EDMOND — A woman in Southeast Asia reads Philippians 4:6 in Indonesian using the YouVersion Bible
A man in Europe participates in a Bible study using a YouVersion Bible app reading plan in Portuguese on his BlackBerry.
A teen at an Oklahoma City charter school looks up a Scripture on the YouVersion Bible app on his iPad.
At any moment of the day, someone is downloading the popular Bible app created by a group of technologically savvy people at Edmond-based LifeChurch.tv, led by senior pastor Craig Groeschel.
The free app reached a milestone of 30 million downloads on mobile devices in October — and surpassed 34 million downloads this week.
Bobby Gruenewald, pastor and innovation-leader at LifeChurch.tv who helped create the YouVersion Bible app, calls its popularity a global revolution of sorts.
He said he is excited about the recent high point. But like most people known for their creative spark, Gruenewald, who was named to Fast Company's 2011 “100 Most Creative People in Business” list, is not satisfied.
He said it has been a “very intense” three-plus years since the Bible app was introduced in 2008. Gruenewald said he and LifeChurch.tv's tech-
One of the app's more popular aspects is the audio feature that lets them not only read but listen to the Bible.
“Obviously, from our perspective, what has happened is pretty incredible, but on the other hand, we now know what is possible,” Gruenewald said in a recent interview.
“If we have the faith to believe we can see 500 million to 1 billion downloads, then 30 million seems pathetic. We just think it's possible we can accelerate and connect with tens of millions more.”
Bible for digital age
He said he created the app as he began exploring ways the church could use technology to connect people with Christ. In keeping with the premise that reading the Bible helps people establish a relationship with the Lord, he decided to pursue the idea of a Bible app that people could access on mobile devices such as their smartphone.
“I was at O'Hare Airport and I thought, ‘What could today's technology mean for the Bible? Could it spark revolution?' That's what I believe we are seeing happen today — a revolution,” he said.
From Gruenewald's perspective, the app has helped bring the Bible into the digital age to influence generations of people, and that's revolutionary.
“We hear story after story, and see tweet after tweet, people saying that YouVersion has helped them engage with the
Gruenewald has numerous examples of how the app has gained in popularity. He said about 35,000 passages of Scripture are shared on Facebook every day using the Bible app. Also, he said YouVersion data indicates one in 17 iPhone, iPad and iTouch users have downloaded the Bible app, and one in 17 Android users have downloaded the app, as well.
Gruenewald said U.S. Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, recently used his YouVersion Bible app to read a passage of Scripture while speaking on the House of Representatives floor. Also, he said televangelist Joyce Meyer's Joyce Meyer Ministries recently partnered with YouVersion to offer an exclusive daily devotional as one of the Bible app's reading plans.
“People are connecting with the Bible and having a whole new level of engagement and conversation about it, and that is what we find exciting,” he said.
Reaching the world
The app's popularity combined with Gruenewald's desire to see Bible app translations for everyone's “heart language” will keep him and his team busy for awhile.
He said they have 500 active volunteers around the world who are helping to make the app a success. Some are busy providing tech support, and Gruenewald said LifeChurch.tv has a goal of providing such support for 85 percent of the people around the world by the end of 2012.
Gruenewald said the triumph of the Bible app is a testimony to God's faithfulness but also a good example of what an entrepreneurial spirit can do.
“If someone were to list cities that have influence on Internet technology, Oklahoma City might not have been viewed as an Internet hotbed, but here we see one of the largest apps being basically created by a team in Oklahoma City,” he said.