Ryan Smith of Museum of the Bible | Episode 009

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In today’s episode, Kenny Jahng and DJ Chuang talks with Ryan Smith, who works in the Office of the President of the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C.

Listen as they share about the importance of integrating technology to have people from all over the world engage with the Bible.

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[ 1:41 ] Like our mission statement says, to invite people to engage with the Bible in all of the world. Yeah, that’ll get you up early in the morning, keep you up late at night because you’re so excited about it. So it’s joyful.

[ 6:49 ] The mission statement of Museum of the Bible is to invite all people to engage with the Bible, and that’s three things. See someone your eyes, hear with your ears and then do something with your body. We know that’s the way that you learn. That’s a 21st century learning model.

[ 9:12 ] And then, we say, hey, that’s part of this plan, you know, that’s something that was meant to be in it. It was happening for a reason because this museum is engaging millions and millions of people and you know, it’s a book that has relevance.

[ 17:31 ] If technologist are doing it for the world, for some of the biggest companies in the world to make profit, why can’t we do it to engage people with the Bible? I mean, that’s a passion of mine.

[ 20:07 ] You’re what you are and who you can be could be used for that, for people to engage with the Bible.


DJ Chuang: Welcome to another episode of the Future.BIBLE Podcast. My name is DJ Chuang and I’m joined with my co host Kenny Jahng, who’s on the East Coast. We’re on the West Coast and we just talked over each other, but that’s okay because this is a live recording and we are so thrilled to be joined with a very special guest. His name is Ryan Smith and he works with the Office of the President at Museum of the Bible, and so we’re going to talk about a lot of Bible and a lot of technology. Ryan, thank you so much for making time to join us.

Ryan: Oh, thanks so much for having me on. It’s an honor.

Kenny: So Ryan, we’re excited. First of all, Let’s just get this out of the housekeeping out of the way. If you’ve not been to DC and not been to the Museum of the Bible, you need to almost like stop this recording and start planning your trip. It is a fantastic, I don’t know what to call it, Institutional establishment experiences, what I call it to friends. Ryan, before we get started, why don’t you share with us what is your role at the museum? I just love the fact that you actually work there. It’s a neat place to be.

Ryan: Yeah, actually I’m in the Office of the President for the last two and a half years. I’ve traveled with the Chairman of the Board and the President to work in a museum and all sorts of functions. We’ve been to countries on multiple different continents, all of the world dealing with partners and vendors and having awareness events and you know, finding support for the museum and sharing the vision of what can be and what is actually happening as we speak right now. And it’s just been a joy to be able to, like our mission statement says to invite people to engage with the Bible in all of the world. Yeah, that’ll get you up early in the morning, keep you up late at night because you’re so excited about it. So it’s joyful.

Kenny: One of the things that I think when you first walked, I think it’s literally went after you first walk into the museum, you just see the technologies that just, it just drips from the walls and actually literally the ceiling right in the foyer, the Museum of the Bible is known as the most technological advanced museum in the world that’s been constructed at the highest standards. One of the questions that we are excited to talk about is why is it so important to show that the Bible is so integrated or dressed surrounded by technology in this type of environment?

Ryan: Yeah, that’s a great question. And it has multiple answers because obviously technology is used to, as a learning tool, it’s learned, it’s something that has relevance. It’s learned as, and it’s used as something that actually can help people engage better. You know, we are a technological society now. We walk around with computers that were better than computers back in the 80’s and now, they’re in the palm of our hand. Probably it have been better even in the early 2000 and 1999. So, but you have all that, so you have a person that is either been born into that world or has moved into that world when the technology caught up with that. So with apps like YouVersion where you can have the Bible in the palm of your hand on me. I was looking in church the other day and you know, looking down the aisle, you just look like who actually carries the Bible. I mean, I know some people do of course, and that’s totally fine, but at the same time you can have 18 bibles in your phone and you can cross reference and with each other and you can have word study going on while you’re listening to the sermon or whatever. And so, you know, the technology is always being used by people already. So why not at a Museum for the Bible, shouldn’t we use that relevance to actually make it applicable to people? So they can see, look this is a book that passed generations past this time. But because of technology you can learn about it in a 21st century way because the book has relevance. The book has something for your life right now in the 21st century technology that you live in and a lot of people kind of lose sight of that sometimes and we want them to remind them, no, this is a book that has relevance now for your life and it can provide you peace and joy and long suffering and gentleness and teach you things right now for the technology or without it.

Kenny: Yeah. And that, I think that just comes through when you walk through each of the floors. Can you share with us that whole process because there must have been. I mean, because you guys are a pioneer. It’s not like you could walk down the street to the Smithsonian or the Air and Space Museum and copycat or riff off of other museums. How has that process, how can you just tell us a little bit about the process about bringing in technologists in reinventing that museum experience?

Ryan: There were over 60 different exhibit teams that worked on the museum, so it was not any one person. We used technologies from all over the world, literally multiple continents. We engaged over 100 professors from 60 different universities. So as a worldwide collaborative effort, obviously modern day technology tools were used also like, you know, the Dropbox as the world and the Cloudsourcing and all sorts of things that you do to use those documents in a collaborative way so everyone can chime into the conversation at the same time. So we could hear that and then take that, you know, 21st century technology, the learning, the expertise from people all over the world and put it into right into the pot and stir the pot so we could come out with something that actually was everybody’s best. And that use technology, you know, even what you talked about, even when you walk in the digital ceiling, it’s unbelievable. 140 foot long, 15 foot wide LCD, horizontally mounted monitor. You know, the largest that we know of in the United States might be one bigger. There’s bigger ones vertically like a Dallas, Texas football stadium or the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. This is a vertically or horizontally mounted monitor and we can put almost anything we want there that could go on the computer, so literally we could have 300 kids sleeping out under every night under, you know, a monitor talking about the Bible and talking about how the constellations, you know that the heavens declare the glory of God and affirm. It shows his handiwork, Psalm 19, and you can just engage in that technology is there. There are people from all over the world and companies that are cutting edge. We use some of the top Fortune 500 and a largest entertainment companies in the world. We use some of their technologists, some of their animation teams. Put together the interactive exhibits and so that the Bible can literally be something that people engage with and interact with. We’d like to say engagement is three things.

Kenny: So, what I love is when the church or the kingdom leads in the marketplace. Were there any surprises along the way that you know of, or any stories that you might be able to tell where, you know, these companies, these consultants, these technologists are kind of Christians, are the ones that are pulling in the technology, is that, did that ever occur during that whole process?

Ryan: Sure. Actually, we used both companies that have people that believe the Bible and actually some companies and people that don’t really believe the Bible that much, but they’re great at their field and we wanted them and you know, we would sit there and say, hey, this is what the Bible says. You need to put that into what the Bible says, but they were the best at their field in x, y, or z. So, we still use them. We want to use the best people in that field. You know, the old adage, you get a heart attack and you needed a heart surgeon, you want the best heart surgeon, it’s what you want. So we wanted the best technologists. Now obviously some of those, yes, for companies that the people there read the Bible each day and they were people you know, let’s say of the Bible, you know, and they had an ethic with them. That was a biblical ethic. But there were some people that said, you know, look I don’t read the Bible everyday, but I can still, you know, give you the best of what I have in my field. So we were happy to engage that. You know, the majority of people obviously it listed Bible were the 100 scholars from 16 universities we use because obviously that is their forte. I mean, they are, you know, they’ve got a doctorate in theology or they got a doctorate in New Testament or Old Testament or whatever. They’re a Jewish scholar. They are, you know, a Catholic scholar or whatever it may be, a Protestant scholar. You have most of the technologists come from all sorts of very backgrounds. Now we found obviously stories of people going, hey, I just want to tell you, man, I’ve been reading Bible my whole life and this is like unbelievable. I get work on something like this is a green dream come true. I never thought this would happen. And we love those stories because that’s just, you know, we look at that as if you will some people call it fate, some people call God’s sovereignty and some people call it luck or happenstance mean, you know, there’s a lot of different ways that people call it. And then, we say, hey, that’s part of this plan, you know, that’s something that was meant to be in it. It was happening for a reason because this museum is engaging millions and millions of people and you know, it’s a book that has relevance. It has a history to it, it has an impact and it has a narrative and we believe that it has brought a lot of great things to people and we want the world to be able to see it in an understanding that they can understand in a technology that can and we want to be able to actually get people to be excited about that and think of their own technology so that they can, you know, help us with and we’re all ears for that too.

DJ Chuang: Museums are typically a place where you look at the past and the Museum of the Bible certainly has done that tremendously going over the history of the Bible. Even introducing technology that the Bible itself introduced, whether it scrolls or calligraphy or the printing press and some of the modern translations and paraphrases. And the museum does a phenomenal job at making the immersion experience where you actually literally walked through the story of the Bible in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. That’s my favorite part of the museum to really experience it for yourself. Not just reading the text and so in doing that, I think the museum has taken us through the history, taken us through the story and it’s even got a couple of galleries that are focused on the future. Can you briefly introduce that and maybe give us a sneak peek at what else is being in development?

Ryan: The first thing about the future is illuminations. You know, there’s about 7,000 languages in the world and we show basically a book for every single language. And so you’re literally in a 360 degree room and there are color coded to show you who has absolutely no Bible, who has part of the Bible, who has the New Testament only and who has a complete Bible. And it’s surprising. You’d see basically about 700 languages of the world have a complete bible and there’s, you know, thousands that actually have not even one verse. So, we have a room there that is in, if you will, the past, present, and the future all in one room because we’re actually showing a plan where that by 2033, every single language in the world can have a Bible by the plan that has set forth and that’s where we call people, you know, in a great way to see something, hear something, and then do something so you can be part of that. And here is the future so that by 2033, 15 short years in the future, every single person on this planet, every single language can have a Bible that they can read from. And we’re excited about that. I mean, that’s something to really rally around to rallying technologists around, rally people that love the Bible around people, churches and faiths and synagogues and temples to come around and say, that’s an incredible plan. Here’s the future let’s go out and get it together. So that’s one room specifically. You know, we also, obviously have technology that allows people to put their own thoughts about the Bible out into the Internet. We wanted, we call one of those, the Joshua Machine, so that obviously is into the future too because in the future you could have a great great grandson or great great granddaughter come back and listen to what their grandmother or grandfather had to say about how the Bible impacted their life. Now that it’s something for the future that just excites me unbelievably. You know, we’re working on that because that’s something literally I think that can have an unbelievable impact in the world and literally you could take your Apple or android device and you can go home and videotape your family members about how the Bible has impacted their life and either use Google Drive or Dropbox, you know, services like that. Or just email it to your family member because a lot of people don’t know how to use those services. Email to their family members and literally you could be talking to your great great granddaughter, your great great grandson. Someone you will never even know because you won’t be alive when they’re alive and you literally would be generationally changing your family by sharing with them about how the Bible impacted your life on the impact floor of the Museum of the Bible. I mean, that’s something that I talk about the future. That’s generations into the future. So those are all.

DJ Chuang: And I shared my favorite part of the museum. Do you care to share what your favorite spot in the museum is?

Ryan: Yeah. People ask me this question all the time. I’m like, you know, that’s like saying pick your favorite child. It’s like, what do you think? So, I mean, I love illuminations, why? Because it is the past, present, and future all in one. I think the Joshua machine like I just talked about is unbelievable. You know, I’d like to work on an app here and finish it here where basically we would have a way to for you to be able to see your genealogy tree, if you will, and you could literally see anybody that you’re related to and you can see all those videos of any of those people if you could prove, you know, that you relate to. You can see all the videos of anybody that you’re related to of how the Bible has impacted your life. So those sorts of things that live on. Because look, there’s the museum and you know, whatever, to millions of people will come into museum, but that means hundreds of millions in United States alone and billions of people throughout the world cannot come. I’m interested in what we can do outside of the walls to literally make this building, have life in other continents that it isn’t even on yet. That’s where I’m interested in engaging with technologists and if you all want to engage with me, I am all interested in engaging. I worked at Microsoft before. I worked for some of the largest technology companies in the world and I want to talk with you because there’s some things to do that are in my brain that haven’t come out yet and I need the help of those people in at the same time. I think those people would be interested in. So, you know, we’d love to be able to talk about those because that’s where this literally becomes ubiquitous because it’s not just the museum of the Bible in Washington, DC it can be everywhere.

Kenny: That’s great. One of the things that we want to do on this podcast is have a little fun as we wrap up. We ask our guests to say, hey, look, if we were able to give you a magic wand, what’s the one thing that you make or do to integrate Bible and technology and all the conversations we’re having here on the Future.BIBLE Podcast are with innovators like you, that are able to push the boundaries in dream. And so, if you had a magic wand, what would that be? What would you do that?

Ryan: That magic wand would touch a lot of different things, I would just be going around getting a lot of things, but a couple of them are, you know, I think technology and virtual reality can really be used. I mean, when you’re in a virtual reality environment, your body does not know the difference. It’s literally as if it’s there. Now we have something called the world Jesus of Nazareth where you walk into a first century replica of Nazareth and when I see people there, I literally toured them around this museum and as they walk in there. They literally start crying. Why? They can walk into a synagogue. They literally are looking at an olive press watching how it would work and things like this. And they are literally in the scene. We’ve removed the fourth wall. They’re not watching a play. They’re in the play. Virtual reality is something like that. I can envision a day where, you know, 10 million children are waking up at 6:30 in the morning. They’re starting to eat their Cheerio’s before they even go to school. And I could have something in virtual reality where they’re literally in 3D, where they’re in the museum with us, where we are teaching them and talking to them about what’s going on in the Museum of the Bible before they even go to school and they’re watching it literally it on their Apple or Android Device and Virtual 360, you know, on Google Cardboard or Oculus or whatever service that Holo Lens, whatever they want to use, and they’re literally learning and hearing about the Museum of the Bible. I can see know churches and synagogues and temples where the person from the front is teaching and those people can use those things to literally be in the scene. They can walk into Jerusalem if they wanted to. They could literally be in a Cave for Qumran. They can literally be handling the wine and fragment one of the oldest parts of Romans 4 and 5 literally in the world. And they could see that it says, you know the Scripture that says in Romans 5:1. I mean you talked about that you literally have transformed someone into this world that they are living inside of and they see it and hear it and do something in a totally different way than they’ve ever done. If technologist are doing it for the world, for some of the biggest companies in the world to make profit, why can’t we do it to engage people with the Bible? I mean, that’s a passion of mine. I see that. I mean, I worked at Microsoft. We were doing it to increase shareholder equity. I mean, seriously, that’s what a company is there for. We were supposed to do that. That’s a good thing, but at the same time, we at Museum of the Bible and we’d like you technologists and others, we want to do it to engage people with the Bible. I mean, we could have an APP that you walk into the museum on your phone and you can have it and we could literally be talking to you daily. You could be doing Bible reading. You can do be doing, you know when you need something, a pastor at a given time, technology and data science could know that you struggle. I’m just making this up with greed or with you know, laziness or something at a specific time of the day and because a data science that can come into you and averse can come onto your smartphone at the right time of the day so that you can be encouraged to do the right thing. I mean, you talk about engaging the Bible. This is where data science, this is where technology is, where virtual reality, this is where augmented reality, this is where all the technology today can be used in something that’s never been done before, so that literally people can engage the Bible in a unique and creative way. I mean, you can see my excitement. I don’t even know I’m asking. I can’t contain myself.

Kenny: Preach it, brother, preach it!

DJ Chuang: Amen. And so we got to connect again because you are talking the future of the Bible and we want to be in conversation with you and you’ve invited our listeners and viewers to get in touch with you as well. So, what’s the best way they can get in touch with you and the museum?

Ryan: Absolutely. I’ll give you my email address. It’s Ryan.Smith@MBIBLE.org. If you want to do it, just obviously make reference to this. You can say, you know, .BIBLE team or whatever you want to say on there so I can clearly know that’s what it was. We can talk about it. I can just see seriously, there are people and that will be hearing this, that are all over the world, that are technologists that know way more than the three of us combined on here. And I want to inspire them and engage them. You know, you were given those talents for reason and those talents are there and they can be used to invite people to engage with the Bible in ways that have never been done before and you are the key link to that and I would encourage you, I would implore you and say, let’s do something together because I think that you know, as the Bible says, you know, from God and through God and to God are all things, and that Romans 12:1 verse then gets back into you give your body as a living sacrifice, you’re what you are and who you can be could be used for that, for people to engage with the Bible. That’s something that I can get really excited about.

Kenny: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much. I know you’re busy with the agenda of the museum, making sure all these new initiatives are happening. Really appreciate the time that you were able to sit down with us today, Ryan.

Ryan: Let me say one more thing. You know, I give tours and I say this about things, so as simple as what you have in the palm of your hand with the social media, you know, Erasmus Lutheran Tyndall in the 1500s translated the Bible and the Gutenberg press spread it around the world. We now have something called the Internet and literally in the palm of your hand, you can post something onto a social media website. Where a thousand people see that in one day and then literally if one of your friends reposted, 2000 people can see it in one day and that’s literally like throwing a rock into a pond and concentric circles go out that echo for eternity literally from you being the content translator that Erasmus Lutheran Tyndall were and that day you are that translator today based on social media and you have the ability and the authority and the power that is literally in the palm of your hands. That was technically more than Erasmus Lutheran Tyndall and some of the best translators into this world. And you literally can do that daily, and I encourage you again, that’s something that literally you have more power than they did. That’s why we say the mission statement in Museum of the Bible, invite people to engage with the Bible. See some with your eyes, hear some with your ears, and then do something with your body. Literally you have that power. Use it so that people can engage with the Bible.

Kenny: Awesome. You know, if you’re listening today and you haven’t made that shift, you should be making those plans today. Ryan, thank you so much for being with us. And if you’re listening, thank you so much for listening to the Future.BIBLE Podcast. That’s the number one show where you’ll meet innovators, ready to talk about how we can apply, always evolved with technology to the never changing Bible for deeper engagement with Scripture. So, you’ve been listening to us, and if you want to learn more about the show, watch some videos, go through the transcripts and find other resources, you can do that at our website, www.Future.BIBLE. Remember, we’re blessed to be a blessing.

Ryan: Love you, Guys.