By Jerry Wiles, President Emeritus, Living Water International, Special to ASSIST News Service
HOUSTON, TX (ANS – August 4, 2015) – “Who is this man, that even the wind and the waves obey Him?” That is the question the disciples of Jesus asked each other after witnessing Him calming the storm, recorded in Mark chapter 4.
A lady in a recent Orality Training Workshop asked what we might learn from the question the disciples asked each other. She wanted to know why they were amazed and surprised at Jesus’ ability to calm a storm and take authority over nature.
Those questions opened up a lengthy discussion among a large group of pastors, church leaders and others in that Orality Training Workshop. After much consideration and discussion, the group came to several conclusions. The following are some of their observations and insights:
The disciples were on a continuous journey of learning and discovering the greatness of God, expressed through Jesus.
One never arrives at complete and perfect knowledge of God and His ways, but we continue to grow in grace and knowledge of Him.
If we, as followers of Jesus, are paying attention to God’s activity in our lives, we will continue to learn and discover more about Him.
The discussion was an exciting and energizing time as participants began to grasp the fact that when we are on a journey with Jesus, we can expect to be constantly learning about the character and greatness of God. One of the pastors started to chant, “Every day with Jesus is better than the day before.” Then the whole group burst out in song, and for several minutes sang that phrase over and over again. It was an amazing time of worship and celebration. That experience also enhanced everyone’s understanding of how the Holy Spirit can give insight and understanding through group participatory learning methods.
After conducting Orality Training in many parts of the world, it is always amazing, encouraging, and sometimes surprising how common, simple people receive deep spiritual insights. Simply telling stories, asking questions and discussing the life, Spirit and teachings of Jesus is an incredibly transformational time for many.
It is important to realize that the Orality Movement is much more than storytelling, which is what some have mistakenly concluded. I recently read that a noted Christian scholar and author made the statement that some Orality Missiologists are promoting stories, not education. That is a very limited view of Orality, but sometimes people tend to be negative and critical of something, based on very limited information.
Actually, stories can be a very effective means of education, but there are also many other methods and strategies that are part of the Orality Movement. In addition to the multitude of Oral Arts, there is an amazing amount of new technological resources that can support reaching and making disciples of the 70% (5.7 billion) of the world’s population who are Oral Learners, by necessity or by preference. Orality methods can also enhance literacy programs and Bible translation efforts.
Those who make negative, critical remarks about the Orality Movement often fail to recognize that these are the ways that the Church began. The Gospel spread throughout the entire populated world during the First Century, primarily by oral methods. It’s the way Jesus communicated, trained and made disciples. He told stories/parables, asked questions, built relationships and community, and it was reproduced by His followers. Of course, we should recognize that it is the work of the Holy Spirit that makes any method or strategy of communication and training effective.
It is liberating when we discover the creative and unlimited power of the Holy Spirit to work through His people in advancing His Kingdom everywhere. I recently returned to an African country where we had conducted Orality Training in 2013 and 2014. I visited with a pastor who had participated in an Orality Training for Trainers (OT4T) the year before. I learned that he had trained more than 30 other pastors in his region, and they are now training others and using the Orality methods in their own congregations. He said the churches, Sunday Schools and Bible study groups were growing as a result of using the Orality Training.
Incidentally, in our Orality Training, we emphasize that Orality is not intended to take the place of any other methods that are working, but it is another tool for one’s mission/ministry tool box. However, almost without exception, those who participate and use the training say that it is better than anything else they have been using.
When the seed of God’s Word is planted in fertile, receptive hearts, it reproduces 30, 60 or 100 times over what is sown, as we learn from the parable Jesus told, recorded in Mark 4. It is encouraging to hear feedback from those we share and minister with. However, even if we never hear back, we can have confidence that God honors His Word.
A mission pastor recently made the statement, “I know all I need to know about the Orality movement.” It’s sad and unfortunate that anyone would think that they know all they need to know about anything. A healthy curiosity and a thirst for knowledge are good things, especially in relation to knowing God and His ways. The more we learn of Jesus and share Him with others, the greater our depth of understanding and wisdom will increase. Someone has wisely said that we can learn something from almost everyone. Connecting with others can change and enrich each of us on our journey of discovery and learning.
Some important features of the Orality Training experience are the aspects of engagement, participatory action learning and learning from each other in small group activities. We benefit from shared knowledge and the collective memory of groups, families, communities or tribes.
For more information about LWI or Orality Training resources and opportunities, visit www.water.cc/orality.
Photo captions: 1) What is the main message, the important lessons, and how does it apply to our lives? 2) An excited group of Orality Trainees, ready to share the stories of Jesus. 3) Retelling a true story from the Word of God. 4) Jerry Wiles.
About the writer: Jerry Wiles is President Emeritus of Living Water International and serves on the advisory council and leadership team of the International Orality Network. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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