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God by the Numbers: The Bible, Finland, and the Islamic Republic of Iran


There has been a 1,800% increase in YouVersion Bible app being used in Iran Photo: Colourful Iranian restaurant My Life the Universe and/Flickr

There has been a 1,886% increase in YouVersion Bible app usage in Iran Photo: Colorful Iranian restaurant My Life the Universe and/Flickr

While the world argues and bickers about important things, the foundations have shifted under our feet. “Relevant Issues” are dinosaurs, and we don’t see it.

A church in Oklahoma has published a Bible app YouVersion, now downloaded 200 million times. One business estimate in 2014 said it might be worth 200 million dollars. They reached 100 million downloads in 2013 and 200 million in 2015.

Have you ever been to Finland? Me neither; but while the world was fascinated with old European stuff in London, Paris and Rome, some people up north in the Finland woods moved the world. And they don’t get much credit.

When DOS, MS Windows and Mac OS dominated the computer business, scientists quietly continued with UNIX, an operating system that belonged to everyone. Only serious nerds cared, until Linus Torvalds in Finland made the LINUX core into a free operating system that resembled Windows. Linus UNIX is Linux and it is free.

Then the big money people got involved. Apple is possibly still the wealthiest corporation in the world, and they made generous use of Linux for their operating system. And Google spun Linux into Android for smart phones. Now smart phones, with apps, operate on Linux based systems, and it all goes back to some guy in Finland.

There was also a company in Finland that made things from rubber, like tires and galoshes. They decided to try something new and not rubber, so they started making cell phones; really. I think Nokia still makes car tires but they are mostly famous for their phones.

The people at Nokia searched for new markets, and found them in Africa. Telephone land lines are mostly for wealthy white people, but in poor countries, it’s now easy to get a cheap phone with access to a tower; another revolution from Finland.

The next wave was led by Koreans at Samsung who put the two sides together and flooded the world with smart phones; pocket computers with Linux operating systems, filled with apps. That includes all those Bible apps.

Now back to YouVersion in Oklahoma. They have a chart of nations that increased the use of their app, between the 100 and 200 million markers. The leading number is from the Islamic Republic of Iran, with an increase of 1886% in usage of the YouVersion Bible app. That is a huge number.

Percentage increase of downloads of YouVersion Bible app by country Source: YouVersion.com

Percentage increase of downloads of YouVersion Bible app by country Source: YouVersion.com

Let’s crunch the numbers. If we estimate 10,000 people in Iran now have the Christian Bible on their smart phones, from all app sources, not just YouVersion, and if the increase is 1000% per year, just multiply by ten. If the trend is true, there will be 100 million Bibles in Iran, with a population just under 80 million, in four years. Just blink and there could be more Bibles than people in a place where Christians are severely persecuted, limited only by numbers of people and numbers of smartphones.

Let me correct that, YouVersion tracks active use of their app “the most rapid engagement with Scripture through the app.” In five years, the entire Islamic Republic could be studying the Christian Bible.

Can you feel the ground moving under your feet? This is not the world you grew up in.

Jesus said, “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) and “he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken, that is, created things, so that what cannot be shaken may remain.” (Hebrews 12:26 and 27)

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