The expression “Bible Sharing” may defy a clear definition, however, it always refers to a group of people gathered together to listen in common and in prayer to God´s Word addressed to them today and trying to live this Word accordingly.
For effective Bible sharing, “methods” have been developed corresponding to the individual needs and interests of the Bible groups. Depending on the participants, their situations and countries, these methods are garbed in different colors.
Experiencing other methods and models may lead to the modification and improvement of one´s own practice. In any case, Bible sharing methods will almost never be exported in their entirety since they are normally molded to the requirements of the group where they originated.
The method described below was developed at the John Paul I Biblical Center (JPIBC) in Vigan, Philippines and promoted through its Basic Bible Seminar. It has found wide acceptance in the ecumenical movement.
1. The Group
Four to six persons (or more) who in trust, openness and mutual respect listen in common to the Word of God, and try to find answers to it; persons who, on the basis of the Word of God, through mutual self-communication, try to find their way towards a deeper Christian community.
2. The Atmosphere
For Bible sharing, a quiet atmosphere is absolutely necessary, i.e.
- Freedom from noise, thus a meeting-place where the group will not be disturbed.
- Freedom from time pressure, thus sufficient time should be available, (according to experience, a group of five people needs about 45 – 60 minutes for this method).
- The participants sit in an open circle (not around a table), so that each one can not only hear the others but also see them.
- A burning candle in the midst reminds the participants that Christ, the Word of God, is the Light of the World (Jn 1,1.9; 8,12; 12,46) and that He is present in the midst of those gathered in His name (Mt 8,20).
3. The Group Facilitator
He/she need not be an expert, because it is not his/her task to convey actual knowledge. The task rather is to lead the group in the Bible sharing by announcing the individual steps of the method. He/she may also lead the opening and closing prayer, or may ask for a volunteer. He/she may invite someone in the group only to read, but not to share.
4. The Bible and the Scripture Text
It is advisable, but not absolutely necessary, that all members have a copy of the Bible in the same translation. It is recommended to choose a reading that the facilitator feels comfortable with.
1. Model A: “Prayer – Response”
Opening Prayer or Song
The participants are endeavored to become aware of God´s presence. Jesus said “Where there are two or three gathered in my name, there I am in their midst.” (Mt 18 ,20). Also a prayer of petition would be appropriate according to the words of Scripture, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening” (1 Sm 3,10) or “You have words of eternal life” (Jn 6,68) or a petition to the Holy Spirit, who can open our ears and free us from everything that would hinder us from hearing God´s Word, or a hymn to the Holy Spirit, “Come Holy Spirit”, etc.
First contact with the TEXT, with the “dead letter”.
- Reading of the text: One member of the group reads it aloud, the others participate by listening and/or reading it silently.
- Silence: After the reading, all observe silence for about three minutes, during which time they may go over the text once more in their minds. Each chooses a word(words), a phrase (phrases), a verse(verses) which strikes them.
- Sharing: After about three minutes, the facilitator invites the group members to share the word, phrase or verse which struck them. They are not to give any explanation, only the word, phrase or verse with the corresponding verse number, e.g. “I was struck by the word ´light´ in verse 5” (in 1 Jn 1). No explanation is given, nor any reason why this particular word, phrase or verse was found striking for the respective individual.
The “dead letter” of Scripture becomes the “LIVING WORD” for each individual (and perhaps, through the individual, for others as well).
- Reading of the same text: After all have shared upon the invitation of the facilitator, another member reads the same text aloud. The others participate silently again.
- Silence: After the reading all observe deep silence for about five minutes, during which time each member listens intently to God´s personal message to him/her. Prompted by the text and/or the sharing of the other group members, something will emerge as most meaningful to each group member, and true to their own experience or applicable to their own lives. While listening, the participants ask themselves, “What do you, God, want to tell me personally for my very own life?”
- Sharing of the Word for me with the others: After about five minutes the facilitator invites the group members to share what they have heard in the depths of their hearts. In order to keep the sharing on a personal level and to refrain from moralizing, they will try to use only the first person singular (I, me, my, mine). It is a matter of simple sharing, not of discussion or of preaching in the sense of moralizing. The word of Pope Paul VI may be recorded here “Is there any other way of handing on the Gospel, than by transmitting to another person one´s personal experience of faith?”
The WORD demands a RESPONSE.
- Reading of the same text: After all have shared, another member of the group reads the text aloud for a third time, while the others listen and/or read silently.
- Silence and personal answer to the WORD: After the reading the group observes deep silence once again, during which time each individual tries to find an answer to what has been perceived as the personal Word of God. There ought to be a real correspondence between the Word and the answer, for instance, expressing one´s trust if the Word was a promise; one´s obedience if it was a command. The prayer could also be praise and thanks, repentance, petition, intercession, depending on the message received.
- Sharing of the personal prayer response: Each person expresses aloud the personal answer of his/her heart to the Word received, so that it may be confirmed through the “Amen” (expressed aloud or in silence) of the other participants.
Concluding Prayer or Song
A prayer of praise or thanks, a song, or the Lord´s Prayer recited in common by the group, are a very fitting conclusion to this Bible Sharing.