When Bible apps began to appear in the App Store and the Android Market, very few would have predicted the rapid growth and quick acceptance of the technology by millions within the faith community and beyond.
According to a news release from Audio Bible Ministry Faith Comes By Hearing (FCBH), with the success of apps like YouVersion, Olive Tree and FCBH’s Bible.is, the way people access God’s Word has been dramatically transformed.
Because of the portability of the devices the apps run on, people can essentially carry their Bible with them wherever they go. FCBH said in some cases, they have access to Scripture in multiple versions and languages right in the palm of their hand.
With the ministry’s Bible.is, users can choose from more than 320 versions across 188 languages – which FCBH said is by far the largest, most diverse offering on a single app.
FCBH said in addition to providing the Bible text in multiple versions and languages, Bible.is also includes word-for-word Audio Scripture in every language available on the app.
The audio is key for those doing Great Commission work across the globe according to Morgan Jackson, the international director at Faith Comes By Hearing.
“Half of the world cannot read. Which means God’s Word is not accessible to them through a printed Bible,” said Jackson. “Audio is the only format useful to these folks, and this technology provides one more way to reach them.”
FCBH said the ministry has received testimonies from people who have used their mobile devices to share the Bible while on mission trips. Jackson himself is always ready with his iPhone while traveling on behalf of the ministry.
He said in the news release, “Whenever I meet someone I know speaks a language other than English, I ask them what their first language is.” He said that is often a language available on the ministry’s app, adding, “I never get tired of seeing the expression on their face when they hear the Word of God – in their heart language – coming from my phone.”
Of course, not everyone has a smartphone
FCBH said it’s easy to see how this technology works for those with access to the Internet, but the question remains, “How can this technology have an impact on poorer areas of the world? Smartphones are expensive and Internet access is limited in these areas, right?”
Troy Carl, FCBH’s National Director, and the person responsible for the development and implementation of the Bible.is app, said in the news release, “There are currently more than 5 billion cell phone subscriptions in the world. That’s two-thirds of the world’s population! Now, not all of them have smartphones that run apps, but there are groups currently working to ensure that 5 billion smartphones will be in the market by 2015.”
Carl added, “…There are more cell phones in Saudi Arabia than people. The ratio is something like 1.5 to 1.”
Carl said that groups like Google, World Bank and others have come together to form a group whose goal is to provide Internet access to the poorest regions on the planet. The group is called O3B, which stand for “other 3 billion,” a reference to those currently without access. The former pastor turned Bible tech guru believes “(O3B’s) sizable resources give them a very real chance” to make this a reality.
“I realize the numbers can be overwhelming,” said Carl in the release. “But believe me, they’re only going to continue to grow – which, of course, is great news. As more and more people have access to the Internet through cell phones, they’ll also have access to God’s Word in both text and audio on Bible.is.”
More languages mean greater reach
Even before its venture into the app world, Faith Comes By Hearing was partnering with groups like Wycliffe Bible Translators and national Bible societies to reach the poor and illiterate people of the world using audio Bibles.
Namely, through devices like the Proclaimer – a self-contained, solar powered, audio playback device that can be loaded with any of the New Testament recordings within the ministry’s vast catalogue of holdings. According to the news release, the ministry currently offers audio Scriptures in 546 languages and more than 284,000 Proclaimers have been put into use.
Jackson said that each of these languages will eventually be available on Bible.is. Moreover, as a result of Faith Comes By Hearing’s longtime relationships with Bible translators like Wycliffe, the ministry has set a goal to complete 2,000 language recordings by the year 2016 – with plans to have both text and audio on the app for each of them.
“Our mission has always been to reach the world with God’s Word in audio,” Jackson said in the release.
He continued, “As we were building a large library of audio Bibles, we had no idea of the technology that would come about to help deliver them. First the Internet, then digital technology led to the Proclaimer and now apps have brought them both together. Like I said, we didn’t know, but God did.”
FCBH said its ministry leadership believes that God has provided the tools – in this case technology – to reach the world with the message of the Good News.
For more information on Faith Comes By Hearing, visit www.FaithComesByHearing.com