Last night Shirin and I were guests of Steve and Jackie Green in Santa Clarita, California. Along with 100 others, we were there to learn about the launch of the Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C. in 2017. Last night, I got the backstory of the museum. More importantly, I was completely captured by the vision. I invite you to get involved in this historic opportunity with Shirin and me.
The Green family owns the successful Hobby Lobby craft store chain in the United States. They have 500 locations including one that opened recently a half mile from our home. Visual Story Network (VSN) cofounder Rob Hoskins invited leaders of Bearing Fruit (Bill Hane and T. Ray Grandstaff) to our discussions about VSN in 2006-2007. At that time, Bearing Fruit was a nonprofit arm founded by the Greens to create and promote kingdom media.
In 2008, OneHope hosted our inaugural VSN Summit at the Marie Green Forum in Pompano Beach, Florida. Marie was the godly mother of the family that produced dedicated Christ-followers including David Green, the founder of Hobby Lobby. As a young man, David felt like the black sheep of the family because he was the only one who did not become a pastor or marry one. At the age of 28, he took a risk and started a small craft business. 43 years later, Hobby Lobby revenue exceeds $3 billion a year.
In 2011, Rob Hoskins suggested we do a VSN event in Edinburgh, Scotland in partnership with the International Forum of Bible Agencies. We gathered 40 leaders for two days and overlapped with the Forum meetings so some of their leaders could participate in our event. In the first session of our event, I gave an overview of the vision of the Visual Story Network and told our brief history and where we believe God was leading us (view the session here). At the end of the session, a guy I didn't recognize came up to me and asked if there was a meeting hosted by the Forum of Bible Agencies nearby. I said they were meeting in a nearby building and would be happy to take him there. On the way over I found out that it was Steve Green, the president of Hobby Lobby and now the founder of the Museum of the Bible.
In 2009, the Green family began to collect Bible manuscripts. As the collection grew, the word got out and doors began to open for them to acquire more content. With 40,000 items, they have accumulated the world’s largest private collection of rare biblical texts and artifacts. In 2011 they began to put some of the collection on display. The exhibit traveled to Oklahoma City, Atlanta, the Vatican, Jerusalem, Havana (Cuba!), Charlotte, Colorado Springs and Springfield, Missouri. Tomorrow, April 3, is the official opening of the “Passages” exhibit in Santa Clarita, California.
At some point the vision of a Museum began to solidify. Initially, Steve Green thought Dallas would be a good location. Further research revealed that Washington D.C. would be a much better location. In 2012, they acquired a historic building two blocks from the National Air and Space Museum and three blocks from the Capitol. Demolition of portions of the existing structure began in 2014. The museum is slated to open in November 2017.
Last night we had an hour to walk through the “Passages” exhibit. It is located in an upscale shopping plaza and has 35,000 square feet of space. As a lover of old books and manuscripts I was fascinated. There were sections that focused on artifacts, how we got the Bible, how the Bible has been distributed, its controversies, its translation and much more. Our 13-year-old daughter enjoyed hands-on interaction with a working replica of a Gutenberg printing press.
The goal of the museum is to provide a place where people of all faith traditions (or none at all) can discover the history, message and impact of the Bible. It is Steve’s desire that all the Judeo-Christian traditions contribute. He said, “It is our hope that we can set aside our differences to celebrate the unique impact of this book.”
The museum will have four primary components: the museum itself, exhibits, research and education. 100 scholars from around the world are actively involved in research on the existing artifacts. School curriculums are being used in Israel, the United States and will be used in Ghana this year. There are plans to begin a 42 acre excavation site in Israel, the largest ever.
As Steve spoke, he convinced me of the significance of the museum by his strong desire to see the Bible acknowledged, celebrated and better understood. By the time Cary Summers, President of the museum finished a virtual tour of the museum, my mind was blown. The 430,000 square foot museum will include five exhibit floors (8 total). The first floor will focus on the history of the Bible. The second floor will follow the narrative of the Bible. The third floor will focus on its history. I can't remember the theme of the fourth floor. The fifth floor will hold restaurants, and a 500 seat theater and space for affiliate libraries like the Vatican.
The intent is to create the most engaging and visually compelling museum in the world. They are creating digital technologies that will provide an immersive experience. In the lobby, you will look up to see a 200 foot long digital ceiling that can re-create scenes such as the Sistine Chapel ceiling. The elevators will have digital walls that create a sense of being in a Qumran cave.
Five Reasons to be a Museum of the Bible Ambassador
Here's why Shirin and are ambassadors and why we think you should consider it also. As ambassadors, we are giving as well as letting others know how they can get involved.
1. The historical opportunity. This is a first-time-in-history chance to create an world-class space where people can explore the texts, artifacts and message of the Bible. I grew up just north of Baltimore. While in school, we took annual field trips to Washington DC to visit the various museums. I love the idea of future generations from around the world having the freedom to explore the most important book in human history.
2. Good leadership. I believe God has given the Green family a humble sense of stewardship, integrity and personal sacrifice. While they are putting in the first $800 million, there is a need for another $500 million over the course of the next seven years to fulfill the vision.
3. A legacy opportunity. We told Sage, our 13-year-old daughter who joined us reluctantly, “one day you will be able to tell your grandchildren that your participated in the founding of the Museum of the Bible.” The museum will be a beacon of hope and opportunity to explore the Bible for centuries to come (depending on God's eschatology).
4. A place to build faith. God will use the Museum to spark new faith as well as deepen the faith of those who already believe. In my brief exposure to the exhibit, I felt a growing sense of the bigness of the biblical story. I experienced a renewed sense of confidence in the book that undergirds my faith.. While there are various traditions and translations and even misuses of the Bible, the average visitor will come away with a sense of the transformation the Bible has brought throughout history, across cultures and in individual lives.
5. BIG Faith. I love the size of the faith that museum team has for this. If there is anyone else out there in the faith-based world with a $1.3 billion project, I don't know about it.
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To become an ambassador, email Denise Seward at firstname.lastname@example.org.