The popular mobile Bible app YouVersion has partnered with an alliance of 10 leading Bible translation organizations to help reach the goal of making the Gospel available to 95% of the world’s population by 2033.
The collaboration plan, which some initially deemed impossible in this lifetime, will also aim to see the New Testament available in 99.96% of the languages available.
Ideas for theillumiNations partnership have been brewing since 2010 at an organized launch gathering. The association was created as 3,732 languages of the world's over 7,000 languages have little or no translated Scripture.
“The Bible transforms lives, and we want to give back and bring awareness,” YouVersion Founder Bobby Gruenewald told The Christian Post in an interview. “It’s important that people know that God speaks their languages too.”
Gruenewald created YouVersion, commonly known as the Bible app, in 2008 when he was struggling to establish a consistent pattern in the time he spent reading the Bible. Since its inception, the app alone has been installed on more than 400 million unique devices and downloaded in every country on earth.
Gruenewald said that while the app has seen millions "draw nearer to the Bible," the ministry realized that it needed to expand to other languages, including "smaller languages have never heard Jesus' words."
“As a ministry, we made a commitment to make the Bible available in everyone’s heart languages," he said.
Missio Nexus — the largest evangelistic association of churches and organizations in North America — reported in 2016 that about one-sixth of the world's population (1.3 billion people) don't have a translation of the complete Bible in the language they speak best.
Although Gruenewald said that YouVersion staff are not translators, their role in the partnership will entail advocacy to enhance the work that translators with IllumiNations' partner organizations will do in the next dozen years.
Organizations involved in the IllumiNaitions alliance include American Bible Society, Biblica, Deaf Bible Society, Lutheran Bible Translators, Seed Company, SIL International, United Bible Societies, The Word for the World, Pioneer Bible Translators and Wycliffe Bible Translators USA.
The work needed to translate the Bible into different dialects, Gruenewald said, is no easy feat. It once took up to 12 years for a single translation to happen.
Originally, Bibles were mostly translated through long-term missions work. Missionaries would travel to areas that never heard the Gospel translated in their languages. They would immerse themselves among the people to learn their languages and ultimately aid in Bible translation efforts.
But over time, with advancements in technology and translation methodologies, the translation process has sped up.
“Technology gives momentum around bible translations because it was very difficult to translate because people who speak these languages live in different areas and tribes,” Gruenewald said. “Now methodologies have changed partly due to technology, as well as more donors get even more excited about this. The willingness of the leaders of translations ministries to put aside logos and brands to get work done and completed is what has led to these advancements.”
Gruenewald said he hopes more people will donate to the financial cause of achieving more Bible translations. He also hopes YouVersion will impact many more lives and lead to more people wanting to participate in the Bible translation effort.
“This is a big, audacious and aggressive goal, but this is a God-centered plan that has brought so much unity and faith. And when there is great unity and faith, God answers,” he added.
In an earlier interview with CP, Mart Green, the ministry investment officer of Hobby Lobby, said the illumiNations partnership provides Bible translation organizations collaboration and a centralized database that allows them to accomplish more together than they can apart.
“None of our ministry partners can say that they are going to eradicate Bible poverty with their organization,” Green said. “But when we come together, [they] can now say that because they have nine other teammates.”