The makers of the popular Bible app YouVersion, who have logged 72 million downloads onto smartphones and tablets, are tracking downloads of their Christmas Story reading plan in somewhat similar fashion to the way the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) does with Santa Claus every year.
Every Christmas season NORAD "helps ordinary citizens track Santa's progress as he delivers gifts to good little boys and girls around the world.
"Now, for the first time, you'll also be able to track the beloved story that gave birth to the season," stated YouVersion this week.
YouVersion already offers more than 400 versions of the Bible available free in more than 200 different languages, and there seems to be no end in sight. "We're literally reading the Bible like never before anytime and anywhere with millions of new people starting every month," says LifeChurch.tv Pastor Bobby Gruenewald, 36, the app's creator.
A running tally of everyone who reads the story of the birth of Jesus, worldwide, through YouVersion can be seen at http://christmas.youversion.com/ while stars light up at every download on an online global map.
"Every time a reader clicks on the story, a star lights up on the site's world map and the ticker grows by one more soul," according to YouVersion.
More than 38 million downloads of the Christmas Story had been recorded at the time of writing this article on Thursday.
Gruenewald estimates tens of thousands of readings every day of The Christmas Story. "Santa and his elves won't be the only busy team this season," YouVersion stated.
Among the first 200 apps offered as part of Apple's app store, YouVersion is recognized by Appsfire and ranked #3 and #9 "Best App of All Time" for iPad and iPhone, respectively.
Gruenewald came up with the idea of using technology to make the Bible more accessible in daily life as he was waiting in a security line at Chicago O'Hare International Airport. Before his plane departed, he'd already registered the domain name of YouVersion.com.
"We had no idea what to expect when we started YouVersion and any expectations that we began to have were blow away," said Gruenewald. "When we first launched the Bible App we anticipated there might be 80,000 or 90,000 people in the first year that would have downloaded it. We exceeded that expectation in the first three days of it being available.
"So now when you fast forward, there have been over 71 million devices that have installed the app, but more importantly to us there have been a collective 35 billion minutes using the Bible App to be able to engage in God's word," he added. "This is definitely something we anticipated, but by seeing this we really believe that it's possible now to see hundreds of millions, if not a billion different people using the Bible and making it part of their everyday life."
YouTube video of Gruenwald: Why are we tracking the Christmas story?