guiding us on the road of discipleship.