YouVersion Bible App From 0 to 500 Million Downloads: An Entrepreneurial Church?

This is the second in a 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.


R – I find it interesting that businesspeople who attended the church chose the church as a vehicle to pursue these missional purposes with entrepreneurial excellence and with their entrepreneurial gifting.  Why didn’t you just set up a separate para-church organization, rather than doing this through a church and what was the nature of the church that actually welcomed you to do it?

B – I was in business at the time that I came to the church with my wife. You could visibly see how God was working in the lives of a lot of broken people and that resonated with us. I had a background in music in high school and we got plugged into the church music ministry.  I never thought that the technical skills or the learning in business had any application in ministry. 

Then I sold my company.  An article came out in the newspaper about the sale of the company and it had my picture on the front page of the paper.  The executive pastor of the church said, ‘isn’t that the guy who plays keyboard on the worship team?’ 

That led to a lunch conversation where he asked me the question: would you consider coming to work at our church?  I thought about it and said no.  It had nothing to do with money or some of the typical reservations that people might have.  The point is that this lunch meeting was the first time I had ever even connected the dot that what I was doing in business even had any application for Kingdom specific goals.

R – That is an interesting point because many entrepreneurs are disconnected from churches and don’t feel welcome in churches to utilize their market-proven gifts in that context. So, in your case the fact that the pastor approached you, is quite outside the norm.

B – I will give you some context.  His background is that he was an executive at Target, a US retailer, and he left that career to become an executive pastor here when it was a small and fledgling church.  He came to the church when it was just a couple hundred people.  He was just attending and the founding senior pastor [Craig Groeschel] sought him out and said I really need somebody around me that thinks in a business like way and has this experience.  But his particular experience at Target was hiring and talent development and people.  Here he was all of the sudden in a position at the church and that is what led to him seeing the article and saying, here is something.

R – That is quite an interesting concept that you have an executive pastor who was a former executive at Target.  Was it the founding pastor who had the foresight to hire an executive pastor with that business background?

B – Yes, the founding pastor who is still our senior pastor is an incredible leader.  He gets a lot of accolades for his teaching ability but his leadership ability is an even greater strength.  Part of it is that he has this ability to do what is not very intuitive for most leaders and that is to bring people around him that think very differently than he does and really empower them in a way that is somewhat unique.  So he is not at all challenged by having CEO-type people around him in positions of leadership whereas some people would say I don’t want to have anybody in that type of role.  He is not at all threatened by that in any way.  He invites a real level of discourse and discussion and feedback. 

The way we describe it is that he models this because he delegates authority and not responsibility.  He says that I am going to have people around me where I really have hired them for who they are and the way they think, even if they think differently than I do.  I am actually going to empower them with authority to be over this area, not just simply with responsibility, which in many ways is saying I want you to do this the way I would do it, but I am going to give you the responsibility to do it.  Really our culture and the church has been shaped by the type of servant leader and the type of leader that he is.

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