by Terry Wilhite
This month we turn our attention to the classics and The Master Christian Library from Ages Software, home to names such as Calvin, Spurgeon, Wesley, Augustine, Torrey, Bounds, Finney, Luther, and more. This two-CD ROM volume offers you the King James version of the Bible, the King James with Strong's numbers, the American Standard, Darby's Translation, a Spanish and a Latin translation, plus more than 20 commentaries.
For example, you'll find John Calvin's Commentary on Hebrews and Harmony of the Gospels, John Darby's Synopsis of the Bible and C. H. Spurgeon's Commentary on Matthew. Other classic works include Richard Baxter's The Reformed Pastor and Thomas Coke's Duties of a Minister of the Gospel.
No body of classic works, in my opinion, is complete without E. M. Bounds and his volumes: The Preacher and Prayer, The Necessity of Prayer, and The Possibility of Prayer. You'll find those along with a holiness collection that includes Adam Clarke's Entire Sanctification and Salvation By Faith Proved. Stanley Derickson's Notes on Theology is a Bible study that's included and there's the biography collection of the great pulpiteers of the past, including life stories from Moody, Spurgeon, and Wesley. You can find countless volumes of their sermons with this resource as well.
While the other Bible reference software titles that we've reviewed each have their own software "engine," Ages' Software is built on a much more elementary concept for navigating the library: the Adobe PDF scheme that uses Adobe Acrobat Reader. Information is provided on singular pages (as opposed to the multiple window concept). Each page contains links (underlined words) to titles and sections. The software isn't as sophisticated as the others we've reviewed, but if you're pursuing the classics, you've got a staggering amount of material in an easily-navigated manner "under one roof" with The Master Christian Library. What this software does that the others don't is work on both the PC and Mac operating systems. This resource is also the most economical we've seen-$89.95 from Ages Software. You can find a complete roster of what's available by calling 1-800-297-4307 or by logging onto www.ageslibrary.com.
In addition to reviewing the best Bible software, we've shown you that by using digital resources, you can improve both your efficiency and effectiveness in sermon preparation and personal study. But where do you start? And if you've jumped off the high-dive of software into the deep waters of digital reference tools, what's next? Here are my best tips for both beginners and the well-versed student of digital resources:
• Try before you buy. Some software makers offer trial versions. If they do, take them up on their offer. These trial versions are usually downloadable from the Internet, and can become full versions simply by buying unlock codes from the maker.
• Look for the most for the least. Most all of the major Bible software manufacturers provide the whole "kit and kaboodle" on their CD-ROMs, selling you a little to begin with and offering you "keys" that you can buy to unlock additional resources later.
• See which software offers the most resources that meet your needs in one software package. Please don't make a choice just because someone else uses a particular library. Match your needs to the software. Look for the collection of software that will help you meet the needs of others. For example, some libraries are more targeted to counselors while others are more suited for church growth and discipleship.
• If you don't have Internet access or you don't know of anyone using Bible software, find someone at a Bible college or seminary that knows how to use it and learn all you can.
• Check the software's minimum requirements. Please don't try to pull a horse trailer with a Yugo! Make sure you have the computer processor power to run your pick of software before you buy.
• Start a computer users' group in your church or community and teach your congregates-or learn from them-how to use Bible software and technology. It's okay to say, "Hey, help me learn this computer and Bible software!"
My top tip is this:
• Whether it is a digital resource or a volume off the shelf in your study, empower the people in your fellowship, especially Bible teachers, with the knowledge of how to study and what resources to study. As teachers, we often hear what we should teach, but we're never taught how or what to study. Empower your learners to exalt the Lord!
Terry Wilhite is a technology, multimedia, and communications specialist.
For more information about his resources, see www.terrywilhite.com.
His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org