Suppose you agree that ours is an increasingly postliterate age. The average person, including the average Christian, is reading less, and Christians of all ages, especially the young, lack the basics of biblical literacy. Is that all there is to say? Is hunger for Scripture simply dying out?

By no means. Of all tech pessimists I may be chief, yet few things excite me more than what’s happening online with the Bible. What we see is not declining interest in Scripture but an explosion of it. The question is not, therefore, whether people still need and actively seek nourishment from God’s Word but how best to get it to them.

Let me share a snapshot of some promising attempts to give an answer—to meet the world’s deep hunger with the pleasures, depths, and inexhaustible beauties of the Word of God. Call them “digital lectors.” In the preliterate era, most believers never read the Bible for themselves but heard it read aloud in the gathered assembly of worship. Those who read the Word were called lectors, which is Latin for “readers” and a term still used in liturgical traditions.

Online, new lectors are meeting the moment, presenting the Bible in fresh and creative ways. Sometimes, in a lovely closing of the ancient circle, they aren’t explaining or expounding the text, just reading it aloud. Either way, people are listening.

Let me begin with three overarching themes before turning to specific examples. The first and happiest thing to say about these online Bible ventures is that they are ecumenical. Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox are all rising to the occasion, using a mix of audio, video, and animation. So far as I can tell, there is little but mutual support and blessing between producers as well as listeners, and occasionally they feature crossovers and shared platforms.

It would be a marvelous irony of providence if the culprit for so much division and polarization today—namely, the internet and our digital devices—became an instrument of Christian unity. Lord, hear our prayer!

Second, I see an enormous range of audience scale and composition. Some lectors speak to millions, others to dozens. Often, audience size is determined by a given project’s targeting: Is it for women or men, Black or white, seekers or old-timers, deconstructed or reconstructed, liturgical or charismatic, or all of the above? Does it presume massive background knowledge or nothing but curiosity? Does it expect hours of leisure time for lengthy videos or nothing beyond 15 minutes a day for a quick listen in the car?

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Third, alongside broad ecumenical convergence is a clear gender divergence. Outside of the most generic and massively popular programs, there are clearly demarcated male and female spaces for online Bible engagement. The latter consist primarily of authors and speakers who leverage their social media followings into Bible studies, online collectives, and theological reflection—by women, for women. Think of Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Jen Wilkin, Jen Pollock Michel, Haley Stewart, and Phylicia Masonheimer, as well as organizations like She Reads Truth and Well-Watered Women.

The lectors I’ll review below are either reading for a broad audience or, in one case, geared toward men. Of the lectors speaking to women, I’ll only say: Keep it up. So long as the functional effect isn’t a Jefferson’s Bible for the sexes—separate, expurgated editions for male and female—this gender divergence isn’t a problem. It’s an asset. What we see online is what we see in church: believers wrestling with Scripture as men and women.

That said, the first resource I’ll name is widely popular, including across the gender divide. BibleProject is the brainchild of Tim Mackie and Jon Collins, who made their first video together a decade ago. The result, in their words, is “a nonprofit, crowdfunded organization that makes free resources like videos, podcasts, articles, and classes to help people experience the Bible in a way that is approachable and transformative. We do this by showcasing the literary art of the Scriptures and tracing key biblical themes from Genesis to Revelation.”

“Videos,” “approachable,” and “literary art” are the key words there. Their YouTube channel has more than 400 videos and more than 4 million followers. Dozens of videos have between 1 and 4 million views. The videos are typically 4–7 minutes long and consist of a voiceover unpacking the major through-lines and connections both within a biblical book and between it and the rest of Scripture. The commentary avoids jargon and “Christian-ese” while distilling historical and exegetical insights for an audience that may never have read the text in question.

For my money, no one does it better. Over the years, their videos have been a mainstay in my college classroom, and they always land with students. BibleProject can unlock even the most esoteric or foreign text—Leviticus, say, or Ezekiel. It seeks the spirit of the sacred page through careful and loving attention to the letter. God is revealed in the words of the Word.

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In the podcast world, The Bible in a Year is the heavyweight. Launched by Ascension Presents in 2021, it publishes one episode daily and has repeatedly ranked as the most downloaded podcast in the nation.

The show is hosted by Father Mike, a Catholic priest at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Father Mike is young, telegenic, and extremely personable. On his YouTube channel, he speaks straight to the camera and explains Catholic teaching and practice in a simple, direct, and unapologetic style. On the podcast, he takes 15–25 minutes to read the biblical text aloud before offering modest context and commentary. Episodes are surely planned but feel unscripted, like a spontaneous homily delivered by a wise pastor who loves the Bible and knows it from the inside out. It’s not surprising that believers of all kinds have flocked to this resource, numberless Protestants among them.

A very different resource comes from Jonathan Pageau, a French-Canadian artist, icon carver, and convert to Eastern Orthodoxy. Over the last seven years, Pageau has developed something of a cult following online. In addition to his art, writing, and public speaking, he founded Orthodox Arts Journal; began a podcast called The Symbolic World; started a YouTube channel and a publishing press by the same name; and now has turned the entire enterprise into a website and online community that, early in April, held a World Summit. Well-known Pageau fans include Bishop Robert Barron, Rod Dreher, and Jordan Peterson.

By his own description, Pageau explores “the symbolic patterns that underlie our experience of the world.” He argues that creation—in itself and in our experience of it—is intrinsically symbolic, and that the symbols we find across all times and cultures (such as contrasts of light and dark, above and below, within and without, male and female) are written into the world by God himself. They are God’s language, his special vernacular, and modern humanity is suffering from a mass symbolic amnesia. We are no longer conversant with God as we once were.

The result, Pageau contends, is a civilizational crisis. Even Christians are now post-symbolic people: We struggle to engage symbol-laden Scriptures and to interpret the world via biblical symbolism.

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Pageau’s followers—many of them young men who feel alienated or adrift—flock to him for symbolic exposition of Scripture and nature alike. For the first time, maybe even after a lifetime in church, they find that the Bible is not boring but beautiful, a peerless cultural artifact, a book with bottomless depths. Like Jesus’s kingdom, the Bible is not of this world. Its voice, though never less than human, is somehow more than human. It is a means of grace.

For all their theological and stylistic differences, BibleProject and The Bible in a Year are Pageau’s single-minded comrades in this sense: Their task as lectors for a new age is to make the Bible interesting again. Or to put it the other way—they refuse to let the Bible be boring.

How many churches, pastors, and well-meaning teachers have assumed their job was to explain the Bible away, to apologize for it, to shave off the hard edges, to gloss over the wacky, the wild, the spooky? But these elements are exactly what draw so many people to the Bible in the first place. We must not try to tame Scripture any more than we try to tame God. Even in a postliterate age, Scripture untamed will continue to fascinate and transform us.

There are more examples I could give—many more. Alastair Roberts, of the Theopolis Institute and the Davenant Institute, comes to mind. Roberts is a co-host of Mere Fidelity and, on his own, has recorded a running podcast seriescommenting on every chapter of the Bible (as well as a crossover conversation with Pageau). Other ventures worth mentioning include Holy Ghost Stories, Truth Unites, Pints with Aquinas, Practicing the Way, and Word on Fire. But my aim here is not to be exhaustive; far from it. The point is that something is happening.

Shrewd lovers of God’s Word are using the internet to introduce or reintroduce an entire generation of drifting believers to the Bible. This generation may never become readers in the traditional mode: book in hand, turning pages. But they are encountering Scripture. Digital lectors are making sure of it.

Brad East is an associate professor of theology at Abilene Christian University. He is the author of four books, including The Church: A Guide to the People of God and Letters to a Future Saint: Foundations of Faith for the Spiritually Hungry.