Thousands join Archbishop of Canterbury's first live Facebook Bible study

The Archbishop of Canterbury (L) and Rev Chris Russell.Facebook

The Archbishop of Canterbury has done a live Bible study streamed on Facebook, and it's rather good.

The two-hander with his evangelism adviser Rev Chris Russell was watched live in countries including the UK, USA, South Sudan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Australia, the Seychelles and Japan, and the video on Facebook is getting more views all the time.

Justin Welby and Russell work their way through John 1:35-42, the story of Jesus' meeting with John the Baptist. It's a straightforward conversation between them, with Russell playing the role of interlocutor and eliciting insights into the text from Welby. They talk through the passage, noting among other things that it suggests witnessing to Jesus is the principal task of a Christian, and drawing out from the fact that Jesus asks the crowd a question the "power of fact that God loves us, that he's interested in us".

During the unscripted discussion the Archbishop answered questions posted on Facebook, including one on how relevant this encounter with Jesus is to the lives of young people today.

At the end of the broadcast, Welby encouraged people to read the Bible with their Christian friends and relatives. "You can spend 10 minutes finding out how each other is, 10 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 10 minutes praying together. It's a really good way of spending time together."

The broadcast wouldn't win any prizes for its production values – there's one camera and the two men are sitting in a library with their Bibles open – but that's not the point. The value of an exercise like this, apart from the perceptions shared from the text, is that it shows Christians taking the Bible seriously and letting it speak to them as they open their hearts and minds to it.

Religious faith is often confusing and alien to those who don't practise it. They tend to taken their ideas of it from news reports of Christians objecting to things or getting caught doing something wrong. But this is an example of normal Christian life, with two people – one of them, admittedly, the Archbishop of Canterbury – thoughtfully letting the Bible speak to them. It's a very good way of demystifying faith. Let's have more of it.

Follow Mark Woods on Twitter: @RevMarkWoods