Lauren Green-McAfee is a woman “standing with the Bible” and she wants you to stand with her. As Director of Community Engagement for the soon to open “Museum of the Bible,” Lauren is in a position she could only dream of.
Her well-known family, The Greens, have spent the last few years acquiring an impressive collection of rare biblical artifacts and antiquities. When I say impressive, I mean, one of the world’s largest private collections. Over 40,000 pieces to be exact! They also hold the second largest collection of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the largest collection of Hebrew scrolls and much, much more. Why all this? A deep seeded love and reverence for the Bible and a need to share.
As a young girl growing up in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Lauren met her greatest mentor. Her dad, Steve Green, a hands-on father of six and president of the national retail chain Hobby Lobby. This awe inspired child wasn’t moved by her father just because he was a fun dad and certainly not because of his impressive business enterprise. (Too young for that.) No, she noticed her dad faithfully making the time to read his Bible every single morning. Witnessing this has had a lasting impression and profound impact on Lauren and her life choices.
When I first heard about this magnificent museum for some reason the movie Jurassic Park came to my mind… ‘Spare no expense!’ (I hope that isn’t sacrilegious.) The magnitude of this endeavor is overwhelming to the average Joe. But not to the Green family and the array of multi-talented academics, theologians, business and creative minds they have employed and who hold seats on their board of directors. While Disneyland claims to be “the happiest place on earth”, I think the Museum of the Bible should lay claim to sharing “the most exciting book ever revealed on earth!”
The Museum of the Bible is set to open in the fall of 2017. This is quite an undertaking! What and why was your family led to take on a massive project like this?
My family, through the generations, has always loved the Bible. We started building a collection of artifacts. This was not something we wanted to keep to ourselves. It had to be shared. Studies were performed to investigate interest levels in a Bible Museum. The response… tremendous interest and huge potential! At this point, we didn’t have a permanent dwelling place for our collections, so our first step was to get it to the people. The formation of a traveling exhibit enabled us to share these treasures with people all over the map. We have domestic and international exhibits.
Can you tell us a little bit about the scope of this project?
Our building is 8 stories high, 430,000 square feet in size! It will have three main floors of exhibit space which will be dedicated to telling the history, impact and narrative of the Bible. We will have a biblically themed restaurant that will serve food customary to the region and a rooftop garden with plantings also customary to the region. Also, lecture halls and research labs that contain multi-spectrum imaging for studying the artifacts and antiquities.
How long will it take for the average person to get through the museum?
Good question. It would take 9 8-hour days to see absolutely everything. Yes, that is a lot and in reality, you will need multiple trips to see it all. However, we have designed an iPad program to streamline your tour. When you enter the building you can grab an iPad and fill it out highlighting what your interests are, what you really want to see, how much time you have, do you have kids with you, your level of knowledge (scholar thru first time I’ve seen the Bible) and so on! There will be docents and curators available as well. Our goal here is, of course, to enjoy and learn but also to participate and engage in your interactive tour.
How did Washington D.C. become your landing place?
First we ran an economic impact study. The three runners up were D.C., New York City, where I live, and Dallas. We found the perfect building in Washington D.C., our nation’s capital and only two blocks from the Air and Space Museum. We are so excited because the Metro runs under our building! We actually own the roof of the metro stop so you can expect to see a giant digital screen with spectacular biblical artwork on banners running 24/7. Needless to say, it will be the most beautiful Metro stop in town! (Note: Maybe in the world!)
Who do you hope to attract to the museum of the Bible?
Everyone! The Bible is the most universally important book. Its impact is felt in one way or another in all cultures around the world. Because of our scholarly pursuits and exhibits, many will learn no matter what their background. A 2000 Time-Life magazine article featured a story about the top impactful events or people in the world. It turns out that Guttenberg’s printing of the Bible, considered to many to be the first ‘modern’ printed book around 1455, was at the top of the list! Not just recognizing the printing press but the Bible itself. This is because the Bible is recognized by many as the most significant book out there.
Is this all about Christianity?
It is all about the Bible, which connects with Catholicism, Protestantism, and Judaism. All different faith traditions can learn from this. It has been a beautiful experience to see a sense of unity throughout different faiths! Where there could be division we are seeing unity.
Papyrus 39. Can you explain why this artifact is so note-worthy?
Papyrus is a plant that was used as a type of paper. This particular fragment, P-39, is the oldest surviving copy of John 8: 14 – 22 in existence! This was found in Oxyrhynchus, Egypt in what was virtually a giant trash dump. This is one manuscript of many found in this location.
Tell us about your “Passages” and “Book of Books” exhibits.
“Passages” is our traveling exhibit that started in Oklahoma City, and on to Atlanta, Charlotte, Colorado Springs and Springfield, Missouri. Passages is currently in Santa Clarita, California, where it is on its sixth and final stop. There are four galleries in Passages that cover the translation, transmission, impact, and controversy of the Bible. Our International exhibit is called The “Book of Books”. It has been to the Vatican twice where it focused on history and how God’s word spread throughout the world to every nation. The Jerusalem version concentrated on the Jewish faith and how the Christians and Jews share the same “roots” in the Old Testament. Trips were also made to Cuba and Argentina. These exhibits focused on an overview of history and the impact of the Bible. Each exhibit is arranged to meet people where they are in their culture. All are engaging and experiential. You are “in” the scene of events!
Word is that your family is extremely generous and not only wants to share all of these treasures with the world but also teach generations to come. Can you tell us about that?
These incredible artifacts deserve to be studied, researched and shared with the scholarly world! We have started up “The Scholar Initiative” by partnering with over 100 different schools studying our materials. We want to mentor the next generation in the process. It is our hope that we will be able to allow more access in the future.
Let’s get back to Lauren now, shall we? Can you tell us a little bit more about you and your educational background? Did you know from day one that you wanted to work for the museum?
So I grew up in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and have lived there my whole life…until recently when my husband and I moved to New York City. I got my Bachelors of Arts degree from the University of Oklahoma in “Letters,” which focuses on History, Literature and Philosophy. And no, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with that degree… I just knew I was fascinated by history. My family didn’t start collecting biblical artifacts until my senior year in college. I went on to Liberty University Seminary, where I got my masters in “Pastoral Counseling”. I married my husband Michael while we were still in college, so, yes, I got married young. (We met each other at age 7, in Sunday school.) Michael also works for the museum as Director of Bible Engagement. The fun part is that our roles cross over and we travel a lot together with work.
Why pastoral counseling?
Because I wanted to serve the church by mentoring and pouring into young girls. My husband was a youth pastor for the first 4 years of our marriage, and I enjoyed serving the young women in our youth group. I’m excited that I am continuing that in New York City!
As a Green family member, you probably have your pick of just about any position with the Museum. What led you to Community Engagement?
Ooh, that sounds nice to just pick. The truth is, our family believes very strongly in earning your position, family or not. I have worked for almost 5 years starting at the bottom to get to this position. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love my job as Director of Community Engagement. Much of my time is spent sharing with people and groups about why I love the museum, in turn, raising awareness. This is easy for me because I’m so passionate about it! I would not consider myself a “speaker” but I’ve rolled up my sleeves and gotten out there. God knew what He was doing with this. A perfect fit for me. I am humbled and honored to do what I am doing.
How about your father? How does the President of Hobby Lobby and Founder and Chairman of the Board of Museum of the Bible, juggles it all?
Absolutely! My dad is still president of Hobby Lobby and spends about half of his time at the museum. To say he is passionate about this project is an understatement. His dream is to be able to share this incredible, historic and relevant book with the world, not just his inner circle.
“Stand with the Bible”, can be seen on your website. What’s this all about?
We have an exciting campaign called “One Million Names”. It’s a program that allows all people to be a part of this historic undertaking! We know from research that people want to get involved. By making a donation in any amount, your name will be engraved into the building with all the others. You can make a donation for yourself, family members, or a gift for a friend, it’s up to you. By doing so you are saying: “I stand with the Bible” and now…you are in the heart of the project and in the cement!
At the end of the day Lauren, what do you hope “Museum of the Bible” will accomplish?
I hope this invitation for people to engage…will spread worldwide. That people will plan vacations around this spectacular presentation of the living word. This book has changed the world and has changed my life. What could be better than for seekers and non-seekers alike to have a newer and deeper understanding of “The Bible”.
For those of you whose interest has been sparked, which I hope are all of you that are breathing…make sure to visit the website “Museum of the Bible” to learn more and become “One with a million.” www.museumofthebible.org.