Season 3, Ep. 6: technology, books and rest

Reading Writers

Reading Writers is back with a new episode this week recorded from behind the stage at a church planting conference (which explains my hushed and gravelly voice)! Today, we’re talking about the relationship between technology, rest, and reading a physical book. This is a fun one!

Among the many books we discuss:

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Now that it’s out, what do I think of Logos 7?

The Suite of Logos 7 packages

If you go to conferences for pastors, the chances are pretty good you know about Logos Bible Software. Even if you don’t, the chances are actually still pretty good. For the better part of the last decade they’ve been working to carve out an identity for themselves as the premier Bible study tool. The must-have resource for pastors, authors, and students.

And they’ve done a pretty good job with that, I think.

I’ve been using Logos for several years and through several iterations. With a vast library and more tools than I know what to do with, it’s more than met my needs. Now, Logos 7 is here. Even better, the fine people at Faithlife (makers of the software) have given me an opportunity to try out the latest edition, which I’ve been doing for a few days now (though in all honesty, probably not as much as I would have preferred).

After a bit of time in the program, what do I think? Let’s talk about Logos 7 from four perspectives:

  • What’s familiar;
  • What’s new;
  • What’s not so hot; and
  • What’s my favorite new feature.

What’s familiar in Logos 7?

Users of Logos 7 will notice that there are a few minor (but welcome) design updates. The homepage has a few minor tweaks, notably thinning out the rules between blocks, and continuing to embrace “flat” design. The same can be said of the tool panels themselves. It’s all very minor. Given that the primary function of these is to, well, function, so I’m not terribly surprised.

Similarly, if you had any doubt, this is a program that is best enjoyed on a large monitor. You want your workspace to breathe, and if you’re working on an itty-bitty monitor like me 90 percent of the time, you’re going to find it a bit cramped.

And, as in past editions, your base package really does make a difference. If you’re just doing some basic to intermediate level study, you’re probably fine not going beyond Bronze or Silver if your budget can handle it. But if you’re a pastor, an academic or author, you’re going to want to go as far as your budget will allow. Platinum or Diamond is a good place to shoot for if you can swing it, in my opinion. You get the advance or optimal level data sets and tools, which means you’re going to be able to plumb the depths of the passages you’re studying with greater efficiency.

But all of this should be familiar about Logos. It’s what you’ve come to expect. But in the new version, there is some pretty cool stuff worth considering.

What’s new?

Logos 7 definitely builds upon the improvements brought in version six, while also adding in a number of great new features. Brand new to this edition, you’ll find no less than eight new tools:

  • The Sermon Editor
  • The Concordance Tool
  • The Courses Tool
  • New Testament Use of the Old Testament
  • Updated and improved Systematic Theologies
  • Biblical Theology tools
  • Confessional Document
  • Lexicon linking
Screencap of New Testament Use of Old Testament tool

This is a great new tool in Logos 7

I don’t have the space to go into all of these tools because I doubt you’d read it, but one that I really enjoy is the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. This is important to be because the Old Testament is often neglected by many Christians, but also because it was the Bible of Jesus during his earthly life and ministry, and of the Apostles. And one of the coolest things to see is how steeped so many books are in Old Testament books (as well as the deuterocanonical books).

Imagine the insights you might gain from a book like, say, Revelation, when you better grasp the texts he was recalling. After all, in this book alone, we find 40 echoes, allusions or direct quotes of the Old Testament and apocrypha, the majority of which come from Sirach and the Psalms. What does it change? Honestly, right now not a lot. I’ve not been able to really dig into it much beyond seeing the connections. But the fact that connections do exist helps greatly. It gives me confidence, at any rate, that it’s possible to make sense of the apocalyptic language of this book—to get past the silliness that sometimes comes up and see the book afresh for what it is.

What’s my (potential) favorite feature?

By far my (potential) favorite new feature in Logos 7 is the Sermon Editor tool. In the past, I would do all my work in Logos, finding what I need and copying quotes and other bits of information into my Word Doc.[1. Properly attributed, of course.] Now, I can actually build my entire sermon right in Logos as I go—including slides, handouts, and small group questions.

Sermon editor tool in Logos 7

I can only imagine how much time this new tool might save pastors and lay preachers as they prepare their messages. Testing it out with a sermon I prepared about a year ago, I found it quite easy to use as far as the formatting and slide development tools were concerned. When I’ve preached, I’ve avoided making slides because it takes me so long. So this definitely makes life a lot easier. And you can edit the slides themselves, changing backgrounds, styles and anything else you need to.

What’s not so hot?

Since the first time I opened a copy of Logos, I’ve found the user interface to be less than intuitive. I have to do a lot of hunting around to find what I’m looking for. I mentioned this in my assessment of the previous version, and it hasn’t changed with this one. It’s not enough to make me not want to use the software, mind you. But I long for the day when I can find everything I need within one or two clicks. Perhaps I’ll see something new on this front in version 8?

So what do I really think?

So that’s a super-quick look at Logos 7. Do I like it? Despite my minor complaint above, very much. Longtime Logos users will definitely appreciate the improvements the Faithlife team has made in this edition. New users won’t be put off by the bit of additional work they’ve got to do learning the system, and Faithlife does make training videos available to help you get used to the system. Regardless, if you’re serious about your Bible study, I’d strongly consider purchasing the latest edition of Logos in whatever base package makes sense for your needs. It won’t take away the work you need to do, but it will make it go a lot smoother.

The danger of overextending your reach


A friend of mine recently lamented the blessing and curse of podcasts. The blessing is obvious, and the danger is equally so: podcasts can “ruin” us for ordinary pastors. There’s a dangerous temptation to treat podcasts as our pastors, and to forsake biblical community for a hyper-individualized spirituality.

But there’s another danger we don’t talk about quite as much: the danger to the pastors who are extending their reach beyond their local church.

You might be reading this and thinking, what on earth could be dangerous? After all, many pastors write books every year, podcast their sermons, and write blogs. Some even find themselves speaking at conferences, of whom the majority of attendees are undoubtedly not members of their congregations.

There’s nothing wrong with any of these things, certainly. So why do I have a concern? Because there’s a question we always should be asking: is trying to extend our reach taking away from our primary ministry? 

Now, I absolutely believe pastors should write books (at least, those who can write). I’d go as far to say as pastors are obligated to share the wisdom and insights they’ve gained with the larger body of Christ, and more specifically, with younger pastors and leaders.

But many pastors who are asked to write books aren’t asked because they’ve demonstrated they can write, or they have the accumulated wisdom of a lifetime of ministry. They just have a lot of people showing up on Sunday.

Whether or not a pastor has the chops to write a book, start a blog or start a podcast, the temptation to pursue these things is enormous. But in the pursuit of these things, it’s easy to start cutting corners, even unintentionally. Research gets reduced or outsourced. Sermon prep is virtually non-existent. Counselling and community are sidelined. The result? Once-excellent communicators become unconsciously incompetent (which inevitably leads to becoming dangerously stupid). Congregation members begin to feel neglected. Frustration builds, and eventually something’s going to give.

In the attempt to extend their reach, I fear many church and ministry leaders are in danger of destroying their ministries, and may not even realize it.

When I was working on my books, one of the challenges I faced was securing endorsements. I tried to get Kevin DeYoung to endorse Awaiting a Savior. I didn’t succeed, obviously (although I suspect it would have sold more if I had). But you know what? I am so thankful I didn’t. Why? Because his church has set up accountability structures to prevent outside activities from negatively affecting his ministry to his congregation. 

This is the kind of self-aware church leader we need more of—the kind who understands the danger of overextending his reach. Leaders who know they can’t really trust themselves to know how much is too much, and who surround themselves with men who will tell them what they don’t always want to hear.

Get serious about your studies (recap)


Studying the Bible is an essential for the Christian. Yet it seems far many of us seem to take it for granted, myself included. If we study the Bible at all, it’s as a chore—”I have to do this”—instead of a privilege—”I get to do this!”

A couple weeks back I shared a series called “get serious about your studies,” looking at a number of practical tools intended to help us study the Scriptures. Over four posts, we covered:

This kind of series is really fun for me to write, not just because it gives me a chance to point you to helpful tools, but because it gives me a chance to remind myself of the tools I have in my own toolkit. It is so easy to become lackadaisical, to lose focus… and it’s for this very reason you and I need to be diligent to study the Word, to invest ourselves in it and be mastered by it as we seek to grow in our understanding of God through the Scriptures.

If you’ve not already done so, I’d encourage you to read these for yourself—and, if you think I’ve missed anything, please let me know!

Book Review: The Next Story by Tim Challies

About a year and a half ago, work issued me my first iPhone. My wife and I to that point had been trying to avoid having a cellphone and were at a point where we couldn’t really do so much longer, simply because if I wasn’t at the office, she’d have no way to reach me (nor would anyone at work unless I was near a wi-fi connection).

Then the iPhone came home. And in some ways, it was glorious. We were able to communicate when necessary. Work could always find me when they needed me… Then we started to see the downside of this new device in that we became very, very aware of the connected-ness in a way that we hadn’t been before. Then there was the distraction. I’m naturally a fidgeter and began to find myself almost unconsciously grabbing my phone and begin fiddling with it. Before long, I found myself asking, “Who is in control here—my phone or me?”

Tim Challies gets this question. As a web developer and longtime blogger (in addition to being a pastor and author), Challies sees and interacts with digital technology on a regular basis—so much so that he’s found himself asking the same kinds of questions:

Am I giving up control of my life? Is it possible that these technologies are changing me? Am I becoming a tool of the very tools that are supposed to serve me?

These motivated him to write The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion, where he seeks to help readers build not only a theoretical and experiential understanding of technology, but a theological one as well.

The first three chapters of the book are spent dealing with the theological, theoretical and experiential background of technology. On the theological side, Challies is quick to note that God’s command to the first man that he subdue the earth and have dominion over it (cf. Gen. 1:28) implicitly commands us to create technology, whether it’s a hammer or a computer, and this creative impulse is glorifying to God: Read More about Book Review: The Next Story by Tim Challies