The world’s most popular Bible app marked its 15th anniversary in July. The YouVersion app is now installed on 575 million devices in 2,000 languages. 95 of its apps are installed every minute.
It was just one of 800 apps available when Apple launched its iOS App Store 15 years ago. Today there are 1.6 million apps with YouVersion the dominant Bible app.
“Over the last 15 years, YouVersion has leveraged industry innovations to help people build consistent Bible engagement habits, including using push notification reminders, gamification features like streaks, and community features like friendships and prayer,” the company said in a media release.
The app is the brainchild of Bobby Gruenewald, a pastor and innovation leader at Oklahoma’s Life.Church as well as YouVersion CEO. He told The Christian Post: “The Bible App has been an effective tool to help people read the Bible more consistently, but I don’t think the print Bible is going away. In fact, many of our users regularly use both. Ultimately, we want people to spend time in God’s Word every day in whatever format works best for them. And while we naturally see a spike in the use of the Bible App every Sunday, we’re encouraged to see consistent Bible engagement throughout the week.”
John Dyer, vice president for enrolment and educational technology and assistant professor of theological studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, also doesn’t believe the printed Bible will be made obsolete by digital versions.
He’s the author of People of the Screen: How Evangelicals Created the Digital Bible and How It Shapes Their Reading of Scripture. He told The Christian Post: “It appears the Bible is following the larger trend in the book and eBook industry. Initially, many people predicted the Kindles, Nooks and iPads would completely replace paper books, but after a few decades, it appears people still like reading and studying printed books, including the Scriptures.”
“The Bible is available on print, screen and audio. It has tons of little numbers added a few centuries ago (verses), commentaries, maps, and even interactivity. All of these can be helpful, and all of them can be formative in both positive and negative ways. What matters is that we pay attention,” Mr Dyer asserted. However, he worries that apps might make Christians lazier when it comes to committing Scripture to memory.
In its 2022 State of the Bible report, the American Bible Society found that 69% of Bible users read from the printed Bible while 48% used a Bible app on a phone, tablet or computer, with the categories overlapping. “You might think no one is reading printed Bibles anymore. Actually, print is still the Bible format used most often. Nearly seven out of 10 Bible users say they have read on their own in the past month from a printed version of the Bible, but several tech options are vying for second place, chosen by nearly half of Bible users,” the report said.
A 2018 research project called Digital Millennials and the Bible produced by the Bible Society in partnership with the Barna Group and the CODEC Research Centre for Digital Theology at Durham University found the print version to be the more popular choice of young people by 47% to 28%.
The Christian Post reports women preferred the print version by 50% to 24% for digital. More men (31%) than women preferred the app, but 43% of men still listed a print Bible as their top choice to engage with the Word of God.
But technology could change that as Pastor Guenewald explains: “We believe we’re just at the beginning of what God wants to do through YouVersion. Even after 15 years, our perspective is that our story isn’t in the past tense, but it’s a story that has a really big future in front of it as we remain focused on how to help millions of people build intimacy with God through His Word.”