How to Choose a Bible for Preaching

John_Knox_preachingToday’s guest post is by Randy Brown, creator of BibleBuyingGuide.com. Randy reviews Bibles in all price ranges to help people make the best choice for their budget. His mission is to promote Bible reading and study, and to share quality publishing.

I’ve never been one to just pick a Bible at random. A Bible has to suit a specific purpose. It has to meet certain needs.

You don’t just pick any bowling ball, bat, glove, club, bow, shoe, tire, car wax, gasoline, car, house, suit, television, DVD player, or computer when you have a specific job to do. You choose them for your specific need or purpose.

A Bible is no different. Sure, you can preach from any Bible you can get your hands on. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a better choice for your purpose—one that will make you a more effective preacher.

Answering practical questions can help you determine what kind of Bible to use:

Do you need something you can read from while it lays on the pulpit?

Do you want to hold it and walk around?

Do you need to hold it in one hand while you hold a microphone in the other?

Do you need room for notes?

Do you need a modern translation?

Do you need clear section headings?

Do you need alternate translations?

Do you need a verse-by-verse format?

Do you need your sermons outlined beside the text?

Do you need large print?

Every preacher I know will answer those questions differently—because we all have different needs. The best Bible for me won’t necessarily be the best Bible for you. With the amazing number of choices we have today, how do we decide?

What you don’t need

While preachers do need tools for study and sermon prep, they don’t necessarily need those tools in the Bible they preach from. Some of these features get in the way of the text. They can make the text small and the Bible large. You have enough to worry about when you’re preaching. Don’t add to that worry with a Bible that’s awkwardly large or text that’s awkwardly small.

Just because a Bible has amazing features doesn’t mean it’s a good Bible to preach from.

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Logos Bible Software has over 200 digital Bibles for you to choose from, Get yours.

 

Why you need multiple Bibles

Not every Bible does everything equally well. It’s why you own more than one pair of shoes. The shoes you wear to funerals aren’t the same shoes you wear for running and hiking.

I recommend having different Bibles for different purposes. It’s possible to use just one Bible for everything, but you’ve heard the saying: “Jack of all trades and master of none.”

What you want inside

You have to decide how much and what kind of information you need in your Bible.

Do you want complete sermon outlines?

Do you want chain references?

Do you just want the text?

Do you want someone else’s commentary?

Do you need book introductions?

Regardless of what tools a Bible contains, the most important thing is the text. You will have to decide what else you need. Remember—this is a Bible for preaching, not for biblical scholarship.

Where you put it

Consider how and where the Bible will be used. Do you preach in more than one location?

Pulpit

Pulpits come in all sizes and angles. Some will have room for a large Bible and a notebook and others only have enough room for a small Bible. Some churches use music stands for pulpits. Laying the Bible on the pulpit keeps your hands free. This is more important if you’re holding a microphone.

Larger print makes it easier to see from a distance. Some like to use larger print so they can see it from a few feet away.

A disadvantage to not carrying it around with you as you move around the room is you have to go back to the pulpit to read.

Hand

Holding your Bible when reading has the advantage of moving around without having to go back to the pulpit to read. A disadvantage is that you have to go back to the pulpit to read your notes if they’re not in your Bible.

To preach with a Bible in hand, the Bible needs to be easy to handle.

How you preach

How do you prefer to organize your notes? Do you tuck them in your Bible, a notebook, or a separate page?

If you’re preaching without a notebook or separate outline, you’ll want room for notes. If you use a notebook, you should consider how you’ll handle it during your sermon. If you preach from a page, the page can lay next to your Bible or even be a loose sheet that you move from page to page.

Getting the right size

The ideal Bible is compact enough to handle and large enough to read. It might even have some room to write notes. In my experience, most people prefer ultrathin large print or personal size large print.

Larger Bibles either have more information in them or larger print. If the Bible is only used on a large pulpit, then you won’t have to worry about the size of the Bible. However, large pages can be awkward to turn.

If you carry your Bible around to read from, then a large Bible will get heavy after a while. It might not feel heavy to you when you first pick it up—after all, it’s only four pounds. But after about 20 minutes of holding a four-pound Bible, your mind might not be on your message.

Small Bibles are great for carrying, but they usually have small text. The more extra content they have, the smaller the text.

Many preachers prefer a personal-sized Bible with large print for preaching. They’re easy to carry and have readable text.

If you’re holding a microphone and a Bible while you’re preaching, it’s essential to have a Bible that is easy to hold in one hand.

Many preachers like to use an 8.5″ x 11″ sheet folded in half for their notes. They want this folded sheet to fit perfectly within the Bible when it’s closed. This means the pages need to be larger than 8.5″ x 5.5″.

Many people I’ve worked with consider the optimum size to be around 9″ x 6″ x 1.5″ for laying on the pulpit and around 8″ x 5″ x 1.5″ for holding in the hand.

Finding your place

A thumb index is helpful for turning to a book quickly. Most thumb indexes have three books per tab. This gets you in the ballpark, but you still have to turn pages until you find the book. Some indexes, such as the one found in the Cambridge Concord, have one book per tab for the most popular books.

An alternative is adding your own tabs. The advantage of tabs is there is one tab per book so you can turn directly to the book you want. A disadvantage to tabs is they can tear the page with use.

Another alternative is marking the edges of the pages or using sticky notes.

Keeping it open

Laying flat is a must for a preaching Bible. It’s frustrating to open to your text just to have your Bible close on you when you move your hand away.

Sewn bindings allow the Bible to lay open and stay open. Some that are edge lined might take some breaking in but they will lay flat at Genesis 1:1.

A Bible that you have to hold open to preach from will work against you and not for you. This can be especially difficult if you’re holding a mic in one hand and the Bible in the other.

One alternative is to lay something across your pages to help hold it open while it lays on the pulpit. I don’t recommend this practice as you will constantly be moving and shifting things around in order to turn pages and this will interrupt your train of thought.

To really be useful it needs to lay flat on its own.

Holding the Bible

Some like to fold their Bible in half so they only have to deal with half the width. Others like to roll it up like a newspaper. This way they can hold it in one hand with relative ease. This is especially helpful when the wind is blowing. Sewn bindings are a must for holding up to this type of abuse.

Layout

The layout is how the text and information is presented on the page. There are two major choices for modern Bibles: paragraph and verse by verse.

Paragraph

Paragraph format sets the text in paragraphs, much like a novel. Poetry is usually set to verse format and sometimes Old Testament quotes are in an offset text. Paragraph format is easier for reading and is great for keeping things in context. However, verse numbers are usually superscript, which can make finding specific verses difficult during a sermon. Some paragraphs are also wider, which can make reading from them a little difficult for those with bifocals.

Verse by verse

With a verse-by-verse layout, each verse begins on a new line. This is easier for finding specific verses quickly. Many preachers prefer to preach from verse-by-verse format as verses in paragraphs might take extra time to find.

Column width

Text that is presented in two columns usually have narrow columns that are narrower than text presented in a single column. This will affect readability—especially if you wear bifocals. You might have to move your head from side to side to read single-column layouts. Also, if the column is too wide it might be difficult to find which line to read next. This is especially true if you’re reading at an angle.

Section headings

Section headings are short descriptions of the passage that follows, usually covering a paragraph or two. They are great for scanning the pages quickly. They help break up the text into shorter, readable sections. I find this visually appealing as it gives the page more white space.

I’ve added to a sermon on the fly because a section heading caught my eye. I’ve also used them to find something that I kind of knew where it was but I needed a little help finding it as I was scanning the page.

One problem with section headings is that preachers tend to stop at the end of a section. Sometimes you will want to continue on. It’s up to your text and topic to decided, but don’t let section headings do the deciding for you. They can also be distracting and can include theological bias.

Chapter summaries

Rather than having section headings within the text, some Bibles, particularly KJVs, have chapter summaries at the beginning of every chapter. They are essentially the same as section headings, they’re just not placed within the text.

The advantage of chapter summaries over section headings is they don’t break up your text. This helps keep passages together and can help keep them in context. The disadvantage is they can be harder to use because they’re not placed on the page with the text they correlate to. They’re less distracting but can contain the same theological bias.

Running header

Many KJVs, such as the Concord, have page summaries at the top of the page. These can be used to scan the pages quickly. You can even mark them to find the pages and topics with less effort.

Choosing the print

The quality of the print makes a big difference on how easy the text is to see. Is it large or small, faint or bold? We all have different needs for font size and boldness and our needs might change with age.

Boldness

Lighting varies and you will need a font you can see easily. A font that isn’t bold enough will increase eye fatigue. Higher contrast reduces eye strain. Font size for preaching is usually larger than font size for study.

Font size

There are two numbers to be aware of for font size. The first is the size of the font itself and the second is the leading—the size of the font plus the space between the lines of text.

For example, a 10-point font with one point between the lines would have an 11-point leading. It would be described as 10/11. Sometimes only the size of the leading is given.

This is why two Bibles can have the same size font but one is called an 8-point and the other is called a 9-point. They are both 8/9.

Line matching

Text that lines up to the text on the other side of the page improves readability. Thinner paper that has line matching looks better than thicker paper that does not.

Italics

Some Bibles have italics for supplied words. Many preachers like to point out when a word was not in the original text.

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The FSB is packed with insight you can take right from your personal study to the pulpit. Get your free copy.

Lectern Bibles

Lectern Bibles have giant print and are large. They often span 24” when opened. This might not leave room for a notebook. They usually have great paper and print quality, but they are very expensive—often $300 or more.

Study Bibles

Study Bibles are big, and the notes can be distracting. It can also be annoying trying to find a verse when one page has 30 verses and the next has two. Another problem is having to flip through 10–20 pages of articles to get to the next verse in the chapter.

Find one that fits you

A preaching Bible is specialized. It doesn’t have to have everything you need for study and day-to-day ministry.

Look for the balance between the size of the Bible and the size of the text that works for you.

Your Bible doesn’t have to do everything. It just needs to do one thing and do it well.

* * *

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Comments

  1. Brent Hoefling says

    Faithlife's Logos Bible Software (L6) on my Tablet PC (not tablet device) is the perfect "Bible" to preach from.
    and study from
    and teach from
    and follow preaching from
    and use as a student
    and take classes from
    and read from
    and listen to books from
    and…

  2. says

    For me, the Bible I use for Scripture readings is (literally) only a prop. It's the nicest one I have (black leather cover and all), but I print out the Scripture passage and insert the page into my Bible and read from that. Then, I can break up the sentences however best suits my reading and I never have to find my place on the page. Of course, my sermon notes and cross-references are held elsewhere in my preaching space.

  3. says

    Brian Maag I'm with you, except I don't even use it as a prop I use my iPad with the Logo's bibles and it really depends on if I'm preaching to the congregation or doing bible study, doing a small group or counseling. I generally will have my bible verses along with the notes printed out. I use my physical bibles for study in my office, but even now I'm finding that Logos 6 allows me to move way quicker, so I'm leaning more and more to the software for study. However I do love to hold my bibles and flip the pages. It's nothing like holding the Word of God in your hands! LOL!!!!

  4. says

    I have used the same NIV Bible from the pulpit since I started preaching 35 years ago. It is like an old friend and I am very comfortable with it , even though it is showing a lot of wear.

  5. says

    I have a lot of favorites. For the money, Holman's Large Print Ultra Thins, and their Personal Size Giant Prints are nice. I Like the Cambridge Concord in both regular size and wide margin. The R L Allan Longprimer is nice.

  6. says

    quite a nice approach, but there is nothing like having this printed bible in hands ! i use a lot of study bibles for deep studies and these stay at home where i study. But when preaching (either in groups etc) i have my Note Makers Bible :) just the text , large enough for me to read correctly. and it has some spaces to note down the important notes and points to be developed. I tend not to use electronic devices, the idea to make people disconnect to their day-to-day stuffs and turn to something that is solely of God… make them understand that I too go and turn the pages and search the bible..

    • Josh says

      How do you know the KJV is the Word of God? It’s a translation from the old texts just like the others. It wasn’t the first and not the last. Archeology has found more and much older texts than the ones the KJV was translated from. The oldest texts do not include what some of the newer ones have. That’s why the KJV has extra world here and there. We don’t have the original inspired texts any more so it’s a judgement call. We’re the ones who wrote it down first right the later, and then did the ones translating do a good job.

  7. GEORGE JOSE says

    I have many doubts in Bible, which I got while reading and from others.
    I am mentioning some of those below:

    1) It’s about Satan. In Bible it’s said that God is the ultimate power and nothing is above him. Then why he created Satan? If so why can’t he destroy it? Why Jesus had to undergo testings from Satan ? Why Satan has equal influence upon us same as God ? How could Satan enter Aden garden to test Adam and Eve ?

    2) Should we still believe in creation process in Bible when science has proofs for life existence even long before that ? Dinosaurs, Mammoths, micro organisms etc. which were not there in Noah’s ship ? If all came from Adam and Eve how humans have different Races now ?

    3) In old testimony there only one single God. When it comes to New, there is Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. The Trinity. How did this happen ?
    If 3 of these have equal power then why Jesus has to pray to Father ?

    4) In old testimony it is said that Idol worship is against God. But we have so many Idols in our Churches. Why ?

    5) It is said that Jesus and Mary went to heaven with there material bodies. So heaven too should be materialistic. If so where is it located in this Universe ?

    6) After all why God is sending us to Earth and testing ? Is it because he surely wants to send some to hell ?

    7) It is said God knows whatever is going to happen and everything is preplaned. Then whats the use of praying ?

    8) Is God only be satisfied with sacrifices in blood ? That is what we see in the whole Bible.

    9) If Jesus died for all our sins, how are we still sinners ?

    10) How sin of Adam and Eve still be with us ?

    11) Everything is happening same to those who believe and unbelievers, who do good and bad. Then what makes the difference ?

    These are some of doubts which I was able to sort out. Please help me in this and do give proper reply to these and clear my doubts

    • Brandon says

      Hi, George Jose,

      Thank you for your willingness to ask good questions! Since no one has replied to your questions, I thought I’d give it a try. [I stumbled upon this site looking for information on a particular Bible… I’m not a member of this forum].

      First of all, I appreciate that your doubts have come from reading the Bible and from conversations with others. You are, at least, searching for the truth as opposed to simple answers. The issue is, I can only provide feedback in “simple answer” form – it’s the drawback of an online forum verse sitting down together and having a two-way conversation.

      Also, Christianity has many varying perspectives and while I’m comfortable with my theology, there are others who might see things a bit differently – that’s OK. Beyond what I consider the basics (i.e., the Apostle’s Creed), I refuse to argue with my friends over what I consider the non-essentials. In any case, I will try to keep each response brief.

      I’ll take your concerns one-by-one and admit that some are not easy to answer. I too have tons of questions, but have come to believe that the preponderance of evidence is overwhelmingly enough to satisfy.

      1) It’s about Satan. In Bible it’s said that God is the ultimate power and nothing is above him. Then why he created Satan? If so why can’t he destroy it? Why Jesus had to undergo testings from Satan ? Why Satan has equal influence upon us same as God ? How could Satan enter Aden garden to test Adam and Eve ?

      – I agree with some of your premise; God did create Satan and for a purpose. As I understand, at the basic level, there are two perspectives on Satan. 1., God created him good (an angel?) and because of selfishness, he chose to rebel. Maybe and yes; he certainly rebelled. 2. God created him as one whose purpose was to ensure humanity’s freedom to choose other-than-God, so that we could enjoy God’s grace as freedom in our choice.

      In any case, God can destroy Satan. Jesus told a parable that said wheat (those who chose Christ) and weeds (rejecting Christ) will grow together until Jesus returns with His angels. I believe God is giving us as much time as possible to choose Him during our time on earth. Jesus had to undergo the same testing to show that He was worthy to offer a perfect sacrifice. In the Old Testament, Priests would offer many sacrifices throughout the year, but they were only good for so long. Jesus has offered the perfect sacrifice and in order to be the perfect sacrifice, He had to be tested. (More on this with a later question).

      Satan has influence, but it is not equal to God’s influence. When a person becomes a follower of Jesus, the Holy Spirit enters into him or her and gives us strength to overcome the devil and his forces. We don’t always chose right (we’re a bunch of misfits like everyone else sometimes… just watch the news some day and you’ll see how much we mess up). But there is a power to overcome available to those who believe. Satan entered the garden to test – it was his purpose (if #2 is correct above).

      2) Should we still believe in creation process in Bible when science has proofs for life existence even long before that ? Dinosaurs, Mammoths, micro organisms etc. which were not there in Noah’s ship ? If all came from Adam and Eve how humans have different Races now ?

      – You will get a variety of thoughts here. I’ll offer the easiest. God’s creative order is displayed in Gen 1-3 (and John 1 by the way). If a day in Genesis is poetic for a long time, then science and my religion agree. Science is not the enemy of religion (any religion) – it functions as a great partner in our human (God-given) understanding. Science also proves Christianity all the time. Think of the “Big Bang” and re-read the creation account in Genesis – I’d offer that God speaking was a big bang and that the light from His voice is still being propelled across the universe today. Also, the Bible is not (just) a history book, it is the living word of God. Every writer of every book in the Bible (it’s a collection of books) is not only telling history, or poetry (Psalms, etc.), but is making a point with their story. Look for the bigger picture first, then you can trace the smaller details. [Again, wouldn’t a discussion be best here!]

      3) In old testimony there only one single God. When it comes to New, there is Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. The Trinity. How did this happen ? If 3 of these have equal power then why Jesus has to pray to Father?

      – Sorry, but your premise is entirely off here. There is, in both the Old and New, only one God and He is always three persons. I won’t list all sorts of Scripture in here, but offer these few… read Isaiah 53 and listen for Jesus. [Also, in the New Testament, Jesus stated, “I Am,” declaring Himself God.] Gen 1:2 (the very second verse of all Scripture, says this, “…And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” He (the Trinitarian God Christians worship) has always been present in Scripture.
      Try this – picture the Bible unraveling as the writers learn more about God. While all Scripture is God breathed (and the word of God), it was also written by people. The understanding of the writer of any Old Testament book was not the same as that of New Testament writers (I do not mean it is not any more reliable than any other portion of Scripture; only that the writer didn’t have the fullest picture of God’s revelation to humanity). Thus, the first five books are like the roots of understanding (Even Abraham had to be introduced to God and God had to tell him His name). Later, the stem grows and by the time we get to Jesus and the later writings, we are able to see better the rose that has bloomed.

      4) In old testimony it is said that Idol worship is against God. But we have so many Idols in our Churches. Why?
      – There are symbols used in churches to remind us of God. Leviticus (and others) provides guides for what the temple is supposed to look like. In this, includes things like altars, lamp stands, the ark of the Covenant, etc. However, if we put any of these in the place of God, then they are in fact idols. Idols, in the truest sense of the word, are things that replace God and become “gods” to us.

      5) It is said that Jesus and Mary went to heaven with there material bodies. So heaven too should be materialistic. If so where is it located in this Universe ?
      – God created time and space. He is outside of both time and space (or the singular, time/space if you like Einstein). Is He thus, confined to time and space as well or able to create an eternal heaven that does not have to follow our earthly rules of time and space. [Let that one sink in for a while.] Also, the Book of Revelation says that we await a new heaven and a new earth – that is our ultimate hope, with truly resurrected bodies in a perfect state with the Father.

      6) After all why God is sending us to Earth and testing ? Is it because he surely wants to send some to hell ?
      – We are on earth to know, love and serve God and to love one another. God does not test us (that’s the devil’s job)… at least not in the way implied here. God desires that no man or woman would ever go to hell – that is why He made a way for us to enjoy Him (and others) for eternity.

      7) It is said God knows whatever is going to happen and everything is preplaned. Then whats the use of praying ?
      – God’s foreknowledge does not mean God’s fore-choice. God has allowed us to have freedom of choice because without freedom of choice, true love is impossible. [Some of my reformed friends might offer a different perspective on this, and that’s OK! They could be right]. Prayer has several “functions,” but in all of them, remember, God is not the Staple’s Easy Button, otherwise, He would not be God but a puppet. Prayer unites us with God and His will, prayer comforts us, prayer moves heaven and earth…. I could go on. Prayer changes everything.

      8) Is God only be satisfied with sacrifices in blood ? That is what we see in the whole Bible.
      – The New Testament says worship and holy living are our spiritual sacrifices (it’s a rough translation, but will work for this discussion). The Book of Hebrews gives a beautiful picture of how Christ was the ultimate sacrifice and thus, no blood sacrifice is ever required again. So, I come back to my earlier reply. Humans sinned against God (in the garden and today as well). Thus, the only sacrifice worthy of offering to God was that of a human. However, the sin was against God, so the only sacrifice worthy of offering to God was God. Jesus fulfilled each of these as He was and is fully human and fully God. All the blood you read about is simply about life – blood is life (in essence).

      9) If Jesus died for all our sins, how are we still sinners ?
      – Jesus died for all of our sins, but if we reject the gift of His grace then we have rejected His sacrifice. It’s as if God wrote a check payable to you (and everyone else on earth, past, present and future), but if you don’t cash the check, then it sits in your wallet without helping you as it was intended. Cash the check! As far as Christians go, yes, Christ paid the price for our sins and thus, we are no longer held guilty or shameful for our signing (past, preset and future). To quote (as close as I can recall) Tim Tennent, “When we sin, it’s not as if we are nailing a list of do’s and do not’s against a wall. When we sin, we are electing the absence of God in our life, at least for that moment). That’s really the essence of sin. It’s not about the “bad” we do, it’s about choosing anything other than God. We Christians do this all the time, unfortunately, but the good news (literally), is that the Father has sent the Son into this world so that we can have true freedom in the Son.

      10) How sin of Adam and Eve still be with us ?
      – I guess it really has to do with brokenness being chosen by Adam and Eve; Sin did not exist before then. Again, you’ll get a ton of different views on the original sin of Adam and Eve, but I’ll offer this. Sin and evil are in the world and it all really began with Adam and Eve (at least for humans). We chose to sin today as well. There is not a bit of us that has not been touched by sin at least by some portion. Now, one can make a case for infants and small children, but I would offer that at a minimum, they are affected by the sin that is in this world.

      11) Everything is happening same to those who believe and unbelievers, who do good and bad. Then what makes the difference ?
      – Even the Bible agrees 100% with what you just said – “It rains on the just and the unjust” one translation puts it. The difference is astronomical though. There is freedom in Christ, not just for eternal joy in salvation and heaven, but also for this earth. My mother died when I was young – that sucked. I’ve been to combat a few times – that also sucked. I’ve almost lost a child a few times and have friends who have lost children. That really sucks. There is No other way to put it. But, I (and my friends) also had Christians who put their arms around us and helped carry us through these times. God helped (and helps) to carry our burdens when they are both great and small.
      Allow me this final point – it’s not about us anyways (Rick Warren has that right)! Life is about us honoring our Creator, our Sustainer and our Savior. Life is about enjoying His presence with us (which is VERY real) and Him enjoying us as well.
      Try this, here’s the Bible in a nutshell. God created us. He walked upon this earth with us. We messed up. So, God made other ways for us to continue to enjoy His presence. We kept messing up. So, after many various attempts to get us to simply love Him, He sent Jesus as a human (and fully God still) to this earth to be with us. We still messed up. After Jesus was murdered (crucified), Jesus ascended to Heaven where He sits today. but, He left us with His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is here with those who follow and those who reject Jesus; it’s just for those of us who love God, His Holy Spirit also lives within us. Yet, we still mess up. So, Jesus has made us two other promises – first, that He will be with us always, even until the end of the ages and second, that He will return, one day, to take us home.

      I hope you hear my spirit of love and appreciation for your questions. They probably just created more questions for you but you know what, the more I ask of God, the more He answers. The more He answers, the more questions I have. It’s just that my questions change over time, as does my love for other people and my love for God.

      With much respect and appreciation for your great questions and searching heart,
      Brandon

  8. says

    Thanks for all the insight on choosing a paper copy Bible. My preferred preaching routine includes my notes on my iPad, but still having a paper copy Bible as I read through the passage. It's hard to believe that five years ago we didn't have iPads. They have become so useful for reading, study, research, and note-taking. I bought my first iPad the moment that I heard that Logos was "going mobile." I can be in an airport, doctor's office, or anywhere and still have access to my entire library.

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