By Jerry Wiles, President Emeritus, Living Water International, Special to ASSIST News Service
HOUSTON, TX (ANS – April 18, 2016) – The Gospel of Jesus the Christ is really good news for the unreached, when they are able to hear it, understand it, process it, remember it and pass it on. The Lord Jesus instructed His followers to communicate the Good Story (or Good News) to every person, to the ends of the earth, and to make disciples among all people groups, no one on the face of the earth should be excluded.
However, a very important part of what we know as the Great Commission would be to insure that the message is delivered in ways that are relevant to the receptor culture and understood by everyone.
In a recent conversation with the head of a major international ministry organization, I brought up a few questions about communicating the gospel, making disciples and training leaders in ways that would be cross-cultural, reproducible and transferable to the least and last, unreached people.
His response to my questions was, “I have never thought about that. No one has ever asked me those questions.” Well, it is a common phenomenon that we don’t know what we don’t know, and often need to be exposed to different ways of thinking about God’s ultimate purposes. Of course, the real need is to think in terms of biblical, rather than modern church traditional ways of seeing the world and God’s purposes for His people.
So many people in the world today are not curious enough to want to know more or get out of their comfort zones. Another issue is information overload. We can know a lot, but sometimes miss important things that could change our lives and the lives of those we influence.
Most Important Lessons
Consider the most important things that have happened in your life. Think about the most important lessons you’ve learned and the most significant decisions you’ve made. Having some of those thoughts in mind when you have conversations with others can help you to ask the right questions and engage in meaningful discussions. Actually, the kinds of questions you ask others will often result in them asking you similar questions.
A few years ago in a conversation with a fellow traveler, the lady asked me this question, “Tell me Jerry, what were some defining moments in your life that led you to do what you are doing?” During about a three-hour flight across Sub Sahara Africa, I was able to share some of my life story and integrate the message of Jesus into our conversation. In those conversations, if we can be focused, simple and memorable, people will be able to retell some of what we share.
Prayerful, Intentional and Proactive
When we are prayerful, intentional and proactive, we will be amazed at how the Lord will open doors for transformational encounters. On a return trip from a South Asian country, I met a man from Rome who was on his way to the United States. As we talked, he said he was learning a new way to pray. I discovered that a ministry working in that region was approaching sharing the gospel by beginning a discussion about prayer. While he didn’t use the traditional terminology of modern Western Christians, I sensed that he had become a follower of Jesus as a result of someone sharing with him about how God hears our prayers and responds to our need for a relationship with Him.
An important feature of LWI’s Orality Training is helping people to be aware of the creative capacity of the Holy Spirit to communicate spiritual truth to the human spirit. In relation to telling stories about the person and work of the Lord Jesus, true stories from the Word of God, is realizing that we don’t have to be great storytellers, because we have great stories to tell. There is power in telling the stories from the Word of God. We can have confidence that the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit will bring transformation. We, as His followers and messengers, have the privilege of being His instruments of righteousness.
A pastor in a Central American country who received Orality Training, and became a trainer himself, began to immediately engage people in the communities where Living Water was working. When I was back in that country a few years later to conduct additional Orality Training, I heard reports that this pastor was training an average of 50 people a month and seeing approximately 200 people come to Christ on a monthly basis. We have often heard other reports from various parts of the world where common people learn a few stories from the Bible and begin to immediately share with others. With the appropriate repetition and engagement, others are able to reproduce the stories and the Good News spreads rapidly.
Orange Tree in the Backyard
Fifteen years ago my wife and I planted some orange seeds in a paper cup and they sprouted into a small plant. As it began to grow, we continued to put the orange plant in larger pots. Then, just over ten years ago, we planted the little tree in our back yard. A few years ago it began producing oranges and this year it produced more than 1,300 oranges. It illustrates the principle that Jesus talked about, when He said the kingdom of God is like mustard seed or yeast. A small seed can produce a large plant, and a small amount of yeast can affect a large lump of dough. In thinking about how little things can have great impact, we often use the illustration that says, “You can count the seeds in an orange, but you can’t count the oranges in a seed.”
The late Dr. Avery Willis, founder and former executive director of the International Orality Network, used to remind us that “You can count the seeds in an apple, but you can’t count the apples in a seed.” In relation to business or ministry activities, we sometimes want big and fast results. However, when we understand and operate with kingdom principles, we can trust and expect that small, simple, reproducible is more important than the big and grandiose. Reproducing and multiplying movements of followers of Jesus and communities of faith are often having greater impact than building big buildings and creating grand programs. If we focus on faithfully sowing the Seed of the Word of God in people’s hearts, we can have confidence that much fruit will result.
For more information on Living Water International, the Orality Movement, or Orality Training opportunities, visit – www.water.cc/orality.
Photo captions: 1) High Impactof Repetition and Participatory Learning. 2) Orality methods work for roadside mission outreach. 3) The power of small, simple, reproducible systems and structures. 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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