Facebook Bible Study
Church of England

A million flock to Facebook to hear Justin Welby search the scriptures

 

The Archbishop of Canterbury led a live-streamed Bible study on Facebook a few weeks ago. People logged in from all over the world, including the UK, USA, South Sudan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Australia, the Seychelles and Japan. At the time of writing, it has received 887,495 views, 3,920 shares, 3,910 comments and 20,128 reactions in the ensuing thread. Think about that for a minute: a spontaneous, unscripted, unpolished Facebook video of the Archbishop of Canterbury studying the Bible with the Rev’d Chris Russell, his adviser for evangelism and witness, reaches more people than attend a Church of England service on an average Sunday (currently estimated to be 760,000).

There’s no intro/outro music, no ambient lighting, no contrived stage and no judicious editing. It is halting, occasionally awkward and a little untidy, with artless glances at people behind the camera and mysterious pieces of paper clumsily entering the frame. But it is all the more authentic and credible for that. In the coarseness of the technology and stiffness of the characters is a certain refreshing originality: there is reality and truth for the Word of Truth. This is not the Archbishop of Canterbury publicly proclaiming a crafted sermon of honed exposition and politic utterances, but Justin Welby muddling his way through the scriptures to discover more about Jesus. He then took live questions from some of those watching, so we have a feeling of muddling through the Gospel of John together.

This week the Archbishop deployed Facebook again, for a live Q&A session and prayer with the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales. It was more awkward and bumbling than the Bible study, if not at times uncomfortably floundering. “I’m not quite sure,” said the Cardinal in response to one of the Archbishop’s questions. But it was authentic, casual, and ad-libbed, and all the more interesting and inviting for its un-contrived dialogue. At the time of writing, it has received 124,931 views, 697 shares, 785 comments and 3,579 reactions in the ensuing thread. That is more than a million people who have experienced something of the ministry of the Archbishop of Canterbury over the past fortnight, thanks to Facebook.

There are those who will take issue with Justin Welby’s expository inadequacies, and others who censure him for not denouncing the Cardinal as a pawn of Antichrist and using the encounter to demand that he repent of his idolatry and come out of the Whore of Babylon. The Archbishop did, after all, manage to insert mention of the Reformation. Critics are free to make such comments in the chat threads, which appear not to be censored. Where else (apart from this blog) can you find freedom of expression in the world of faith? It isn’t as though the questions are filtered to make it easy for them: “What can lay people do to promote Christian unity?” “Will the Church of England rejoin the Catholic communion?” “What are churches doing to ensure that young people are properly discipled?”

And whenever has a bishop or archbishop used social media to minister to those who spontaneously seek fellowship?

FB reply

The Archbishop said: “You can spend ten minutes finding how each other is, ten minutes looking at a passage of the Bible – asking very simply ‘What does it say? What does it mean? What are we going to do about it?’ – and ten minutes praying together. It’s a really good way of spending time together.” But for those who can’t or don’t want to, you now have the option of cyber-Bible study and spontaneous chat and prayer with none other than the Archbishop of Canterbury himself.

A great multitude (c5,000) followed Jesus out of the cities into the desert. He satisfied their spiritual hunger as well as feeding them all with bread and fish. A great multitude follow Justin Welby on Facebook (c121,000) and Twitter (c91,000). The Archbishop can’t buy them all fish and chips, but he can and does offer an authentic gospel experience and plugs people into the plausible life of the Church. He ministers to his cyber-congregation with grace, telling the world about the man who hung on a cross and why we should seek and follow him. By searching the scriptures on social media, Justin Welby rehearses the word and works of the Risen Christ in community, drawing the world out of its parochial mindset into the catholic ambiguities of christological interpretation and the hermeneutic of the gospel. Justin Welby has planted a church on Facebook. The world is his parish.

  • Inspector General

    That’s what a Christian fellow likes to know about. One Christian denomination together with another. Not cosying up to a wicked faith whose book tells their unfortunates to persecute Christians, or anyone else for that matter who do not bow to Allah.

    • David

      Good point Inspector. Well said !

      • Inspector General

        Why it needs to be said at all is quite beyond the Inspector. David. Cosmo Lang did not invite Mosley around for tea in the garden, but of course, it was much easier to reject his philosophy – Mosley was a white man…

    • Uncle Brian

      “Christians have a mission to convert all Muslims,” proclaims Cardinal Kurt Koch, who holds a senior position in the Roman Curia. He’s the President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

      http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2016/05/23/christians-have-a-mission-to-convert-all-muslims-says-vatican-official/

      • Inspector General

        One takes it the good cardinal will not be travelling to Rotherham or Luton to put into practice his mission…unless he believes what he is saying…

        • Royinsouthwest

          I imagine that the apostles would have had no hesitation in going there.

          • Inspector General

            Maybe so Roy, but all but one suffered a violent end. We can’t even protect muslims who convert to Christianity as it is in the UK, as one of Cranmer’s recent posts informed us. We have to face the fact that unless they come to the word by their own volition, they are lost…

  • bluedog

    Congratulations to ++Welby, Your Grace. An innovative use of technology enabling the Christian message to be transmitted across the globe with an extraordinary intimacy between the Archbishop and his cyber-congregation. Those who participated were clearly deeply moved by the experience, seeking more. The Anglican Communion has a natural advantage in this use of media, given that our faith is based on the Bible which everyone can buy, and not merely determined by men in a faraway city.

    It will be interesting to see how far the numbers rise as the word spreads and the congregation grows.

  • David

    This sounds like a very good, authentic sharing of The Word with any and all who are interested. I hope that it succeeds – mightily !

  • Uncle Brian

    The unpolished, uncontrived untidiness is an asset, I think. It shows this isn’t just another talking heads show from the broadcasting establishment’s production line.

  • This is REALLY good.
    Wonderful to listen to The Cardinal and The Archbishop together in harmony. Uplifting stuff. Would be great if the Bible study and the Q&A be weekly online events.

    • dannybhoy

      I think Christianity expands our minds and encourages learning and debate. A good old fashioned Bible study will often include science, history, geography and social issues. I think true Christians will think about all aspects of life, and be open to discussion.

      Proverbs 27:17Amplified Bible (AMP)
      “As iron sharpens iron,
      So one man sharpens [and influences] another [through discussion]”.

  • len

    Good to see Church leaders searching the scriptures…

  • dannybhoy

    “The Archbishop said: “You can spend ten minutes finding how each other
    is, ten minutes looking at a passage of the Bible – asking very simply
    ‘What does it say? What does it mean? What are we going to do about it?’
    – and ten minutes praying together.”
    This is the only way one gets to the heart of Christianity.
    You come with a penitent prepared heart
    With faith that this is the Word Of God
    You read the text, you consider the context, you consider whether it links with any other themes in the Scriptures
    You prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit to apply it to your heart, and resolve to be obedient to its instruction
    You rejoice in the fellowship of the saints.
    No one has all the answers, so no one should be afraid to say “I don’t know or “I don’t understand.”
    What salvation is, and what discipleship means could not be clearer.
    All the rest is peripheral.

    • David

      Yes, exactly !

  • Royinsouthwest

    Your Grace’s last sentence was no doubt inspired by John Wesley. I’m sure he would have approved.

  • Martin

    A crafted sermon of honed exposition? Is that what you think a sermon is, a recital?

    • Royinsouthwest

      One of the purposes of a sermon is to educate the congregation. What would you think of a teacher who just turned up in the classroom without any preparation and just spoke off the cuff? There may be a few brilliant teachers that could do that effectively but most teachers, like most doctors, engineers, dustmen etc. are not brilliant because brilliance is a rare attribute.

      We hope that our doctors, teachers, engineers, shop keepers, street dustmen etc. are competent and conscientious. The same applies to preachers. If they are brilliant that is a bonus.

      • Martin

        Roy

        I’m not suggesting that a preacher be unprepared but that the sermon is never complete until the man stands in the pulpit and the Spirit leads him where he should go. I have heard sermons vastly better than a man’s normal preaching where, for circumstances beyond his control, he was unable to prepare fully. The Holy Spirit is what really matters in a sermon.

  • David

    It is only after the Church returns, in humility, to examine carefully what The Bible teaches us, doing this in prayer, that can we begin to hope for a large scale return to Biblical values. The rest then depends upon the work of the Holy Spirit opening the hearts of the unbelievers to the love of God. All are called to repent, and to turn again to the God of forgiveness, justice and peace.
    However too many are now following a man-orinetated liberal form of religion, in which humans twist what is really said, into something that suits them. They seek, to quote Bonhoeffer, “cheap grace”, which are the benefits of salvation, through grace, but without genuine repentance and making Christ the Lord and Master of their lives. This is why many churches are luke warm, and in decline.
    God is the ultimate discriminator – he recognises the authentic from the inauthentic. All are not the same in the eyes of the Almighty.

  • Ivan Sena

    I think the ABC is a good man, a pastor of/in the Anglican Communion who believes in biblical teaching, it’s a good communicator and, in a few words …. what a man! But I believe Anglican Communion Office and the ABC officce (Lambeth Palace, I guess) need to put more attention to the minorities tongues in the Communion. I speak in behalf of those anglicans and not-anglicans in Latin America who don’t understand any word of English. I understand written English and sometimes I translate some extracts of ABC’s speeches, but its too hard for me to understand spoken English.

    Anglican Communion official web sites (along with ACCO, and personal page of ABC) have not many resources in Spanish.

    Greetings to all of you, with every blessings.

    from a postulant to sacred orders in The Anglican Church of Mexico

    • len

      Greeting to you …..

      • Ivan Sena

        Greetings to you too, from the Anglican Diocese of Southeast Mexico.

    • Eustace

      What are you faffing about with Anglicanism for when you have a perfectly good Hispanophone Roman Catholic Church on your doorstep?

      Catherine of Aragon must be spinning in her grave. Her husband’s heresy has even cracked the Church in two in far-flung Mexico?

      When a thing is this broken, can it ever be mended?

    • dannybhoy

      Greetings and blessings to you too Ivan.

  • len

    No comments yet from atheists…Highly unusual that they didn`t take this opportunity to attack Christianity …or perhaps they are all out enjoying the weather and cannot be bothered to comment?.

    This goes back to the attack on the foundations of Christianity and the reasons that many today regard Christianity as an ‘irrelevance’

    Nothing could be further than the truth that Christianity is their only hope of salvation for themselves and this world…..

    But all this has been said and has fallen on (mainly) deaf ears?.

    Might have mentioned this once or twice before but this is an ‘extremely relevant article'(for those who have ears)……..

    https://answersingenesis.org/christianity/christianity-is-under-attack/

    • Eustace

      The joint appearence of these two Christian grand poobahs seems to have whipped up their followers into quite a frenzy. I suppose that’s understandable given the leaky state of the Christian barque.

      For years these two and their predecessors have been pulling in different directions. As a result, the boat they row has been going around in circles as it settles deeper and deeper into the water. Nobody seemed to care. Being right was more important than getting to any kind of destination.

      But now the waves are lapping over the gunwhale and there’s general panic aboard. “Damn, we’d better man the bails and all pull in the same direction or this craft will soon be a submarine…”

      Only, what’s happened to their crew? With only two old codgers, three mustachioed virgins and the odd (very odd) idiot child left to heave on the oars and scoop water overboard, their boat is at the mercy of tides and winds that even a full ship’s complement would struggle to navigate.

      Looks like too little, too late to me. The captains will go down with their ship. The crew members heaping so much praise on their belated efforts to save them all from shipwreck might as well be on the Titanic.

      • len

        No quite’ a frenzy’ of interest but a few people have sat up and taken notice. There is still a huge amount of interest in the titanic even though it lies at the bottom of the ocean.. You can sink the ship but you cannot kill the interest…

        • Eustace

          When the Church finally founders on the rock of secularism, who will be to blame? The rock, or the incompetents who steered their boat right into it?

          Christian arrogance is easily a match for the attitudes of the crew of the Titanic. And look what happened to her. “This ship is unsinkable!” they cried, much as Christians claim their Church can never founder. Let’s see what actually happens, shall we?

          Religions can and do disappear. Nobody worships Jupiter or Zeus any more. Christ looks very much as though he’s going the same way in the West. And where the West leads, others eventually follow.

          Christianity is more and more dominated by its Third World contingent, so growing conservatism is to be expected. But as Third World living standards rise, the courses of all ecclesiastical barques will converge on the rock of secularism. Having learned nothing from previous disasters, they’ll all sink to the bottom too.

          So much for Christ’s promises that the world will never prevail against his Church. It is prevailing, or don’t you believe the evidence of your own eyes?

          • len

            Jesus said the world will never prevail against HIS church.The church that is foundering has little or nothing to do with Christ who said that if the church did not remain’ salt’ and’ light’ it would get trampled underfoot and that is exactly what is happening to the church that sold itself to this (present) world system.No mystery there..

          • Eustace

            Oh, of course. Stupid of me. The true Church is not THE Church, it’s YOUR Church, isn’t it? Given that universal truth is defined by what you and you alone believe in, I suppose that makes sense.

            So where does it say in the Bible that len is the ultimate arbiter of all that is right and holy, then? I must have missed that bit…

          • Anton

            What you missed are the criteria in the Bible for what the church is: a peaceable and loving small minority, a grassroots movement understanding that all Christians are priests, despised by the prevailing culture at all times and places. Just as Jesus’ own movement was by the Jewish authorities; just as the Lollards and Waldenses were by a mediaeval Catholic culture that had moved far from the biblical criteria; and just as the house church movement is today in communist China. Neither Len nor the church is free to define the church; it is defined via scripture.

            The secularist experiment has failed. Family breakdown is rocketing and teenage suicide stats likewise; communism wrecked the 20th century for nearly half of the human race; two world wars were triggered in essentially secular Europe… which might not miss the church but certainly misses God. Today it is no longer avoidable that the problem is not in the human head (ie, education) but in the human heart. Can man really be made good by appropriate social engineering; or only by divine cleansing?

          • len

            HIS Church , have a problem with that? The answer is obviously ‘yes’.
            Because’ the problem’ you have is accountability….

            And all the ‘no absolutes’ disappear like mist in the morning sunshine…..

          • Eustace

            I have a problem with you defining what the Church should be, because as far as I’m aware, you’re just an ordinary person with no special line to God. He hasn’t named you High Priest and Divine Spokesperson. You’re no Pope or prophet. So how come you think you can tell others what the Church should be and then expect them to take you seriously?

    • Anton

      The problem in the education system is in the Humanities, not the sciences.