The popular Bible mobile app YouVersion has amassed over 500 million installs after starting as one of only 200 free apps in the iOS App Store in 2008.
The milestone was announced on Wednesday in a “verse of the day” video from Craig Groeschel, the founding pastor of Life.Church, which created the app. He called the achievement “a testimony to the goodness of God and the power of His word.”
“As of today, the YouVersion Bible app is now on one-half of a billion devices around the world,” he said. “To celebrate this moment, our verse of the day is Hebrews 4:12, which says, ‘For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.’”
Bobby Gruenewald, the founder of the app, told The Christian Post in an interview Thursday that before the platform was created, he was “below average” in the duration and frequency he would read the Bible.
In the hopes of changing this, YouVersion was created as a website first, hoping that it would increase his desire and the desire of others to read the Bible more consistently and draw an audience of Bible readers.
But, he said the website “failed” at first. Despite drawing a lot of attention, there wasn’t a continued interest in those who used the website.
Gruenewald said he and his team realized that the YouVersion website was unsuccessful because it was not a mobile-friendly platform. With the hope of potentially keeping a more expansive audience engaged, they launched the YouVersion app in July 2008 as the only Bible app available when the App Store first came into existence.
During the first weekend after the app was released, the app brought 83,000 installs, a number Gruenewald didn’t think would be hit until after a year of being launched.
“The entire ministry was about me getting to read the Bible more because I always wanted to read the Bible more, and I thought there were probably more people in my situation,” Gruenewald stated. “And, of course, we had no idea of what it would become. It started simple and as a small effort.
“It’s extremely humbling to have reached 500 million downloads. Just the fact that God could do something so big through us,” Gruenewald added. “It’s important that people understand that this is something God did, not us. We can’t take credit for this. God did this through me, and it’s so crazy that God would use me. And there’s a lot more that God will do and can do in future.”
When the YouVersion app first launched, the app was only available in two languages: English and Spanish.
Now, there are over 1,750 languages in which the Bible can be read within the app. Since 2010, the app has allowed users to participate in Bible plans on different faith-based topics as well as read devotionals and Scripture commentaries.
In 2017, the app began allowing users to select “friends” to be in community with through the platform.
The app also offers a guided-prayer function that gives users guidance and support as they connect with God’s word.
In 2020, the app launched the “verse of the day,” which allows users to view new interactive video content geared towards a different Scripture Verse daily.
Gruenewald said the most rewarding part of his involvement with the app is witnessing the many lives that have changed through the platform.
He said that his 10-year-old daughter recently downloaded the app and is working on a devotional plan with her friends.
He said the feature in the app called “streak,” which counts the days the app is used, has increased his usage in the past few years. He currently has an over 1,560-day streak.
“The app changed how much I read the bible, which has impacted my family and how I lead them,” the father of four children admitted to CP. “I have heard numerous stories that have been reported about how the YouVersion app has helped people overcome severe depression, suicidal thoughts or saved their lives or restored their broken marriages and relationships.”
“God spoke to them through the app. Their eternity is changed,” he added. “And it’s not the app, it’s the Bible that is transformative.”
Gruenewald said he has high hopes for the future of the app and would like to continue adding new content areas. He said what people have seen of YouVersion so far is simply the beginning of what’s to come.
“We have been in a process of expanding the features of the app to focus more on intimacy with God,” Gruenewald said. “The Bible is not the only pathway to intimacy with God, but there is also prayer, worship, generosity and community.”
“Over time, I have grown to think much more is possible,” he continued. “And when we started, I would have never thought this would be the outcome.”