Jonathan Bailey is the co-founder of Dwell, a mobile-app aimed at helping people cultivate a habit of listening to the Bible. Dwell has been dubbed the “Spotify of Scripture.” Since its release last summer, 100,000 people have downloaded Dwell, with 20,000 paid subscribers. Bailey lives in Dallas.
What is Dwell?
Dwell allows users to listen to the Bible through stories, key passages, themed playlists or listening plans.
“Why can’t we listen to the Bible in a really simple, easy-to-use app?” Bailey said. “You can download some great Bible apps and some have a listening component built into them. What we found is the listening component was always an afterthought to the reading experience. Dwell is not just another Bible app, but a unique and exclusive listening experience that’s a formation tool. We don’t want people to just get through the Bible, we want it to get through to people.”
Dwell uses the English Standard Version of the Bible, and listeners may choose four unique voices that offer distinct reading styles. Composer Chad Lawson created original in-app music, and users may choose ambient, guitar, piano or piano and cello.
“Our No. 1 requirement wasn’t that you had to have this big, booming radio voice, but that you had to love the Bible, and I think that passion comes through when you listen,” Bailey added. “The Bible is this great story, so why not kind of give it a soundtrack?”
For example, you can listen to Felix, who has an African accent, reading Psalm 139 over ambient music playing in the background.
What’s the difference between reading Scripture versus listening to Scripture?
Many people sit at a desk or go to a coffee shop to read the Bible.
“When we read, our default tendency is to study,” Bailey said. “We want to pull the text apart and piece it back together. We’re seeking comprehension and grasp with our intellect. There’s nothing wrong with that experience. It’s vital for who we are. When we listen, we lose our ability to be precise. There’s no underlining, cross-referencing, consulting commentaries, highlighting or starring anything. It’s a leisurely experience. When we listen, our default tendency is to marinate. Instead of reading, we steep. We’re gaining apprehension, meaning something is laying ahold of us. It’s like we’re being seized or captured by God. We’re not trying to get something out of it, we’re trying to get into it to ultimately be inhabited by it.”
With the fast-paced culture we live in, how can Dwell help us cultivate Scripture into our daily lives?
Dwell gives people the opportunity to abide in the Scriptures when society speeds everything up.
“To have something just wash over us is different, and it’s not something we normally do in our 21st century go, go, go world,” Bailey said. “It’s important to make places of pausing. We all have these margins to use Dwell, whether we’re just getting ready in the morning, commuting back and forth from work or running. It lets us be in two places at once.”
How can we redeem technology?
Although Southeast Christian Church’s sermon series, “Redeem the Screen,” just finished, Dwell is a way technology can draw us closer to God.
“Is technology going to benefit us spiritually or is it going to hurt us?” Bailey said. “It is a challenge, and it can distract us and pull us away from silence and listening to God. We still have this hope in our hearts that maybe there’s a way we can use technology redemptively so that it becomes an ally for us instead of just an enemy. Dwell is our best attempt to help people cultivate that life-giving space with God. We hope that technology can be used in that redemptive way so that people are formed more and more into His image.”