The Institute’s headwaters reside in two organizations—Biblica and Zondervan—going back almost 15 years. Scott Bolinder and Paul Caminiti were colleagues leading the Bible division at Zondervan in the early 2000’s when they were challenged by an outside consultant to “pay more attention to what happens to your Bibles once they leave the warehouse.” That led to a decade of research with scholars, clergy, social psychologists, ministry leaders, and laity about why Bible reading was in such serious decline. Out of the research came The Bible in 90 Days and The Story—designed as church-wide reading programs to help people grasp the grand, sweeping narrative of the entire Bible.
During the same period Glenn Paauw, the Bible Publisher at Biblica, had been challenged by research expert George Barna with evidence that despite the vast improvements in Bible translation and distribution, people were abandoning the Bible in unprecedented numbers. Glenn’s “holy discontent” led him on a quest that resulted in discerning that one of the primary problems behind Bible disengagement was the modern Bible, itself! The format and design of the modern Bible had turned a collection of books into a one-dimensional reference text that made a complex collection of books even more difficult to read. So with a small team of colleagues and consultants, they set about to “un-design” the modern reference Bible. The result was the creation of The Books of the Bible—the Scriptures restored to their natural design before chapters, verses, and other additives like footnotes and cross-references.
Then in God’s providence, in 2009 all three of these Institute principals found themselves at Biblica (formerly International Bible Society), uniting the two currents from the Institute’s headwaters. From that kindred spirit nexus came the Institute’s first ground-breaking program, Community Bible Experience (CBE), designed to address three bad Bible reading habits: Reading in fragments; Reading out of context; Reading alone. With CBE, whole churches devote eight weeks to reading the entire New Testament together—gathering in small groups once a week as a book club instead of a Bible study to have organic conversations about the week’s reading. This simple program has now welcomed over 750,000 people all around the world to a new encounter with God’s Word igniting a fresh appetite for reading big, reading real, and reading together!
So today, with this rich history and over 75 years of collected Bible ministry experience, our team has gone independent, officially incorporated in February 2016. We are building upon our work from the past in order to pioneer a movement toward a new era of Bible reading.