YouVersion Bible App From 0 to 500 Million Downloads: How Did It Start?

This series of four blog posts is based on an interview by Dr. Richard (Rick) J. Goossen with Bobby Gruenewald.  Since the YouVersion Bible App recently passed 500 million downloads we decided to highlight this previous interview with Bobby Gruenewald through a series of blog posts.


The YouVersion Bible App recently passed 500 million downloads.  How did the YouVersion Bible App get its start and who is behind it?  It began with a low-key, self-deprecating—but highly talented—fellow named Bobby Gruenewald.  Who is he and what is the story behind the origins of the YouVersion Bible App? Here are extracts of my interview with Bobby Gruenewald.

R – You wear many hats.  What’s your position and what do you do?

B – My title is Pastor and Innovation Leader at Life Church, based in Oklahoma City, OK.  We are a multi-site church with locations in seven different states in the US.  My responsibilities are broader than just the YouVersion Bible App, which is something that I started within the church back in 2006.  It has been this humbling journey that we have been on where God has done the unexpected. 

R –What is Life Church and what is the relationship with the YouVersion Bible app?

B – At our church we are very evangelistic in our approach.  The church began in 1996 and has grown from a handful of people to over 70,000 people attending per weekend.  We have 24 locations in Oklahoma City and surrounding suburbs and, I think, a total of about 140 services.  There is as many as eight services at any given location on a weekend. It doesn’t feel like you are coming to church in a stadium.  It feels like you are coming to a church of 700 people.

R – Describe how YouVersion fits into the Life Church context, just to give people a sense of what your church is about.  How does a church birth something like a YouVersion Bible app?

B – A church is made up of the people that are a part of the church.  It is less about the institution and more about the people.  So what we do as a church is really a product of who the people are that come to our church.  I was one of those people that was attending the church.  My background is in business and technology.  Our church is passionate about reaching people.  We have this phrase that we will do anything short of sin to reach people for Christ and occasionally we might actually cross the line. 

R – What is the role of entrepreneurial thinking?

B - We take a very entrepreneurial approach to how we reach people.  Almost all of our leaders are former business people in terms of our backgrounds.  We are people whose lives were changed or impacted by the church and so we transitioned into these roles of leading the church.  In fact, our core leadership team has been in place for 17 years now.  We were all probably among the first 1,000 people that attended the church. 

R – How important is timing?

B - We feel that we are alive at a really unique time in history.  This has been on my heart personally and I shared it with the rest of our leaders and they embraced this concept.  If you look at the explosion of the global population and look at the time that that is happening, it is almost straight up like a hockey stick during this segment of history that we occupy.  It didn’t happen at any other time in human history.  At the exact same moment in time that that is happening we have this explosion of tools and technology that have the potential to knit this population together like never before in history. 

R – Are you a steward of an opportunity?

B - When we feel called to lead people to Christ you can look at the alignment of those two things and say that God could have placed us here anytime on this timeline, but he chose to place us here during this time.  You could say it is a huge responsibility or huge opportunity.  We actually say it is a huge responsibility.  We feel like we are compelled to leverage these tools and this technology to reach people in this time.  So as a church missionally we feel called to do this as part of what we do as the mission of our church.  That is the reason that YouVersion, as well as a handful of fairly significant technology related projects, are part of what we do as a church.

NOTE: This interview was edited by Dr. Richard (Rick) J. Goossen and conducted with Bobby Gruenewald on November 18th, 2015 in Toronto, Canada.