Bobby Gruenewald, creator of the world-renowned YouVersion Bible app, spoke to Liberty University students at Friday's Convocation about the conception of the app and what God has planned for this generation.
Gruenewald traces the origins of the now-popular smartphone application to the security checkpoint at Chicago O’Hare International Airport in October 2006. He said the idea for a website dedicated to the Bible came to him during "800 feet of marketing research" (observing people on his walk to the terminal). However, the idea was initially a failure.
It was the decision to make the webpage accessible on the BlackBerry — done on a whim before shutting down the attempt altogether — that triggered the beginnings of the app's eventual success.
"What we realized was that it changed the way we were engaging the Bible because we had this device that was with us at all times," Gruenewald said about the ease of accessing the Bible on a mobile phone.
The free YouVersion Bible app is now available in 450 languages and has been downloaded on more than 100 million smartphones around the world.
Gruenewald realized the full impact of the YouVersion ministry when Apple first launched the App Store for the iPhone in July 2008. YouVersion was one of the first apps presented in the online store and more than 83,000 people downloaded the Bible onto their phones within four days.
After his unsuccessful beginnings, Gruenewald said the app's popularity now "doesn't make sense except for the fact that it is entirely something that God's doing."
YouVersion now works with a coalition of publishers and translators to expand the digital ministry to parts of the world that may have difficulty receiving the Bible. Gruenewald said the ministry has logged "over a billion hours in time that have been spent using the app to engage in God's Word."
He said he believes such growth will make this generation "the most Bible-engaged generation in history."