Fifteen years ago on June 29, 2007, Apple started selling the highly anticipated iPhone. At the time, many questioned whether the device would succeed and how people would use it. It turned out to be a tremendous success and has even played a significant role in helping believers spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.
A year after the iPhone's release, Apple opened the doors to its digital App store, offering the free YouVersion Bible App among the first 200 apps in their store.
"I am super grateful for the iPhone because it made it possible to have the Bible app," YouVersion Bible App founder Bobby Gruenewald told CBN News. "We saw the technology had potential to reach people with the Gospel. But we had no idea, though, how God could use it in such a powerful way to reach people in every single country and territory with his word and we've been able to be a really incredible witness to what God has done."
To date, the app has had more than 500 million downloads to devices all over the world. The YouVersion Bible App offers a free Bible experience for smartphones, tablets, and online at Bible.com. YouVersion offers 2,760 Bible versions in 1,831 languages for free, and without advertising.
"I was just trying to figure out how to use technology to help people read the Bible more consistently. And just had enough faith to start, to try something, and of course, what we've seen God do is incredible. Our faith has grown, but in the very beginning had no idea what it was going to become," said Gruenewald.
Gruenewald, who's also a pastor at Life.Church in Oklahoma, tells CBN News the next phase of the app will help people connect with local churches.
"We're really excited to provide that because we really care passionately about the capital "C" Church and we really believe the Bible app is a great tool to help be able to connect people to church and local communities to help them grow spiritually," he explained.
One of Fodor's Best Museums in D.C. -- The Museum of the Bible
YouVersion partnered with the Museum of the Bible to create a high-tech, digital exhibit powered by YouVersion's technology that showcases the here and now of the Bible. One part of the exhibit shows the most popular Bible verses and keyword searches in each country where the YouVersion Bible app is available.
"You can look at it and see what people are searching for and really kind of take a temperature of what's going on in the world and how people are feeling by what people are looking up in the Bible," explained Shannon Bennett, the museum's chief marketing officer.
Bennett believes the app is helping Christians spread the gospel around the world.
"We can really look at YouVersion as a continuation of Guttenberg's tradition of getting the Bible into the hands of everyone around the world," he said. "Maybe you can't download the Bible app in North Korea but if you bring your phone in that has the Bible on it already, there it is in a country that bans the Bible."
Back in Oklahoma, Gruenewald's church constantly monitors how new technology can be used to share the gospel.
"We're not proclaiming that's where everybody's at or even that it's the next big thing," he said. "We're just wanting to do these experiments, try things, we just don't want to be guilty of not making every attempt to share the gospel with people wherever they're at," Gruenewald said.
Currently, Life.Church has about 150 people from all over the world attending its church in the Metaverse.
"What we've found is, it's really interesting. People when they have a physical façade when they're using an avatar, for example, to kind of navigate these virtual environments, they're much more comfortable sharing spiritual and emotional things that are kind of going on inside of them," the pastor explained.
Gruenewald said their experiment with their church in the Metaverse thus far has been positive and they've found a really rich opportunity for ministry.