When the App Store launched for iPhones on July 10, 2008, users could check Facebook, chat on AOL Instant Messenger, and read the Bible. The YouVersion Bible App, created by Life.Church and pastor Bobby Gruenewald, was downloaded more than 83,000 times over the first weekend, surpassing the yearly goal in just three days.
“When we submitted the app for approval, we didn’t even know if it would make it into the App Store on opening day or even at all,” Gruenewald said. “It ended up being one of only a couple hundred free apps available that first day and went on to have an incredible first weekend. Honestly, our minds were blown.”
Unlike AOL Instant Messenger and thousands of other apps that have come and gone, the Bible App remains a fixture on the App Store and the subsequent platforms created for other smartphones. According to a YouVersion press release, users have installed the app more than 575 million times.
Currently, they report 95 installs, 1,070 verse shares, and 3,200 annotations, highlights, or bookmarks of a verse every minute of the day.
On the App Store’s opening day, the biblical text was available in two languages. Currently, readers can access the Bible in 2,000 languages in the app. In the next 10 years, YouVersion hopes to have at least some portion of the text available in all of the more than 7,000 languages spoken. The Bible App itself is localized with everything in the app translated into 64 languages, twice as many as Facebook.
As users have read and shared Bible passages, certain verses have stood out. The most popular verse in the history of YouVersion’s Bible App is Isaiah 41:10, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand” (CSB). Those encouraging words from the prophet Isaiah have topped YouVersion’s annual list of popular verses four times, including in 2022.
The second most popular verse on the Bible App in the past 15 years is Philippians 4:6, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (CSB). This verse was the verse of the year three times, including in 2019. Joshua 1:9, “Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (CSB), is the third most popular verse, topping the annual list twice, including in 2017.
Users have also turned to the app to help them find verses related to certain themes. “Love” is consistently the most searched-for term on YouVersion and other online Bible resources. In the Bible App’s first 15 years, love, faith and peace have been terms consistently in the top 10.
The COVID-19 pandemic drove many to Scripture, as March 15, 2020, was the second-highest usage day on YouVersion to that point. That year, “fear” spiked as one of the top searched-for terms. But it still ranked below “love,” “healing,” “peace,” “faith,” and “strength.” In the past two years, “fear” has fallen as a search term. In 2021 and 2022, it ranked at the bottom of the top 10.