If you’ve been around us long enough, then you know we like to make fun of paper books and resources. For example: By using Olive Tree, you are 100% less likely to obtain a paper cut during Bible study. While this is true, there are also plenty of other less silly reasons that digital resources do Bible study better.

This post is divided into six categories:

Essentially, the first four detail the four steps of Bible study.

  1. Remembering to do it
  2. Reading… the Bible, your devotional, an academic source
  3. Learning about what you read
  4. Applying what what you read

The last two are more miscellaneous in nature. There are a few ways that using digital resources are so much more helpful than their paper counterparts when doing sermon prep. Additionally, there is a level of flexibility that comes with using an app. And we want to point out some things you may not realize you have control over.

Let’s get started.

DIGITAL DOES IT BETTER: DAILY TIME WITH GOD

Devotionals, reading plans, and even unstructured times spent in the Bible are so important for our growth. But you just have to remember to do it…

This is, in my opinion, the best part of digital Bible study. Sure, there are lots of fancy features and neat shortcuts. But they don’t mean much if you don’t get into the Word. So, here is a tool that can remind you.

Olive Tree Bible App Reading Plan Notifications

HOW TO SET UP REMINDERS

Once you’ve started a reading plan, find it in the list of your current plans. Tap “View Schedule” and then the alarm icon in the top-right. You can choose what time you want to be alerted on specific days of the week.

But let’s talk about devotionals…

Typically, even an ebook version of a devotional doesn’t come with much. Besides making annotations, all you can do is read it. But we took some of our most popular devotionals and made them work like reading plans. Here are what they look like:

A REMINDER YOU CAN’T IGNORE

Okay so, you’re getting reminders about your reading plan or devotional. That’s good! But you can still ignore the notification if you find yourself busy. What would be really nice is someone literally taking Scripture and putting right in front of your eyeballs for you.

We can do that.

It’s called Verse of the Day, and it really isn’t a new concept. However, we are convinced that not enough people are using it the way it was designed.

See that “read” button? If you tap it, we’ll show you the verse IN CONTEXT. Basically, we are jumpstarting your daily Bible reading time. All you have to do is read your notification and tap on it.

Paper books on a shelf just don’t quite get your attention in the same way.

SO, WHAT IF I HAVE QUESTIONS?

The last reason that digital does daily time with God better is that you can get your questions answered! At least, you can get them answered without opening every book on your shelf, going to the library, or calling up your professor from seminary.

We’ll cover this more in the Gaining Context section.

Verse of the Day Notification

MAKE IT APPLICABLE!

“Reading the Bible regularly is an important part of growing in your faith. I’ve always had a hard time with consistency, so I’ll try out a new devotional. I’ll set reminders for weeknights at 8 PM, when I tend to be at home and quiet.”

“I’m in the middle of a busy day at work and my phone (or watch!) buzzes with a Verse of the Day notification. That’s a great perspective-check, or a reminder to take a few seconds and quiet myself and pray.”

DIGITAL DOES IT BETTER: READING

Now that we’ve covered ways that taking your Bible study digital gets you in the Bible more… let’s talk about how it helps you read.

First, are you a person who loses bookmarks? I do—all the time. Or that little, shiny ribbon in my Bible falls out. Either way, I’m out of luck. I have to use brainpower to remember where I was at, while, simultaneously, wasting time.

Cool feature #1 of reading with an app is that it always remembers where you left off. Simple, but a game-changer.

YOU SHOULD REALLY READ THE FOOTNOTES

Sounds boring… but it isn’t. Footnotes in your Bible often have rather useful information. Footnotes in your books (especially academic ones) are priceless. But when you’re reading from paper, you have to look really closely at the bottom of the page to discern which footnote is the one you want. Or worse, the notes are in the back of the book.

Fear no more. You can SYNC your footnotes in the parallel window. Tap the reference number in the main menu. Then select “Parallel”. The footnotes will open in the Study Center.

Let us do the hard work of keeping your footnotes up to speed with your reading.

CSB Bible

Now you’ll never miss an important piece of information.

AND YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY READ THE REFERENCES

It doesn’t matter what you’re reading: a devotional, an academic book, a commentary, study Bible notes. You’re probably going to run into one of those places that look like this:

References can be a PAIN with a paper book. Usually, you skip over them because you can’t bring yourself to get up, grab a Bible, and thumb through to find the EIGHT different verse references.

We know the pain… so we made a solution. It’s called hyperlinked verse references. All you have to do it tap. 

LISTEN HERE

Alright, so maybe you want to listen instead of read. Obviously, listening doesn’t really have a paper counterpart… but we can talk about CDs.

Not to be rude, but there are quite a few reasons to ditch the CD wagon:

  • they get scratched and don’t work
  • they get cracked and don’t work
  • you have to have somewhere to store them
  • where do you even listen to CDs now?

Sorry if we offended any avid CD-collectors. But truly, listening to audio Bibles and books in the Olive Tree Bible App can change your life. That’s because God’s Word changes lives and with the app you can listen anywhere, anytime. So many more opportunities to experience growth!

Not only that, but you can read along with the audio Bible. Definitely can’t do that with a CD.

There are lots of audiobooks to learn from. Here are a few of our favorite Apologetics titles:

MAKE IT APPLICABLE!

“I’m reading this eBook, and I can open the footnotes in the split window. They’ll stay in sync as I scroll! A lot of these footnotes are just references to other books, but here’s a whole paragraph of parenthetical thoughts expanding on something said in the main text! I wouldn’t have known that existed just scrolling through the eBook text.”

“In the morning, when I’m doing dishes, I love listening to my audio Bible. Later, when I want to go running, I can pick up right where I left off—but on my phone. Or maybe I want to listen to The Case for Christ…. hard choice!”

DIGITAL DOES IT BETTER: GAINING CONTEXT

If there is one thing I learned from Bible college, it’s this: Context is king.

While you’re reading difficult passages, it is always best to have several voices giving you information. With a paper library, you can organize everything to an extent. However, when you really want to know which books and resources you have that discuss a specific verse, you’re going to spend a lot of time pulling books off the shelf and thumbing through them.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Resource Guide, now is a great time to learn. Basically, we can tell you what is in your library and if it relates to the passage you’re reading—at all times.

This works with all kinds of categories:

  • Related Verses
  • Commentaries
  • Bibles
  • People
  • Topics
  • Maps
  • Charts
  • Images
  • Outlines
  • Introductions
  • Sermons
  • Notes (Yes, your notes!)

We take Bible study seriously! We never want you to miss a detail.

Olive Tree Bible App Maps in the Resource Guide
Zondervan Atlas of the Bible
Olive Tree Bible App Commentary in the Resource Guide
Hermeneia Commentary Series

LOOKING FOR SOMETHING?

Too many times I have wished that I could use a search bar to find something in my paper resources. Sometimes the table of contents or index is helpful. But sometimes, I really want to search for a keyword.

This is a task digital resources can do for you.

You can search through the Bible or any other book you have open in the main window.

WORD STUDIES MADE SIMPLER

Another great way to gain context is through word studies. Learning about the meaning of the word in its original language, and how it is used across all of Scripture, can bring a lot of discernment to your study!

If you’re using paper resources while doing word studies, your desk may look something like this:

When it could look like this:

Our Strong’s Tagged Bibles and Vine’s Expository Dictionary are excellent resources for word studies. Instead of going into depth here on how they work, just click the links. We’ll take you to our other blog posts where we show you step-by-step how they can change the way you study the Bible.

CROSS REFERENCES, TOPIC THREADS, & OTHER GOODIES

Using God’s Word to understand God’s Word is definitely the right way to start studying. Tools like cross references, Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, or Olive Tree Bible Topic Threads can show you information with just a tap.

Olive Tree Bible Topic Threads

If you want to learn about one of these tools more in depth, follow the link to our other blog posts:

MAKE IT APPLICABLE!

“I’m reading my Bible and there’s an interesting word here. I can switch to my Strong’s Bible and see the Greek or Hebrew word behind the English, see its definition, and where else it’s used. It might not even be the same English word everywhere!”

“I can remember a few words in this passage I really like… but I can’t remember where it is from! Instead of wasting time, looking through all of Paul’s writings, I’ll search instead.”

DIGITAL DOES IT BETTER: USING WHAT I’VE LEARNED

So, you’ve been reading and learning, learning and reading… but what does it mean to apply it?

A good amount of that is on you: how you choose to participate in the world and pursue God. And there are resources that can help you think though those things. But one way we can help you with is how you save what you have learned. That way, when it is time to review or share, you can quickly find your thoughts.

CATEGORIES

Inside the main menu, tap on “Notes” and you’ll be able to make a new category. Unlike paper folders, you can have an unlimited amount. I like to have three: one for personal study, one for sermon notes, and one for prayers.

You can add notes and saved passages to these categories. First, lets look at notes.

NOTES

Writing in your Bible can be challenging to do, even if you have one with space on the side specifically for writing. There’s not enough room to come back time and time again!

But you can make an unlimited amount of notes in the Olive Tree Bible App and organize (and re-organize) them however you like. You can even change the icon that appears in the Bible.

Not all of your notes have to be connected to a verse, though. Just go into “notes” from the main menu to make a new one.

If you include a verse reference in your note, it will automatically turn into a hyperlink. Just tap it to read the verse in context! And, when you’re reading the Bible, we’ll show you notes that you took on that passage in the Resource Guide.

No more thumbing through notebooks to find your thoughts on last year’s sermon series!

SAVED PASSAGES

To add a saved passage, tap the verse reference number and “save.” You can leave the title of it as the reference, or customize it.

To find your saved passages, go inside the main menu (top-left). You’ll see an item called “Saved Passages.” If you tap on it, you’ll be able to search through all of your categories, saved passages and notes. You can even add your saved passages to a specific category. Lastly… you can add TAGS.

TAGS

Create your own tags or use our topic tags to organize your notes and saved passages as well.

MAKE IT APPLICABLE!

“I’m at my church’s small group and someone asks ‘What has God shown you in the Bible this week?’ I have been dutifully tagging, saving passages, and taking notes. By sorting my annotations by date, I can see everything I’ve pondered this past week.”

“I’m reading my Bible and I see a verse that gives me comfort. I’ll highlight or add a Saved Passage and tag it with ‘Comfort’. I was talking to a friend recently who is going through a hard time – later I’ll see them again and I’ll be able to look at all my annotations tagged with ‘Comfort’.”

“I’m sitting in church taking notes on the sermon. I’ve got folders of notes from different sermon series and topics. Later I’m reading my notes in small-group meeting, and the verse references are hyperlinked for me automatically. I can share what I wrote and easily read the passage without having to pause and look up the Scripture.”

DIGITAL DOES IT BETTER: SERMON PREP

When you’re in the research stage, keep things organized with multiple windows and lots of resources. You can really rely on the Resource Guide to give you insight on your passage for the week.

KEEP TRACK OF YOUR IDEAS

Think of a great idea and try to add a saved passage? We’ll let you know if you’ve done that before. You’ll also want to take full-advantage of the info in the previous section. With organized notes, tags, and saved passages—you’ll be ready to sit down and piece together next week’s sermon.

BE INSPIRED

Study sermons by other pastors. We’ll let you know in the Resource Guide if there is one on the passage you’re preparing.

The Gospel Awakening: Sermons of D.L. Moody

USE YOUR NOTES WHILE PREACHING

If you choose to use your notes while preaching, remember the hyperlinking verse references! If you type them ahead of time, you can just tap while you’re preaching. Then the passage will immediately pop up for you to read.

DIGITAL DOES IT BETTER: FLEXIBILITY

Last, but not least, is our miscellaneous group of features that we believe showcase the flexibility of digital Bible study.

DARK MODE/THEME

Reading in dark light can be hard on your eyes. But reading with a bright phone before bed is not a good solution. We’ve made a dark theme for our apps, along with a dark mode for Mac. This way, Bible study can always be a healthy option.

CHANGE THE FONT

In the quick settings, you can change the font inside the app. We love this feature because we were able to include the OpenDyslexic font. So, if you have dyslexia, hopefully this will make reading the Bible easier!

MAKE CHANGES

You can edit and delete notes. You can make your highlighter your favorite shade of blue and then change it to a purple underline. Anything is possible… no erasers required.

Do you believe us that digital does it better? Hope so!

Put some of these features to work today by getting into God’s Word.

Don’t have the app, but wish you did?

12 Comments

  1. Brett Taylor Reply

    Wow, this was a grand blog post! More of this quality (though not necessarily quantity) please!

  2. I am very much for everything you have said & growing in faith however, the ‘take me to the sale’ buttons are NOT in keeping with either the Word of God nor the Testimony of Jesus. Ditch the ‘money changers at the Temple’ approach & find a way to not seem like heathens goading believers to spend money. “Wherever two or more are gathered in His name…” is the point – sure you want to make a living: I just disagree with using God as your marketing ‘tool’ – what an insult. 🙁

    • Paul, I tend to agree with your comment about using the temple for a marketplace. However, I think you’re being a little too harsh. I think their reminders are gentle, and could be helpful to the readers. They could have pop-outs on each resource mentioned, inviting us to click to see the current price of the item while it is on sale. That would truly be intrusive, like in-your-face carnival barkers.

    • Mike Cleveland Reply

      Paul, you’re off-base on this. Olive Tree expends a lot of costs to produce materials that help us in preaching/teaching God’s Word. It is not wrong for them to charge, and even ask for the “sale” any more than it was for Paul to write 2 Corinthians 8, where he clearly asks that the Corinthians “excel in the grace of giving” (verse 7).

      And your reference to “where two are three are gathered together” is a reference to Jesus being with the body of Christ in their decision to put sin out of the church (read Matthew 18:20 in context of Matthew 18:15-20). How does that apply here?

  3. Can I use this on a desk top computer? I hooked into the “look at your cellphone all day” mode. I’m a senior and still like paper resources, but use the computer to get my daily devotionals and listen to some sermons.

    If so – how to I do that? I’m not very techy.
    Please do not send me constant information from your site, I’m getting many many emails with links to different websites as it is. It’s very annoying. Just answer the question. Thanks

  4. Phil Perkins Reply

    I appreciate digital media and resources as much as the next guy; however, I fail to agree with the assertion that digital is better than print. Recently I have seen how certain digital formats of the Bible have minuscule changes over print versions. In other words, one cannot change a print format you already hold in your hand; however one can incrementally and over time edit digital formats so that the information is now skewed or meanings completely changed. Also, while digital resources are easier to access and utilize in a more “immediate” fashion, I fear many people don’t do enough research to ensure the validity of the sources. Anyway, like I said, just my humble opinion.

  5. Randy Martens Reply

    I very much appreciate and enjoy using the basic Olive Tree app on both my iPhone and Mac laptop. Also, I greatly desire to expand my ability in using the growing number of digital resources. But one thing causes this desire to come to a grinding halt, and that is the absolutely astonishing lack of simple, easy-to-use, intuative tutorials that show non-technical folks like myself exactly HOW to actually USE such resources! The vast majority of such “tutorials” are, for the most part, worthless in terms of providing sequential, step-by-step instructions. This is so frustrating!

  6. Cierra Loux Reply

    Hey, Randy! There are actually quite a few ways to get step-by-step instructions. If you prefer reading, our help site has lots of up-to-date articles on how to use the app: https://help.olivetree.com/hc/en-us. Our YouTube channel also has lots of helpful videos: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBplZUEz1rER_MgPMsaQcdg. Lastly, there is a menu (on the right if you are on desktop, below if you are on mobile) here on the blog that divides our posts by category. There is one called “app tips.” I also suggest looking through there!

  7. Martin Roscoe Reply

    Please please please….

    When is the app going to be available again in the UK App Store and why was it withdrawn from it in the first place.

  8. Hello, I wanted to comment on the Tag feature. I really love that I can tag all sorts of verses and essentially make my own concordance this way. Being able to tag a single verse is very easy. (It would be even better if one could choose a passage to tag – in a similar manner as to how multiple verses can be highlighted.)

    However, being able to utilize the tagged verses is very difficult. I am frustrated by the fact that when I go to my listing of Tags by swiping from the left, the tag list disappears after I select a verse. The verse appears in the main screen but my list is gone. I have to repeat this process each time I want to see a verse that I have tagged. It makes it very difficult to do a topical study on my Tag categories. (And for me, this is a case where “Digital is Not Better”.)

    I would like to see this feature placed on the split screen so that the listing continues to remain visible in the split screen after I tap on a verse in my tagged section. The selected verse would then show up in the main window.

    Any hope for a change in which one is able to use Tags more efficiently in next update?

    Thank you.

Write A Comment

Pin It