Religion Unplugged

The Bible app YouVersion has been installed on over 500 million devices worldwide since its launch in 2008, creators announced Wednesday. It’s the first faith-based app to reach that number.

YouVersion reported that its users read or listened to about 64 billion chapters of the Bible on the app this year. That’s a significant increase from the past two years - 52 billion in 2020 and 41 billion in 2019. YouVersion attributes the growth to an increasing shift toward online worship and the app’s community focus.

YouVersion app

A person using the YouVersion Bible app. PICTURE: Courtesy of YouVersion. 

"We hear incredible stories from our YouVersion Community about what makes them open the app and how the Bible has transformed their lives,” YouVersion Director Brian Russell told ReligionUnplugged. “Oftentimes they’re looking for help to battle anxiety, break an addiction or save a relationship.” 

YouVersion contains over 2,600 Bible versions including translations in 1,760 languages, a number that grows as soon as new translations are completed. One goal of YouVersion’s creators is to make the Bible accessible for all. 

That also includes an understanding of online spaces and a desire to foster community there. Rather than appearing as a textbook Bible transferred onto a phone screen, YouVersion’s interface presents itself as a platform built for worship and spiritual growth. The Bible is a natural part of that.

YouVersion founder Bobby Gruenewald spoke to in June about the ways his church, Life.Church, has worked to make virtual worship possible and popular.

Life.Church, based out of Oklahoma City, launched a fully virtual church campus in 2006. In terms of online church services, they were far ahead of the curve. Likewise, when YouVersion launched in 2008, it was one of the first 200 free apps in Apple’s app store.

The team’s dedication to technology and anticipation of the growth of mobile apps aided the construction of a successful platform, and it remains successful by that same eye for innovation and care for Christian community.

The YouVersion app is a virtual Bible, audiobook, prayer journal, highlighter, Bible study tool, podcast platform, daily devotional and social platform all in one. On the most basic level, it’s possible to highlight, bookmark and make notes on verses - much like a physical Bible.

But there are also ways to connect with friends and share insights with them. Reading plans include structured devotional topics, from marriage to anxiety. A daily verse, displayed on the homepage, is presented in a handful of ready-made, aesthetically pleasing graphics to share over text, email and social platforms.

"We are passionate about helping people experience Scripture within the context of community because we recognize it’s one way to help people dive deeper into the Bible and grow closer to God,” Russell said. “For example, Plans with Friends allows people to connect in the app with a trusted group of friends to discuss, reflect, encourage, and ask questions about what they’re reading in the Bible."

It’s these features, 13 years after the app’s launch, that mark its success as a faith community and explain its appeal.

Next year, YouVersion plans to expand by adding more resources for pastors and church leaders.

Its success also seems to suggest truths about the future of virtual worship. People are looking for a faith community, whether that’s in a church building or on an app.