An Interview with the Co-Founders: Why Bible Journey is an Essential Resource for Christians Today
Co-founders Dr. Tim Laniak and Bryan Dolan are with us to share about how Bible Journey came about, why they’re passionate about this online Bible program and what makes Bible Journey’s online courses so unique and transformative for individuals, small groups and churches. We’re excited to share this interview with you!
(Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.)
Bryan and Tim, you both have rich backgrounds in biblical education and church and community Bible teaching. Tell us how you both got involved in Bible Journey.
Bryan: It’s hard to pick a specific point in time when the seeds of Bible Journey were sown with the way God works, but I distinctly remember in 2003 when Dr. Robert Cooley came to our church to teach the Bible. In that very first class, he brought two objects: an oil lamp and a clay tablet which were 2,000 years old. It really brought the Bible alive—it brought us back to that point in time so we could not only study the text itself, but could actually gain some of the experience of the time.
Fast-forward to around 2010 when [my wife] Joyce and I were considering what to do in the next phase of our lives. We had such a desire to bring this Bible experience to others and give them a full sense of not just what was in the text, but the context and culture of the time, what the author was saying to that audience in those circumstances. Around that time, we were introduced to Dr. Tim Laniak who shared this same vision for bringing the Bible to the whole world—so we launched on the Bible Journey mission together.
Tim: I had a lot of exposure to Scripture growing up, in a Christian home, and I went off to college as a Bible major, but it wasn’t really until my first trip to Israel that really changed everything for me. The kinds of things you can only pick up experientially were hitting me—the Bible wasn’t just this book but a book that came from here. It became a part of my scholarship to do Bible background and there were return trips to [the Holy Land] for more research. That was definitely one of the personal seeds for me.
But then there were seeds in the Dolan’s life sparking their interest in starting a biblical literacy program turned from a conversation with Dr. Bob Cooley to a conversation with us. They came out of some church-based teaching and so the vision was to give people something more, more than what was just available in an average Sunday School or small group, something that had some depth and scholarship but it was made accessible to people. That was the genesis of Bible Journey itself.
Bryan: Tim created the curriculum that was taught in a classroom to over 600 people. Listening to the testimonies and seeing the transformation in the lives that took place was very powerful for us. We had always envisioned that this classroom-based, regional-based curriculum would go to the whole world in some kind of an electronic medium. We wanted to bring this experience—the chance to go in the text, behind the text, and in front of the text—to the entire world.
Tim: I think what we want to do is multiply what we’ve heard from people that have been through Bible Journey—it’s a journey that takes place personally, that often takes place communally, with people in groups, but it’s also a journey that creates a sense of belonging among God’s people throughout time. So you’re not just studying the Bible for yourself, by yourself—you’re joining the sojourners that started with Abraham and all of his heirs and we’re walking out those promises.
And can you share a bit more about why you’re passionate about Bible Journey in particular?
Bryan: I believe that knowledge of and trust in God’s Word is the key to resolving the major societal issues. If everyone understood the biblical metanarrative and embraced their role, the world would be very different. We witnessed this in the testimonies of those who completed Bible Journey in the on-the-ground phase in the greater Charlotte area. Knowledge is just the beginning, but a critical beginning to life transformation.
Tim: The Bible has been at the center of my life for over 40 years. I have watched it transform people’s lives when they are serious about studying it and reflecting on its implications. My passion for delivering it in a 21st-century format came from being a teacher and a missionary—always searching for the best ways to engage Scripture and to understand and apply it contextually. Additionally, a digital Bible curriculum is portable and dynamic.
Let’s talk a bit more about the Bible Journey curriculum itself. Who was Bible Journey created for?
Tim: Bible Journey is for any serious Bible student: from high school honors students to small group church leaders to college and seminary students (and teachers).
So it sounds like Bible Journey is really useful for a wide variety of groups and individuals. What would you say makes Bible Journey an essential resource for churches and ministries?
Tim: Simple—it puts Scripture at the center of discipleship and leadership development.
And what about for individuals? Still an essential resource?
Tim: Oh, yes. Bible Journey is a powerful and transformational resource for individuals. It puts the whole curriculum in their hands, on all their devices. The learning is personalized with workbooks. And further discussion (whether in-person or online) enhances that learning.
Why is Bible Journey different than other programs people might choose?
Bryan: Bible Journey has a number of unique features. For one, the rhythm of each lesson is a movement: “In the Text” sections explore inductive observations and insights about the Bible’s metanarrative, “Behind the Text” sections explore historical, geographical, cultural and religious contexts, and “In Front of the Text” sections explore wide-ranging implications for personal, church and contemporary culture. So each lesson and course moves through this rhythm and provides deep and thorough Scripture teaching in accessible chunks.
Tim: Right, and it covers every book in the Bible, using that 3-part rubric for every lesson. It deliberately blurs the line between high-level lay education and entry-level college/seminary learning. It’s high-quality, seminary-led education, but it’s accessible for a wider group of people than just seminary students. And that means, of course, that those in schools learn how to use a tool that they can then turn around and use in their ministry contexts.
Bryan: Another thing, too, is that Bible Journey offers technological features for experiential learning that just aren’t available in other curriculum for seminaries and Christian learning settings. The 360-degree virtual reality videos and onsite videos transport the learner right to the heart of the Holy Land.
Tell us more about the onsite videos included in Bible Journey. Why are these such an effective tool for learning?
Bryan: The onsite videos provide students the opportunity to visualize their surroundings while learning about each location. They drive home the contextual nature of God’s revelation by taking in the time, place and culture of Scripture.
And what about the lecture videos included in Bible Journey? Each course includes dozens of lecture videos with you, Tim. What makes these lectures unique?
Tim: Well, for one thing, they are short and to-the-point: most of them are just 1-6 minute bite-sized chunks—no need to sit down for a 45-minute lecture. They’re accessible without sacrificing deep learning. And they’re illustrated with images, graphics and on-screen text.
If you had to choose just one thing, what would you say is the most unique feature of Bible Journey?
Bryan: It’s the mix of inductive study with background context and global and historical church elements in a digital environment—something that no one else is offering right now. To be able to have access to such in-depth, high-quality scholarship and study of the entire Bible right at your fingertips, no matter where in the world you are, is also something that’s really special about Bible Journey.