(RNS) — I met Bobby Gruenewald not lengthy after YouVersion had created a stir with its 2008 launch. The Bible studying app had been downloaded 83,000 occasions in its first three days. I keep in mind the event so clearly not solely as a result of Bobby and I have been wedged right into a bustling cafeteria in our lodge in Rome looking on Bernini’s “Elephant and Obelisk,” however as a result of Jason Alexander — George Costanza on “Seinfeld”! — was sitting proper beside me.
Alexander was as intensively engaged together with his visitor as we have been intently attempting to not gawk.
However trying again, I notice that, as sensible as “Seinfeld” was, Gruenewald turned out to be the larger attract the long term. The hit TV present’s 26.6 million common weekly viewers pales subsequent to YouVersion’s 500 million downloads, which the app handed this month.
To additional put this achievement in perspective, that’s extra readers of the Bible than the overall inhabitants of the world when Johannes Gutenberg revolutionized the world together with his printed Bible round 1454. Or consider it this fashion: About one-sixteenth of the world’s almost 8 billion folks use YouVersion.
“YouVersion surpassing the midway level to a billion downloads is a serious historic landmark,” Harry Hargrave, CEO of the Museum of the Bible in Washington, mentioned. “Gutenberg modified the world together with his printing press and 180 fairly costly Bibles. Gruenewald is altering ours with just a few hundred million extra, and so they’re all free.”
Gruenewald deflects alternatives to take credit score, praising his staff and redounding something miraculous to God. “YouVersion began with me asking the query: I’m wondering if expertise may assist me learn the Bible extra persistently?” he informed Faith Information Service. “On the time, I used to be a under common Bible reader, however I wished to be extra constant. So, I assumed extra about how expertise would possibly assist me and different folks like me. … We simply began small and God has grown it.”
He mentioned, “It’s the Bible, not our app, that adjustments lives.”
Two elements should be acknowledged in any accounting of YouVersion’s success. One is that Gruenewald and his staff launched the app solely 18 months after Steve Jobs launched the iPhone on Jan. 9, 2007. The second is that YouVersion is free. “YouVersion was created as a ministry of Life.Church, which is a multisite church based mostly in Oklahoma, and we need to steward it effectively,” mentioned Gruenewald. “From the start, YouVersion has been noncommercial and 100% donor supported.”
It stays a major mounted portion of Life.Church’s annual funds, and supported by way of 27 major partners.
On the Museum of the Bible, guests can see precise pages from a Gutenberg Bible. A brief stroll away is the primary iPhone to obtain YouVersion, which Gruenewald tracked down and donated to the museum. It’s appropriately displayed embedded in a trendy white reproduction of the Gutenberg press and, in true geek style, an LCD backdrop retains a working whole of the app’s downloads.
Pages of a Gutenberg promote at this time for as a lot as $150,000. Will that 2008 iPhone fetch as a lot in just a few centuries? It’s greater than a monetary query. Because the adage amongst many Christians teams goes, “Solely two issues final eternally, folks and God’s phrase.”
(Jerry Pattengale, the College Professor at Indiana Wesleyan College, is without doubt one of the founders of the Museum of the Bible and creator of the forthcoming “The New E-book of Christian Martyrs.” The views expressed on this commentary don’t essentially mirror these of Faith Information Service.)