The Bible Project: Bringing the stories of Scripture to life
Since our early days when we created the first-ever mobile app for a church, our team at Subsplash has been passionate about discovering new ways to use technology to make the truth of Jesus incredibly accessible.
Thousands of ministries around the world are using the Subsplash Platform to engage their communities with gospel content, and in The Church App we’re now featuring an innovative collection of videos from The Bible Project! This Portland-based animation studio creates free, powerful content that illuminates and explains the narrative of Scripture in new and engaging ways. Their work is a remarkable example of innovating within the realm of technology to reach more people with the gospel.
We recently had the opportunity to connect with Ken Weigel, Senior Director of Strategy at The Bible Project, to hear their story and get a glimpse into what drives their mission.
Q: What is the mission of The Bible Project?
A: The Bible Project is a crowdfunded nonprofit based in Portland, Oregon that creates free content in order to help people experience the Bible as a unified story that leads to Jesus.
For a lot of people, the Bible is really intimidating. It’s confusing, it feels contradictory, it feels unapproachable. But they’re still curious about it.
There’s something really beautiful when people can begin to read the Scriptures for themselves and engage it with a degree of real understanding—not just reading it, getting confused, and then borrowing someone else’s conclusion.
So here at The Bible Project, we want people to be able to approach the Bible with confidence and see Jesus throughout.
Q: How did The Bible Project get started?
A: Jon Collins (co-founder) is an expert in visual explanation, and Tim Mackie, PhD (co-founder) is a biblical scholar and former pastor. A lot of our videos are a conversation between Tim and Jon, as we really felt like that was missing out there in the world—a safe place for someone to ask questions. There’s an appetite to hear two people having a very approachable conversation around Scripture.
When The Bible Project got started, there weren’t a lot of great resources to help somebody curious about the Bible find out more. There was a lot of content for “Bible nerds,” and there was a lot of curriculum at the church level, but there was nothing short, engaging, visually stunning, and good enough that it could be sold—but was actually free.
Q: Why is The Bible Project crowdfunded?
A: There’s a deep conviction within our entire organization that we couldn’t do this without the crowd. We really wanted the crowd to be a feedback loop, for us to be able to ask, “Is this any good? Do you want more of this?”
So we had a fundraising thermometer up, and as that thermometer filled our animators would be able to do a video. There’s something really amazing to be able to watch a video get fully funded. People felt like they owned it, and to a huge degree they do. They’re the ones who make it all happen, and we march at their rhythm.
Q: How does your location in Portland contribute to how you innovate in this space?
A: The videos that we make are innovative, and I think a lot of times really innovative ideas have to happen outside of a typical context. For a lot of people around the world, when they think of great theology they don’t think of animated videos or Portland.
The Portland area and the Northwest as a whole have this inherited idea of, “We’re just gonna go! We’re just gonna start something and see if it works.”
If we had been in any other part of the world, we might have said, “Wait—let’s stop, talk to more people, get their advice and learn from what they’ve done.” So there was a little bit of a pioneering spirit.
In Portland or Seattle—and many more cities now—you don’t take faith for granted. In a restaurant, for example, you wouldn’t assume that everyone at the table prays before they eat. The way we do things is influenced by a Portland mentality, which says, “You might not know this. And we may not all agree.” And that resonates with people around the world.
Q: What are some of the moments that make the mission behind The Bible Project worth it?
A: We love to hear stories like, “Wow, this is really encouraging to me personally,” or “I use this at my youth group,” or “This is something I watch with my kids before we go to bed,” or “My wife and I are talking about Scripture in a way that we never were before.” It’s personal stories from pastors, teachers, 13-year olds, and 64-year olds reading the Bible for the first time with new insights.
When we can help people realize they don’t have to go back to school in order to understand deep things about the Bible that previously felt mysterious, that’s the most encouraging feedback we get.
Q: How does the team at The Bible Project stay innovative and keep things fresh?
A: Doing the same style over and over again can really burn out creatives. For a lot of artists, that’s really suffocating and debilitating. Jon and Tim didn’t want to have people working on the exact same thing every day.
We involve all our creative team in deciding what new series will look like, and each series has a particular look and feel. They pick a visual style that lends itself best to the subject matter—and pushes our artists to grow. We’re always asking, “What is the best visual style that helps to explain the content in a way that doesn’t distract but is actually the most helpful for viewers to understand things they hadn’t before?”
Q: What is The Bible Project working on right now, and how will it continue to innovate into the future?
A: Right now we’re working really hard to get our content produced in as many languages as possible. We have a target to get 80% of our library content translated into 55 languages within the next 7–10 years. That represents about 99% of the world’s population!
Almost half of our viewers and patrons are outside the United States. There are more people in the Philippines who watch our videos than, say, the state of Alabama. Seeing this global need for resources has led us to take more serious steps into translation.
We realize that for certain cultures a video in English—regardless of how many subtitles we put on—is just not the most ideal form of consuming that content. We want to get our content fully localized so that people in those areas can come to understand the Bible in their heart language.