by Molly Jo Nyman, freelance writer
It started with dissatisfaction.
Notes written by Bible scholars in Ron Beers’s study Bible were full of facts but left 25-year-old Ron uninspired.
“All the notes were information,” Ron recalls. “In Genesis 41, I learned that ‘all the Egyptians were clean shaven, so it was important that Joseph appear that way in the presence of Pharaoh.’ Well, that’s interesting but . . . so what?”
With gifted storyteller and author V. Gilbert Beers as his father, Ron was used to being inspired. Family meals were served with Bible stories so engaging that no one zoned out. His young life was rich with experiences that helped him lean in and expect the Bible to connect to everyday life.
Ron had an unusual response to his dissatisfaction: He studied his study Bible.
And his discovery was startling.
After a thorough review of the study Bible he owned, along with a few others, Ron found zero help in connecting daily struggles and needs with the wisdom of Scripture. No notes on how to deal with worry, priorities, doubts, or relational conflict. Not one connection to personal application.
He began to wonder if there could be a study Bible that was more helpful. He thought about what it might look like. Then he became convinced that a completely new and different kind of study Bible was needed.
This new kind of study Bible would continue to provide accurate information, but it would also connect to inspiration. It would help people not just to know but also to do so that they could experience the transformative power of God’s Word. It would connect the dots.
As luck—or rather God—would have it, Ron was working at the national headquarters of Youth for Christ in Illinois on new product development (primarily books). It was a front row seat not only to see the need for an application-oriented study Bible but also to observe the approaches—what worked and what didn’t in helping people connect God’s Word to everyday life.
Youth for Christ was passionate about reaching young people with the gospel and helping them become “lifelong followers of Jesus who lead by their Godliness in lifestyle . . .” (as quoted in their mission statement). And in the mid-1980s, youth ministry was thriving with hundreds of high school kids showing up for club meetings.
With crazy crowd breakers and hilarious games, meetings were fun but also focused on felt needs and common youth issues. Topics like loneliness or fear were opportunities to show kids that Jesus cared about them personally and how his Word could actually help them.
When the Bible was taught, the focus wasn’t on Bible literacy, cultural context, and historical facts. It was focused on the exact thing Ron wanted this newfangled study Bible to do.
“All around us people were asking, ‘If God really cares about me and my daily life, my community, my nation, my world, then shouldn’t the Bible put forth a clearer blueprint for how to navigate daily challenges? Shouldn’t its transformative power be more obvious?’ That’s what we wanted to get at,” recalls Ron.
“Because when people see how amazingly relevant the Bible is to any issue they’re facing, they’ll hunger and thirst to devour the Scriptures, deepening their relationship with God and transforming their relationships with others.”
Ron brought the idea of an application-oriented study Bible for high school students to his boss, Bruce Barton, vice president of the ministry service division and the force behind Youth for Christ’s new publishing emphasis at the time, and he also shared it with others.
According to Jim Galvin, Youth for Christ’s national training director at the time, the idea germinated and grew as most new ideas do—with a little bit of conflict and bashing.
“We would meet to brainstorm products for Youth for Christ, and Ron kept bringing [the idea for a youth application study Bible] up. I was the most vocal against it,” Galvin said. “High school students didn’t use study Bibles. We worked with high school students; we knew them. And they never, ever open a study Bible.”
But that didn’t stop Ron from continuing to bring it up. So to squash the idea, Galvin wrote a detailed memo.
“It basically said, if we’re going to do a study Bible for high school kids, it has to be done right, and it has to include profiles of Bible people, charts, a Bible outline, study notes, and a whole bunch of features,” Galvin recalled. “I was hoping Ron and others would say, ‘This is way too much work. High school kids wouldn’t use this product, anyway.’
“Talk about backfiring. When Ron got the memo, his reaction was, ‘Now that’s what I’m talking about!’”
Fun fact: Notes and feature in your Life Application Study Bible were written, revised, and reviewed by writers, editors, and scholars at least 17 times. As the story of its creation is told, you can trust its guidance even more.
The Life Application Study Bible is now available in Personal Size, Full Size, and Large Print. Learn more
8 thoughts on “The Unlikely Beginnings of the #1–Selling Life Application Study Bible”
Thank you for the article I’ve wondered who was the author and source of the notes and commentary in the LA study bible! Question is the new edition new notes and do different translations have different notes and also I’ve heard these notes are excerpts from a source that is more comprehensive ? Please help me understand all this! I have a 1996 NLT LA study Bible and it is different from the 2015 text so do I need another new LA study Bible and when will these updates ever end and if you memorize the older text it’s updated and your quote isn’t the same as what it now says! Whew is anybody else besides me frustrated?
The note sets are all based on the same notes but are unique to the translation’s wording so the notes make sense with the text. Since the English language is always changing we need to update the translation and notes so we can continue to ensure the truth is made clear to readers. You can learn more about the updates to the notes at lifeapplication.com There was a significant update to the NLT translation of the text after 1996 so yes the 2015 is different. In addition to the updates due to changes in the English language the updates happen as new manuscript source material and academic insights become available. You can learn more about translation philosophy at newlivingtranslation.com
I absolutely love my Application Study Bible! There’s so much I read in the Bible that I just don’t fully understand and/or things that I would miss completely. Thanks to the commentary, it has helped me grow and understand to a level that I don’t believe would have been possible without it! Thank you for perseverance, Ron!
So wonderful to hear! Thank you!
Warm greetings in the savior Lord Jesus Christ . I am very thankful to the Lord that He gave the thoughts & burden to published the Life application sturdy Bible in different languages with updates. Really it is great blessing for us & the Christian community as well as youth generation. Without it not possible to grow in the Lord. thanks. By bro Navraj Shah.
I’m really bless with this and I want to say thank you to God who brought the ideas and thanks to Ron beers who refused to give up or give in on his vision. But please if it’s possible I will like to have one of this book. Thanks.
Thank you very much Ron for your perseverance. It was lovely to read about how the Life Application Study Bible was birthed. I am in love with the Word of God. In 1993 I bought life Application study Bible NIV and wrote that is was a gift from God to myself. I did not know the Lord Jesus as my saviour then but so loved spending time with people who knew the Lord, praying with them and praying for different nations around the world. One day as I was reading my study Bible..I read Roman’s 10:9&10 and I gave my life to the Lord. God has been faithful. In 2016 my colleague bought me the NLT Life Application Bible as a gift (2013) edition…my absolute delight. I really enjoy NLT translation. May Almighty God take you from glory to glory Ron and the team. You are a blessing to us.
Thank you so much for sharing this story with us! What joy!