The YouVersion Chinese edition app is helping missionaries distribute Bibles to cell phone users throughout China.
Last year, Smartphone sales in China reached nearly 30 million. Apps, which can be downloaded from internet to phone, have become increasingly popular amongst the country’s techno-savvy adolescent and young-adult age group.
As the YouVersion app allows users to download the entire Bible onto their Smartphone, missionaries and theologians see this as an opportunity for Bible distribution to China’s new generation.
“Every time I see more and more people passing by in the Beijing subway incessantly using their cellphones, I would have this thought, 'If only there is a free and applicable platform that delivers the Bible and gospel into their hands, how good would that be,’” said Rev. Xi-Ping Zhang, executive director of Chinese Christian Training Resource Center (CCTRC), to Gospel Herald.
The effectiveness of Bible distribution in China remains a hotly-debated subject.
The state-run church maintains that current domestic Bible production is meeting the demand for the official estimate of 16 million Christiains in China. Ever month, Amity Printing Co., the only authorized Bible-printing company in China reportedly prints 1 million copies of the scripture.
Nonetheless, others believe that the actual number of Christians is more than 100 million, which if true means that there are not enough Bibles in China. In addition, sources within the country's underground church often report that not enough Bibles are being distributed especially in China’s impoverished rural sectors.
Many theologians and missionaries living abroad agree that Bible illiteracy remains a problem amongst believers and nonbelievers alike in the nation of over 1.3 billion people.
YouVersion was the brainchild of LifeChurch.tv, one of America's top 10 largest churches. Since its release, YouVersion has been downloaded more than 11 million times in more than 20 different languages, on nine different platforms.
Last December, YouVersion creators cooperated with Chinese developers, Jidutu-wiki, to release the Chinese-language edition for the app. Even so, the current YouVersion Chinese edition remains in developmental beta-phase, according to a blog entry by its creators.
However imperfect, the app is still seen as a godsend by missionaries working in the field.
“Thank God,” said Zhang, “YouVersion has made this [tool] into reality.”