WHEN the preacher announces a Bible reading there’s more likely to be the swiping of smart phones and computer pads than flicking of paper pages in a bulky Bible at Warrnambool church services.
It seems electronic gadgetry has revived interest in the ancient Christian tome, with churchgoers increasingly bringing their hand-held devices to follow the sermon and make notes.
Daily devotions and studies using computerised guides and Facebook conversations sharing opinions about Bible studies are also increasing.
Warrnambool has the distinction of being the top location in Australia for residents spending the most time on international website BibleGateway, which offers free access to various Bible translations and resources.
A recent analysis of BibleGateway web traffic shows Warrnambool residents spend an average of 13 minutes, 40 seconds per visit, followed by Albany on 11 minutes, 13 seconds.
Warrnambool’s figure is double the national average of six minutes, 57 seconds and it was ranked 16 on the list of the top 20 most Bible-minded cities in Australia, with among the highest ratings of regional areas.
But on a world scale, Australia’s average of 2.1 page views per resident in the top 10 cities is paltry, compared with 14.2 in the US and 11.5 in the UK. Warrnambool church ministers said yesterday the survey affirmed a trend they had noticed in recent years.
“While the printed text and hard copy versions are still popular, churches are finding an increasing number of people turning to the Bible on smart devices for a number of reasons,” ministers association convenor pastor David Hodgens, of the Baptist Church, said.
“Access through phones and tablets makes it quick and easy to physically access the Bible, conduct searches for texts and have the Bible on hand anywhere at any time,” he said.
“Users can access many translations and study tools easily.”
Presbyterian pastor Toby McIntosh said modern technology offered a new dimension and he encouraged people to switch on.
“We don’t get scared by the medium. We tell people to use it for good,” he said.