Tuesday, August 21, 2007

BibleShared.com Blog

This is the first installment of the BibleShared.com blog. From now on, this will be the place where you will find announcements, news, tips, tricks, and on occasion Scriptural insights.

Since I have not kept this up since the initial creation of BibleShared.com, I'm going to record some history here. On or around the 25th of January, 2007 I had a meeting with my pastor about a class I was taking at Northwest University in Kirkland, WA. The class was Pastoral Ministries Internship II, and the professor was determined to "extract at least a pound of flesh" from each of the 8 or so students in the class. Many of us in the class were already involved in full time ministry, but we would be required to set aside our main ministry duties for a semester and focus on creating something new that would solve a problem within our church.

During the meeting my pastor and I discussed the church's website and also the need for accessible devotionals that would inspire the church to read and study the Bible with regularity. Now about three years ago I toyed with the idea of user submitted devotionals for youth group, but that did not really work. I was too embarrassed to post anything personally, and no one else did either.

As my pastor was describing a place online where we could maintain a repository of devotionals, something clicked. Though I may not write a 4-5 page insightful commentary-worthy devotional every time I sit down to read my Bible, I'm always underlining things and scribbling in the margins (or in a notes file if I'm reading on my phone). Sometimes these notes can be just as valuable as full fledged devotionals. I don't say that to discount the scholarly work that goes into some devotionals, because I personally place a high value on Biblical scholarship, but I mean that they both point back to the text. More than that, within a church at a specific place in a specific time, two people might be facing the exact same issues, and seeking answers in the same place. Without a place to record one's spiritual journey through the Scriptures, these people may never realize any of this, and they could miss the comfort afforded by knowing that they are both trusting God in the same situation. I pitched the idea of a shared margin note system the next time I saw him, and so BibleShared was born.

Initially it was going to be called Shared Margins. But I ditched that name because it did not mention the Bible, and could be confusing as to what the site did. Single Word was also considered, but again this wasn't clear enough (though I did end up naming the youth group Sing╬╗e Word Ministries in reference to a single absolute truth revealed in Jesus). The clear final choice then was BibleShared.com which I promptly registered at my favorite registrar.

I immediately sought out a Bible text to use. My first choice was the NLT because of it's fluid language and use among my generation (who would be the most likely to use an online devotional as opposed to a book-based devotional). Unfortunately Tyndale, the publisher that distributes the NLT does not take kindly to their text being used on the Internet. The next choice was the NASB. I submitted a formal copyright request, but gave up after not hearing back in a timely manner. In the meantime I used the King James Version so that a text could be in place to test the features of the site.

On June 15th I received one of the greatest surprises of my life -- Permission to quote the NASB on the Internet without having to pay royalties. Since BibleShared.com operates on a budget very near $0, this is exactly what was needed. I thanked God and also Lockman's VP of Operations profusely.

After a few tweaks, and many long nights, BibleShared.com is poised for launch at the church I go to (Abundant Life Christian Fellowship) and ready for launch at churches/schools around the world.

Considering the current (read slow) speed of the site, I re-worked all the code, and ordered a shiny new server. For the technically inclined it's a Quad Intel Xeon 1.5 GHz with 2 GB RAM running Windows Server 2003. The server will arrive on Thursday and should be loaded up late Friday or Saturday night with the current version of BibleShared.com.

Starting this coming Monday, BibleShared.com will be accepting applications for new groups. This means that if you are at a church or school that does not already have it's own BibleShared.com group, you can submit an application for a group on Monday. For the time being there will be a nominal monthly fee to create a group (i.e. individual users will not be charged a single penny, EVER). Hopes are that fees will not be necessary in the future. The money would be used to pay the bandwidth bills ($104.95/month), and the cost of the new server ($862 including software), and if enough groups join, additional money may spill over into smaller churches in Washington State or be used to allow smaller churches to host BibleShared.com groups for free.

That really about covers everything for now. My next post will be after the server upgrade to provide a walk through of the new features available.

Until then, sign-up and read the Bible.

About the Author: Nick is the creator of BibleShared.com -- a web application that allows you to read the Bible, write notes in the margin, share these notes with others, and track your Bible reading progress.

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