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Biblica Income Rising after Long Decline

Editor’s Note: This story is a part of MinistryWatch’s ongoing series of stories on the Bible translation industry.  To see other articles in this series, click here.

Biblica, one of the nation’s largest Bible translation and engagement ministries, has a storied past and an impressive track record of translations. It sponsored William Carey’s translation work in India in 1810 and in 1978 published the New International Version, now the most widely read contemporary English translation with more than one billion copies in print.

Founded in 1809 as the New York Bible Society, the ministry changed its name to International Bible Society in 1988, the same year it relocated to Colorado Springs from New York. It merged with Living Bibles International in 1992, and after an additional merger with Send the Light in 2007 it changed its name to Biblica.

More recently, Biblica has also embraced new technologies and is working to make most of its portfolio of 83 Bible translations available for free in digital and audio versions. The ministry was a pioneer in making the NIV available on YouVersion when Apple’s App store debuted in 2008, and recently claimed, “through YouVersion alone, our texts are downloaded 481 million times per month!”

This March, the ministry announced it was participating in illumiNations, an initiative by 10 Bible translation organizations that “envisions all people having access to Scripture by the year 2033.”  (MinistryWatch wrote about illumiNations here.)

Here’s a look at some of Biblica’s recent developments, as well as questions that remain unanswered.

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New CEO helps end long income decline

Biblica’s annual income dropped from $26 million (in 1992, 1995, 2005) to $13.5 million in 2017, but has picked up under its new president, Geof Morin, rising to $13.9 million in 2018, $15.8 million in 2019, and $16.8 million last year.

Before coming to Biblica, Morin had worked at American Bible Society since 2007, and was named a senior vice president in 2014.

In Biblica’s 2019 annual report, CFO Bruce Trowbridge said, “Last year we saw a 21 percent growth in ministry,” and claimed, “Buoyed by increased operational efficiencies, we were honored to see 100 percent of every ministry investment go directly to Bible ministry.” However, according to its audited financial reports, Biblica spends an  average of 25 percent of its annual income on administration and fundraising, significantly more than other ministries in its peer group.

In addition, Biblica Ministries Foundation had income of over $800,000 in 2018.

Biblica did not answer questions about Morin’s vision, the causes of the long income decline, or reasons for the recent uptick.

What happened to publishing?

For years, Biblica’s financial statements said the ministry was focused on three main program areas: Bible translation, Bible publishing, and Bible engagement.

But that changed in its 2020 financials, which replaced Bible publishing with a new category called global innovation, which it described as follows:

“The Organization utilizes artificial intelligence and machine learning. Leveraging a combination of curated and created technologies and the continued support of Biblica’s Tech Advisory Group, Biblica expands digital platforms and partnerships to sizably increase reach and scale of impact.”

Interestingly, Biblica’s 2019 financials reported the ministry spent $3,429,000 on Bible publishing, but in its 2020 financials the ministry spent that same $3,429,000 on global innovation.

2020 Summer Surge

Biblica has launched its 2020 version of Summer Surge, an annual campaign to distribute Bibles, described as “a three-month drive that will provide Bibles and Scripture resources to ministries, churches, and individuals across the Americas.” The initiative seeks to “unleash the life-transforming power of God’s Word for 50,000 people by summer’s end.” A donation of $35 will provide five Bibles.

But the goals for the 2020 program are more humble than previous years. Biblica says its 2018 Summer Surge campaign “helped reach 10 million people with the Word of God.” In addition, Biblica said its 2018 Reach4Life achieved its goal of “reaching more than 2 million youth with the Gospel.”

Steve Rabey

Steve Rabey is a veteran author and journalist who has published more than 50 books and 2,000 articles about religion, spirituality, and culture. He was an instructor at Fuller and Denver seminaries and the U.S. Air Force Academy. He and his wife Lois live in Colorado.