By Jerry Wiles, President Emeritus, Living Water International, Special to ASSIST News Service
HOUSTON, TX (ANS – Dec. 16, 2015) — One of the most basic reasons why the Orality Movement is gaining such momentum in the world today is because it is a rediscovery and implementation of the most effective ways and means that people have learned and communicated from the beginning of time. It is also so much more about relationships, community and connectivity than the modern text or print-based cultures in the modern Western World. It has been said that Orality is better experienced than explained, therefore, much of the Orality Training is based on demonstration, participation and then explanation.
Important for all Christ-followers today is rediscovering the timeless principles of communicating the Gospel and making disciples, which we can learn from the Lord Jesus Himself. He used stories, parables and questions; created relationships and built community. His message and methods were reproduced by His followers for 1,500 years — until the time of the invention of the printing press. Then the Church became more dependent upon print-based or written instruction, therefore, for the most part, neglecting the most effective ways that people had learned and communicated for thousands of years.
We should consider this question, “Can we, as followers of Jesus, communicate, instruct, train and make disciples today in the ways He did 2,000 years ago?” The answer seems to be “Yes,” if we realize that the same God who lived in Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago now lives in us, and that the same Holy Spirit is actively involved in redeeming His creation.
Lessons we can learn from the rapidly reproducing communities of faith and disciple making movements are also applicable to the Church in the West and in North America. The lessons we can learn from the movements in the Global South and the Early Church are more transferable to the Western World and North America, than trying to impose our Modern American ways on the rest of the world. Consider the fact that the Gospel of the Kingdom spread throughout the entire populated world in the First Century by Orality-based methods. Of course, this was before radio, television, the internet, cell phones or even the printing press. Simple and reproducible methods allowed every follower of Jesus to tell their story and His Story, every day, wherever they happened to be.
While it is a great blessing to have at our disposal today many valuable technological and print-based resources, it is important to not create a dependency on them if we want our strategies and methods to be effective to the least and last, the unreached and unengaged people groups around the world. When we start with totally Oral ways and means, we have a way to reach any place and all people groups with what is in our heads and hearts, much like the Early Church communicated and made disciples. Once people have responded to the Gospel, we can then determine what other resources and methods will be culturally appropriate to assist them on their journey.
As the Orality Movement has grown and matured over the past forty or so years in modern Church history, those in the movement continue to discover and learn multiple applications of Oral methods. Beginning with evangelism, sharing the Gospel, disciple making, church planting and church growth, we recognize that there are many other applications, i.e. integral mission, team building, leadership development, social justice issues and many others.
In a recent Orality Practitioner and Theological Education Consultation in Nairobi, Kenya, sponsored by the International Orality Network, Daystar University and Living Water Africa Region, many creative and innovative applications were reported. Stories of impact were told from many different countries of Orality Training that addressed issues of child abuse, disunity within local congregations and various needs that were not visible. When children heard and understood the lessons from stories from the Bible, such as “Jesus calming the Storm” and the “Blind beggar, known as Bartimaeus,” it gave them boldness to speak out and call for help. It was discovered that many children were living in abusive relationships. When they heard those stories, they understood that they didn’t have to keep the problems to themselves. They began to open up and share their needs, it gave the pastors and church leaders a better understanding of their needs and how to help them.
One of the most significant reasons the Orality Movement is working today is that Christ followers realize the power of the Holy Spirit to use us to bring transformation through the presentation of His Word. One of the lessons we learn from the story of Jesus Calming the Storm is the power of His Word. When we talk about Him rebuking the wind and speaking to the waves, we ask, “Does His Word still have power today to change things and people?” We go on to consider, “Do our words have power?” It builds confidence that as we speak the Word of God, by telling the true stories from His Word, the Holy Spirit can touch hearts and change lives.
An important feature of Orality methods is the awareness that we don’t have to be great storytellers, because we have great stories to tell. We want to make sure our message and methods are biblical, understandable and reproducible. Biblical storying, or storytelling is just one stream of the Orality Movement. It has been referenced in other places in this document that the Orality Movement is very deep and wide and multi-faceted. Oral arts of all kinds are part of the movement: song and dance, poetry, proverbs, parables, chants, drama and many others. Then, today, we have an amazing amount of technological resources available that did not exist just a few years ago.
Simplicity and reproducibility are two of the major reasons that orality is working today. Simplicity does not mean simplistic or shallow. Actually, once they have experienced it for themselves, many pastors and church leaders are amazed and surprised at how profound spiritual truth can be communicated and experienced through Orality methods. In fact, behavior change happens better and faster through Orality methods, than through text or literacy-based methods.
Orality Training often challenges many to re-evaluate how much and what people need to know in order to have a relationship with the Living God and become a reproducing follower of Jesus. How much and what, not based on 2,000 years of Church history and traditions, but based on the Scriptures, with a focus on the life, the Spirit and teachings of Jesus. The Orality Revolution is helping many to recognize that some things have become more complicated and complex than they need to be, and that there is a great need to get back to the roots of how it all began 2,000 years ago.
For more information on Living Water International, the Orality Movement, or Orality Training opportunities, visit – www.water.cc/orality
Photo captions: 1) Multi-Cultural and Multi-Ethnic Relationships are Built During Orality Training Experiences 2) High Impact Participatory Learning. 3) 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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