Digerati Pastor Terry Storch on the Humanization of Technology | Episode 010

In this episode, DJ Chuang sits with Pastor Terry Storch and talks about how a God-sized mission has expanded and grown through every territory in the world with just one Bible App.

Tune in and see the work of God in the organization and the people’s lives.

Discover what Pastor Terry has in store for the future of the Bible.

Bible Lens
Bible App
Bible Lab
Every Tribe, Every Nation

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[ 2:34 ] Our mission is to lead people to become fully devoted followers of Christ.

[ 3:50 ] Just being smart about using the tools of the day to reach the people of today is a natural step that churches is considered how they can be good stewards of accomplishing that mission.

[ 7:04 ] The results that we’re seeing and that gap is just God’s favor.

[ 8:12 ] It’s the Bible societies and there’s also nothing about this make sense, you know, in a business model standpoint. And again, at the epicenter of all of that is God’s blessing it. It’s the unity of thousands of partners that we have amazing Bible partners that have stepped out and freely given their intellectual property to be available on this because their mission minded and they want that to happen.

[ 12:56 ] Unfettered, untethered team that their goal is to fail as fast as possible. We’re going to try things and we’re going to fail as fast as possible and then we’re going to keep trying and see what concurring taction… You actually learned very fast as well.”

[ 19:01 ] Where do we see technology going? And what pathway does that have to do with what our mission is trying to accomplish with a Bible standpoint?

[ 19:23 ] We see technology becoming more human-like.

[ 20:03 ] As the humanization of technology is happening, what’s the church going to look like in that? What’s the Bible gonna look, you know, going to look like in that?

DJ Chuang:       Welcome to another episode of the Future.BIBLE Podcast. My name is Dj Chuang and I’m joined here with special, very special guest Terry Storch. He’s the Digerati Pastor of Life.Church and we’re so glad you could make a few minutes to join us and tell us what, what’s been going on.

Terry:           And it was so great to see you spell a long time since we’ve, uh, then the next to one another. So thanks for the…

DJ Chuang:       Might be a decade I think. And that’s ancient, Pre-Iphone maybe.

Terry:           I bet you’re right.

DJ Chuang:       Yeah. Because you were blogging church, Wow. That was amazing.

Terry:           That was my Blackberry days. That’s fantastic.

DJ Chuang:       Great. You’ve been Digerati Pastor for over 10 years now. I haven’t been counting.

Terry:           Almost 12.

DJ Chuang:       So, what is a Digerati Pastor?

Terry:           That’s great. So, I’ll demystify it all.

DJ Chuang:       Please do.

Terry:           Digerati was kind of built off of kind of a similar language of literati all means literature. And so Digerati originally formulated, got a little bit of traction with Seth Godin in 2007. And he and one of his books he talked about there will be a day where every company has a Digerati and it was that move of seen digital, of seeing the Amazon’s going to eat everything that he was seeing in the future. So it was all that concept about all things digital. And so, what my role is this basically that is that I have the opportunity to think about all things digital and kind of all of those innovation channels and all of the digital side. And so digerati kind of all things digital and that tech standpoint.

DJ Chuang:       What’s pretty amazing that a church life, like the Life Church would invest in, have the vision and the mission to develop in this area. Because I don’t think there’s any other Digerati Pastor in the world. So your church has considered that as an integrated.

Terry:           It’s a great question. Is that for us, our mission is to lead people to become fully devoted followers of Christ. And one of the things that we talk often about is we will do anything short of sin to accomplish that mission. And so digital, Digerati is all about accomplishing that mission. So Digerati itself, is just the method, it’s not the mission. And so I think that churches that are passionate about doing anything short of sin to reach this world that we live in, it’s impossible to look around and realize that digital is not going to be a significant part of that. And so I would hope that would line up with who they are and what their mission is. And if that does align, then I think the concept of Digerati as sorts or whatever title they want to put to it is really important.

DJ Chuang:       I don’t think I have to go as far as doing anything short of sin because technology is such a part of our everyday life now. in our pocket is a Smartphone. Even high schoolers, teenagers, school aged kids have Smartphones that have more power technologically than the Apollo 13. And so just being smart about using the tools of the day to reach the people of today is a natural step that churches is considered how they can be good stewards of accomplishing that mission. So in those 10 years, probably one of the biggest accomplishments that your team has put together is the Bible App. And you recently celebrated 300 million installs. So tell us briefly about that and then the latest product you just released.

Terry:           So just the quick history of that. It was in July of this year and in 2018 we celebrated 10 years, so it was 2008. When we’re celebrating the launch of the app the website and YouVersion itself existed before then, but kind of celebrating the app of where the real traction really got a hold and it was just that right. It was that seeing something, seeing an opportunity that we shifted from, this is not just an opportunity, it’s what is our responsibility in this space and taking a risk. We had no earthly idea of what to expect. There was a risk involved just because we were a pretty small team and going to all ends of build that app mean other things weren’t happening. And so we had the step fully into that. And many here have probably heard the story. But, we rolled into that with no idea what to expect and that Monday when we looked at the stats through the weekend, we saw 87,000 downloads in the first weekend. And that just blew our mind. This was 2008 just over 10 years ago. And our church was waste, those numbers were just astronomical to us. And so now what an axiom is, we will move fast and follow momentum and that’s exactly what we did is that first app was built by a team member on our team, an 18 year old kid on our team that it was this part time job. So, what was a part time job from an 18 year old kid became a full time job on Monday because we’re going to move fast and we’re going to follow momentum. And it has been a tiger by the tail ever since. And so it is a God-sized division and a God-sized mission that we’re on with this and the team has expanded and grown and our reach has expanded and grown and now every territory in the world and country in the world has downloaded the app. And it just blows our mind.

DJ Chuang:       What blows my mind that it’s happening in Oklahoma City and not Silicon Valley, not Austin Texas, but little Oklahoma. I mean, how’s that work?

Terry:           That right there should remind all of us is, that this is God, and it’s just a complete God thing of the, I’ve got some brilliant people on the team, I mean ex NASA engineers and ex Apple, I mean some brilliant, but the collective, some of the intelligence that we have pales into comparison of what the results that we’re seeing and that gap is just God’s favor. And so that’s what we live in and we’re so thankful for and we bring our best, but we just know that he’s going to take our best and see the impact that we get to see. And so, so it’s amazing. That’s amazing of what he continues to do and the growth and the scale that we’re continuing to see is pretty remarkable.

DJ Chuang:       You also partner with a number of Bible societies around the world and other partners that may be helping your development and other parts of things. So, it’s a collaborative effort. So, very much a kingdom effort outside of church walls, right?

Terry:           That is the most beautiful part of it all, is that it is the absolute worst business model that you could ever imagine is that, it is ad free, royalty free, totally free, and nothing about a free app is free, right?

DJ Chuang:       And your churches even mentioned much.

Terry:           So, it costs a ton of money to do it. And then you extrapolate that business model out is that the core IP, intellectual property of it’s not even ours. And so, it’s the Bible societies and there’s also nothing about this make sense, you know, in a business model standpoint. And again at the epicenter of all of that is God’s blessing it. It’s the unity of thousands of partners that we have, amazing Bible partners that have stepped out and freely given their intellectual property to be available on this because their mission minded and they want that to happen. It couldn’t happen without them. It couldn’t happen without our thousands of Bible plan partners that give us content all for free and just join and mission of how do reach this world with God’s word and how do we help people move from just access to fully immersion and engagement as well. And so that’s what we worked day and night focused on.

DJ Chuang:       Phenomenal. I really appreciate your team’s focus in working hard on the mission of getting the Bible accessible and engaging with people and also want to acknowledge our partnership as YouVersion and American Bible Society and also .BIBLE that you’ve been one of our founding partners. You’ve helped us launch the Bible in amp pages. Those are accelerated mobile pages with Google. That is a really, really fast loading for every book of the Bible. So if you go to join .BIBLE or Genesis.BIBLE, it’s right there you don’t have to install an APP or anything and it’s helped some with some SEO. And so in order to appreciate their partnership there and then we’ve been moving more, not just making the Bible available. You also hinted at engagement. So you’ve just released another app that marries into that ecosystem. Tell us about Bible Lens.

Terry:           Yes. So I will just quickly before you mentioned, you know, you mentioned the ABS and the partnership there is just mean it was way before even the .BIBLE, but just so everyone here and on the other side of this podcast is that it ABS was one of the first organizations that got what we were trying to accomplish with YouVersion. It’s so my boss and founder, with me Bobby Grunwald, we hopped on a flight, flew to New York at the time, Dr. Best was the Chair and CEO, and nothing was built. It was all, it was your very prototypical entrepreneur, you know, entrepreneur or pitch deck, if you will. It was a vision. And here’s Dr. Best who is in a temporary role and my guess is it’s probably in the seventies, but had the vision to see what this could be and got it and is like, we’re going to be in supportive of this. And so that was in 2007. I’ll have out that. And so in 2007 ABS aligned,

DJ Chuang:       I did not know that story. So glad you shared that

Terry:           Behind this and so…

DJ Chuang:       That’s story behind the backstory

Terry:           Yeah, that’s right. There’s a lot of them in this journey and stuff. So just a huge thanks to ABS and you guys as continual striving in this Bible space is inspiring. And so Lens, so from that immersion and engagement standpoint. We started an internal team about two years ago, that is called Bible Labs. And so it’s kind of an RMD skunkworks team that is separate from the YouVersion team with a lot of intentionality. YouVersion, has tons of innovation, lots of road map, lots of things that we’re working on. But when your community and your user base and what you’re stewarding grows to such significant scale, there’s lots of really high risk things that you want to play around with. You want to just test and you want to try. That don’t make any sense when you’ve got this awesome, provable road map of what we’re trying to build on, what we’re trying to do and what we’re trying to innovate in. And so our strategy along those lines was keep YouVersion and the Bible APP team completely focused. That’s executing on what we’re working on. Let’s innovate the things that we know that we need to innovate on, but I wanted to strip out and create this kind of unfettered, untethered team that their goal is to fail as fast as possible. We’re going to try things and we’re going to fail as fast as possible and then we’re going to keep trying and see what concurring taction.

DJ Chuang:       I guess. So then you do that. You actually learned very fast as well.

Terry:           Learn very fast, so that’s the goal. Yeah, and so Lens is the first full product result that came out of the lab and what’s super cool, it feels almost like a baby that grows up. And then you have a toddler is having all of these thoughts and memories of. I remember the very first thing that we were playing with that now is known as Lens. It looks radically different, it functions totally different, but that first thing that we saw that you see it in, it’s like there’s something there, that there’s something inside that idea in Silicon Valley it would be then you pivot and you tweak and the idea. Yeah, you read all of those. And so that’s kind of how Lens made itself into the forefront. But what we were looking at what are the trends in technology that we see and it is super easy to see as we look at any ecosystem on the Internet to realize that video and pictures are where all of attraction is. So, we see that out in the ethos if you will. And then we look at our own data from YouVersion standpoint is that the shares out with our images is just on an astronomical growth curve. And so we’re leaning into that momentum and scaling languages, making beautiful verse art and doing that. So, that got us thinking of like, so in that space what does the Bible have to say in that space? And we’re seeing people with burst images creating their own verses, and creating their own verses art. So we’re seeing all of that and that gets us asking the questions of what could be, you know, what could happen. Leading into questions along the lines of some spiritual disciplines along the line of journaling and people aren’t journaling anymore and they’re not doing all of this, but we challenge that theory with it just looks different. People take pictures all over. Why is taking photos not known as journalists? And I’m thinking of all of that. And so all of those were the questions that we’re talking about and contemplating and it landed in a product known as Lens today that really just helps whoever you are, no matter where you’re at in your journey, see the lens of your photos through God’s eyes. And so how do we list scripture? You know, how do we lift scripture front and forward into your everyday life that you’re taking pictures out and help you make see it a little differently, and through a different Lens that you’ve made through, you may not have seen it before. And so that’s what we launched and it’s been fantastic. We went up the charts, we became the second, you know, the second most downloaded app in the app store which overthrew the Bible App and overthrew Bible App for kids. So our next goal is whatever next is going to be, it has to be so we see what we do the to our own bar. But there is a big, there’s a kind of a pent up demand in that space and we’re excited to see that and I’m not sure exactly when this podcast we’ll launch, but one of the pent up demands is that unfortunately we had to launch it on iOS only, so it was only available and iPhones. But, depending on when this podcast goes live, I’m here to say is that we’re in this is August and so we are head down that by the end of the August, it will be on Android.

DJ Chuang:       We’ll make it happen during the week of launch to there. So we could say, we can prophesy.

Terry:           We’re working very hard. So, we love Android. I carry both devices. It’s just an Android, the problems we’re trying to solve with this app are bit more complex in the Android ecosystem and so many devices. And so, it’s just unfortunately a little bit more complicated so,

DJ Chuang:       That’s a whole another discussion. All these different devices and all these different view ports. I can’t keep up anymore. I’m too old for developing. I used to be in that world. So, this is the Future.BIBLE Podcast. We’re having conversations with innovators and people who are working on technology and have a heart for the Bible. So, give us a peek of what you’re anticipating or seeing in the future for Bible and technology. I know there’s probably some things you can’t talk about.

Terry:           My mind goes to a lot, a lot of places. A meeting I had just earlier in the week. Wondering, does anybody care about that? Here’s some, here’s like a macro thing.

DJ Chuang:       I know our audience, they just want to hear Terry talk.

Terry:           So here’s some macro things that we’re always contemplating. What we’re contemplating is what, where do we see technology going? And what pathway does that have to do with what our mission is trying to accomplish with a Bible standpoint. This is the pathway, what I think we can see with technology if I elevate out of like the what is, and I kind of just step up, is that we see technology becoming more human-like. That it, how we’re interfacing with it is more human. I’m talking to it, it’s under, it’s starting to understand context. And it’s moving further and further out of the way. And so it’s feeling less like technology and more like just part of my life. And that’s a path that’s fairly easy. If you could back up, you can kind of see that. And so the question is that we’re always answering or always asking along those lines of is, so as the humanization of technology is happening, what’s the church going to look like in that? What’s the Bible gonna look, you know, going to look like in that. And I don’t have the answer to the question I’m about to post, but it’s really interesting when you ask yourself what is the voice of the Bible? So if I pick up a Smartphone, and I don’t know anything about the Bible and I just asked what? Ask the Bible something. What comes back? What voice comes back, how does the Bible talk to me? What does that look like? We know what Siri sounds like, you know, I know what Alexa sounds like, I know what, you know, what my Google Home sounds like, what when the Bible is communicating to me in a human life form. So what does that look like what’s the interface look, how do I… when I’m struggling, I’m hurting and I don’t even think about going to the Bible for the pain and I’m going to all of these others that if I happen to find the Bible, what does it look like? How it sounds like, how approachable to ask, whether that be. Those are things I think we need to wrestle with and we need to, we need freedom on some space to understand what that looks like. Because what we see and what we’ve seen with the Bible app is the, I love and I still am a paper guy, I journal in the morning and paper. I love the creation of elements and paper. I’m kind of weird that way. But it’s immersion of both. It’s that when I’m doing that on my app, on my phone with me and I have analog along those lines, what I think that we’ve seen in certain is that the approach ability of the form factor of how the Bible has been for many, many years became a barrier for a group of people. Maybe not everyone but there was a large subset of people, the approachability of the Bible and moving it to a mobile phone, changed that approachability and we’re seeing more people engaged with it than ever. And I think we’ll see more and more iterations of that approachability, especially when we move into, how does it sound? What happens when the device is no longer in my hands and it’s just around me. What is that like? How does that play out? And so those are things that humanization of technology and how is the Bible gonna look, how’s it going to interact, how’s it going to sound, how’s it going to have to talk to me? How am I going to approach it? And so if you were just to talk to the Bible, what will it say, I don’t know. I mean, I don’t have to think about that. But I don’t have to think about when I talked to my Google home mini, I don’t have to think about when I talk to my Alexa to think about that, I just say, what’s the weather? What’s that gonna look like for my 13 year old or my 16 year old kids, you know, how are they going to interface with the Bible in one hour?

DJ Chuang:       You’re sparking all kinds of ideas in my head. So it kind of reminds of prayer. So for having a conversation with the Bible, with God know what we say back with the Bible and then you and I are old enough to remember Eliza. Oh yeah. The first AI kind of interactions. It could be that conversation happened.

Terry:           So all of those. And so, what you just hit on, which is a huge focus of us, is that when the Bible says back, so what so many people I imagine on this podcast don’t realize, you and ABS are probably very aware of this, but there is still a significant amount of languages in the world. That don’t have one word in the Bible translated. So, my heart breaks when I fast forward what you just said, when the Bible comes back and it talks to me, well, there’s a huge subset of people in the world that when the Bible comes back, it speaks not their native tongue language that breaks my heart. So, the most intimate of here that wants to know why that says that I am here for you. I sent my son to die for you. He doesn’t speak your language. How do you wrap up? How do you reconcile that? And so those are other things that we’re working with some amazing translation partners and Bible partners to rise above a massive challenge and as to eradicate Bible poverty. And so how do we put an end Bible poverty and it’s going to start with getting every tribe, every nation an access to God’s word and in their native tongue.

DJ Chuang:       And that’s the name of the collaboration, Every Tribe, Every Nation. You also have a kind of a onsite portal, Illuminations.Bible, they can sponsor specific languages, specific tribes and languages. So, put all that in the show notes and we also want to give people a way to send you a message. What’s the best way for it?

Terry:           So, my name. Pretty much every social network area storage. You can follow my thoughts, follow what’s going on. At my website, TerryStorch.com. I write every week, thoughts from Terry.

DJ Chuang:       I’m so glad you restarted that.

Terry:           Yeah. It went dormant for quite some time. But, I wanted to get that discipline, so…

DJ Chuang:       Beautiful. Thank you so much. Terry. We’ll check back with you when you come back up for air. And this is the Future.BIBLE Podcast. Thank you for listening in. And you can get in touch with us at Future.BIBLE and with my co host Kenny Jahng, who couldn’t make it on video, but he was teaching class. Anyways, subscribe to us in your favorite channel, iTunes, Stitcher, Alexa, and I think we’re getting us ourselves a couple of other channels as well. And leave us a review, share, subscribe. We would love to hear from you as well as today’s conversation. Thank you Terry.

Terry:           Thank you.

DJ Chuang:       See you.

Terry:           You bet.


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