Ken Boer on Biblevox: Memorizing Scripture through Song
For many Christians, Bible verses and passages are often easier to memorize when set to music. Worship pastor Ken Boer designed the website Biblevox to help people find word-for-word scripture songs.
Ken Boer is pastor of worship at First Evangelical Church in Memphis, Tennessee. Known as First Evan, the congregation is an independent, evangelical church with Presbyterian roots and Bible-focused worship. Boer designed the website Biblevox to help Christians memorize the Bible through song. In this edited conversation, he explains how Biblevox started and how to use it.
What is Biblevox?
It is a free website designed to help Christians memorize the Bible through song. It includes more than three thousand songs from hundreds of artists, all searchable by verse, topic, and Bible version. Biblevox is a responsive site, formatted to work well in the web browser on your phone, tablet, or computer. If you create a shortcut for it on your phone, it can function like any other app.
Why did you decide to create Biblevox?
I created Biblevox because my life has been changed as I’ve memorized scripture through song. When combined with meditation and prayer, scripture memorization has been for me perhaps the most transformative spiritual discipline. I wanted more people to experience the same.
Psalm 119 makes it clear that God wants us to hide his word in our hearts and meditate on it throughout the day. Psalm 1 tells us that the blessed life finds its roots in meditation on the Word day and night. To have it that deep in us implies, and perhaps even requires, memorization. The vast majority of us find memorization hard, however.
Why does Biblevox focus on sung scripture?
One of the easiest ways to memorize the written Word is through song. But if you want to memorize scripture through song, where do you go to find songs, besides search engines? Biblevox was created so that you could search songs by book, chapter, Bible version, and topic. You can listen on any device, any time of day.
The project also aims to change the perception people have of scripture memory songs. Some people dismiss the idea of learning a passage with a song because they assume that these songs are written primarily for children or are cheesy and poorly produced. But there are a growing number of artists who are creating word-for-word songs in compelling ways. Biblevox aims to highlight them.
Whom do you see as its target audience?
Biblevox is created for anyone who wants to memorize scripture through song. Many users are memorizing on their own. It can also help groups who are working on memorizing passages together in churches, schools, or other ministries.
How do you use Biblevox in your family, school, or church?
We’ve learned songs together as a family, and our kids can still recite them word for word years later. Some teachers at the Christian school my children attend have used Biblevox to find songs to match verses their classes were learning.
The pastor at my church wanted us to memorize some verses and use them as a weekly benediction during a particular sermon series. So we created a song that we’ve been singing each week after the sermon. Some songs on Biblevox would work congregationally in corporate worship, but many work better in an environment where they supplement other goals, such as in Sunday school, in a church-wide memorization program, or in personal memorization.
Roughly, what share do various music styles—children’s, classical, contemporary, well-known artists, skilled amateurs—have on Biblevox?
Songs fall into several categories. Artists like The Corner Room, Seeds Family Worship, Slugs & Bugs, and The Verses Project are all ministries dedicated to word-for-word songs that have built their own followings. Some churches, such as Immanuel Worship, Redeemer Winter Haven, Coram Deo Music, and Exodus Music, have produced material.
The site includes fewer than two hundred classical and sacred pieces at present. Children’s music is a little under half of the material. There are a small handful of songs by radio-friendly artists like Andrew Peterson and Fernando Ortega. The Bible version with the largest share is the English Standard Version, followed by the New International Version.
Where do you find content to add to the site?
The current collection in Biblevox represents over a decade of song collection. It started with CDs cataloged in a spreadsheet, which later transitioned to streaming links through a web app. I found artists through a variety of means, including Spotify searches, lists on websites, social media, and YouTube.
What qualifies a song to be added to Biblevox?
Anyone can submit a song to Biblevox. The songs are vetted to ensure that they are essentially word for word, if not exactly, from a translation. The site does not include metrical versions of scripture because Hymnary.org is already filling that need.
How does Biblevox deal with copyright issues?
If an artist has a song on music services such as Spotify, Apple Music, or YouTube, there are no requirements for other sites (like Biblevox) to pay individual fees to embed them. Artists are paid streaming rates through those services either because of advertising or subscriptions to those services. Biblevox is just collecting them into a different format.
What are the best first steps for church leaders or Christian school teachers to introduce Biblevox in their contexts?
The most natural way for Christian leaders to use Biblevox is in conjunction with other church functions. If you’re a pastor, you could pick a few verses/songs for your congregation to memorize to accompany a sermon series, current emphasis, curriculum, or catechism. Send people links to listen to at home, and have your musicians lead the congregation in singing one of the verses together over several Sundays.
If you’re a teacher, you could play a song for the children in your classroom and send an email home to parents with song links. Children can sing it for parents when they have a presentation or program. If you lead a Bible study, participants could memorize passages that match the book of the Bible or curriculum you’re using.
Do people need to learn Biblevox songs by ear, or can they find written music for the songs?
Most of the artists included on the site do not make written sheet music available, though there are exceptions. It’s possible that sheet music could be added to Biblevox in the future, but it would require additional administration and copyright compliance. AI and machine learning are advancing quickly, and it seems that in the coming years it will be possible for the average person to autogenerate chord charts and lead sheets for contemporary songs just from recordings. The technology is close, but not quite reliable yet.
What are your dreams to improve, expand, and spread Biblevox?
For now, I host and maintain the site using low-cost tools online and have no plans to monetize it. It’s a website with a tiny bit of social media presence that fits in snippets of time between family and church ministry. I would love to see the ministry of Biblevox blossom into a broader community of people who are passionate about memorizing the Bible through song.
What if some people teamed up to write songs to help young pastors memorize all the benedictions at the end of the epistles or biblical confessions of sin? What if college and seminary students caught a vision for memorizing Scripture and writing songs, building deeper roots in their ministry? What if artists were connected in community for encouragement and collaboration? What if some composers took inspiration from biblical oratorios and created long-form works straight from scripture? What if donors had the opportunity to support such work?
Listen to “Rests on You,” based on 1 Peter 3:14 and 4:14 (NASB), and download sheet music. Ken Boer wrote “Rests on You” for a sermon series about how to live with the faith of Daniel in cultures hostile to God. Boer invites anyone interested in helping Biblevox blossom into a broader initiative to get in touch.