Bible apps have brought a trove of resources to anyone with a smartphone—and an internet connection.
But after hearing feedback from Christians in places where people can’t access or afford high-speed broadband, the team behind YouVersion’s Bible app recently launched an app that doesn’t need a connection.
Designed for users in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, the Bible App Lite is a space-saving app that, once downloaded, can be used entirely offline. It still includes YouVersion’s key features: the Bible reader, audio Bibles, verses of the day, and prayers.
So far, more than four million people have downloaded the lite version of the app, and it has reached the top 10 in the Google Play store in 17 African countries and the No. 1 spot in Kenya, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to YouVersion.
Globally, more than a billion people don’t have access to affordable broadband internet, according to a 2020 report published by the Alliance for Affordable Internet. Though mobile broadband prices are dropping, Africa remains the region with the least access, the report found.
While most towns have internet connectivity, many of Africa’s rural areas still struggle with it, said Kevin Muriithi Ndereba, a lecturer at St Paul’s University and a pastor in Kenya.
He told CT that sermons, Bible plans, and Bible commentaries can be difficult to retrieve online. He listens to Bible podcasts only to have them cut off midway through his drives.
Muriithi Ndereba has encouraged “offline pastors” to remember their pastoral care does not depend on whether their phone has a strong internet connection. “Do not be anxious about your lack of technological tools,” he wrote for The Gospel Coalition Africa in 2020. “Do not fear the unfamiliar online platforms.”
Ministries have worked to provide Bible resources to Christians in Africa in a variety of formats, including radio and TV broadcasts, audio Bible players, and e-readers. The app offers the searchability and ease of online Bibles but with content that can be downloaded to be available offline.
YouVersion heard positive feedback from early users involved in the app’s pilot program in Africa last year. One called it the best Bible available without data, and another shared how he read the Bible for the first time because of the app.
YouVersion, developed by Life.Church in Oklahoma, partnered with the global Bible ministry Biblica to create the lite app.
“For most of us in the developed world, always-on data is a fact of life. We barely think about how much data a particular app consumes, or if we will have a reliable cellphone connection,” said Mark Finzel, Biblica’s vice president of digital innovation. “This is not the reality for much of the developing world. Internet speeds and costs vary significantly from one country to another.”
The goal was to give users as many features as possible without requiring mobile data. “The freedom of offline functionality is key,” he said.
Beyond Africa, Bible App Lite has since launched in India, Nepal, Pakistan, Myanmar, and Bangladesh, with plans to expand to additional countries in the next few months.
“Our desire is to reach every person, in every part of the world, with God’s Word in their heart language,” said Bobby Gruenewald, YouVersion’s founder and CEO, in a statement. “This new app enables us to reach tens of millions of new people that were difficult to reach with the media-rich Bible App.”