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How do you study the Bible with people who have no faith background?

Hi I am Esther, a Street Chaplain & trainee pioneer minister with the BU based at London Road Baptist Church in sunny Lowestoft in Suffolk. As part of my role I co-lead the discipleship team which involves Alpha & any continuing meet ups afterwards.

The Alpha we ran in the summer of 2021 was obviously impacted by the Pandemic, and to keep it safely face to face we decided to run it around fire pits outside, only venturing inside masked-up for the films. Our Church has links with the recovery community in Lowestoft & so we had mainly people from early recovery attending Alpha.

The brilliant thing was that each week, whatever the section of Luke we chose, God spoke to each person.

When it came to the end of Alpha & deciding how to journey with these new Jesus followers who have had no faith background, God prompted us to consider a “Getting into the Bible” group. The problem was that most resources we could find were for ‘bible study’ and seemed too in-depth or prescriptive, or assumed a lot of prior knowledge which was not suitable for our vulnerable new believers. This is when I contacted Simon Goddard to ask if he knew of anything that might be suitable. He pointed me to the new Sharing Jesus website and the Bible Talk approach, as a regular practitioner of the Lectio Divina method my heart sang when I looked at the different ways suggested of engaging with the Bible that drew on this approach.

Our group ended up being a small one, where we ate food and laughed a lot, then watched a Bible Project YouTube film giving various overviews & contexts for the Bible, and then we picked a section of Luke (a mixture of story, parable and teaching over 10 weeks) and used the discovery method to reflect on it together.

we would talk of how God was changing them and me, and they would see some beautiful insight in the text that was really profound.

The brilliant thing was that each week, whatever the section of Luke we chose, God spoke to each person. They got involved in the story, made comparisons, had insights I had never noticed before, and the Holy Spirit related each story to their lives.

I think personally I loved how egalitarian it was! There wasn’t a “Bible study leader” with all the answers, but just people, eating and chatting and then exploring & hearing from God together.

The most beautiful thing for me was that people were able to be themselves. Three out of our four attendees had come from over 15 years of addiction, some had been homeless, and had suffered a lot of trauma, so there was a lot of language used that many wouldn’t expect to hear at a Bible Study; a lot of risqué humour, a stretching of the boundaries of acceptability, but then we would talk of how God was changing them and me, and they would see some beautiful insight in the text that was really profound. Other times we would take communion together, my cat would join us & get in the way and everyone would leave feeling a little lighter and like they had heard something from God to take with them into the week.

The Bible Talk method simply gave me freedom from having to lead a study, instead it created equality of participation. It empowered people to feel they could hear from God, it allowed honesty and openness, it, at times, lead to randomness that maybe wouldn’t be agreed as good theology, but, I feel like God can cope with that and we shouldn’t be scared of that because it allowed us to really get immersed in the gospel – to feel it and its relevance. I learnt that for me, this is the most fun and profound way to encounter Jesus together.

 

If you’d like to find out more about Sharing Jesus and how to use it in your context, then come and join us for one of our free Sharing Jesus Workshops, held throughout the year! Click here to find out more.