PORTLAND, Oregon – Tucked away in a quiet Portland neighborhood is an animation studio that is opening the Bible to millions in a new and fresh way.
An idea of some college buddies has become one of the most successful ways for people to understand the Bible.
During their college days, long-time friends Tim Mackie and Jon Collins would kick around ideas on how to get more people to read the Bible and understand it better.
The result was a Bible animation experiment called BibleProject, and it was only two videos, posted online in 2014 for their friends.
Less than ten years later, BibleProject has created over 180 videos and 350 podcast episodes over the internet, with over 620 million views in over 200 countries, and over five million subscribers worldwide, even offering seminary-level classes.
Michael McDonald, Chief Global Focus and Strategic Relationships Officer at BibleProject told us, "None of us were smart enough to think we would create this big nonprofit out of this. This really was a passion project of two friends who thought, 'I think this would be helpful to not only just us, but some of our friends.' And the crowd just caught up so fast in not only watching the videos but wanting more of them. And they started helping fund them just with, you know, five bucks here, ten bucks there. And then we had enough funds to make another video and away we went."
After attending Bible college together, Jon served as a pastor before beginning a career making explainer videos for large companies. Tim got his PhD in Hebrew Bible and Jewish studies, becoming a pastor and seminary professor. Then they decided to combine Tim's Bible knowledge and Jon's creative abilities, and BibleProject was born.
Drawing on a giant whiteboard, Jon Collins said, "This is just basically our workflow for one of our fully animated videos. So, some products are in illustration, some are an animation, some are writing, some are storyboarding."
Tim Mackie said, "Then I meet with the artist and we go through all this in detail. And then the artist goes and draws a beautiful version. So, by the time I sit down to record, I've got this in my head and every line and all the wording is connected."
BibleProject seeks to help those who only see the Bible as a collection of inspirational quotes. It takes on those difficult passages in the Bible that many Christians tend to avoid because they seem to be confusing or disturbing.
McDonald told us, "It's pretty neat to see kids from like the age of ten who are even writing in saying just how engaged they are in the Scriptures. And then we've got like 85-year-old folks that are writing and saying, 'I thought this one was for my grandkids. At 85, I never thought I would go back and read the Bible with new eyes.'"
With videos now in 56 languages, BibleProject is also reaching the Muslim world.
McDonald said, "And so you find people in Tunisia watching the Arabic videos and sending in comments of, 'I'm Muslim who has been interested in the Bible and I didn't know how to, you know, engage it or read it. And I found your videos on YouTube because they're free and now they're opening up the scriptures in a unique way and understanding what it's saying about Jesus.'"
So, an experiment once meant to only help a few friends is today helping millions around the world to know and understand the Bible better.
Jon Collins said, "One thing we think God is doing is that He's helping people see the Bible as a really important part of their life. And what we think our contribution to that is, is helping people see the Bible through this paradigm of Biblical theology, where you appreciate the Bible and its literary design and you understand the Bible as a story and you see how the story leads to Jesus."