By Jerry Wiles, North America Regional Director, International Orality Network, President Emeritus, Living Water International, Special to ASSIST News Service
HOUSTON, TX (ANS – November 4, 2016) — Change seems to be really difficult for many, if not most, people in the modern Western World. Sometimes we get so comfortable with our ways of living and doing things, that we just like to keep things the way they are. Comfort zones are really comfortable, and the familiar is often preferable to the different or unknown.
One of the things we are seeing in the Church/Mission World is a lot of change. For example, the modern Orality Movement is changing the face of missions and church life around the world. Yet, there are some who are indifferent or resistant to the movement. Most of the critical and negative reactions are coming from those who have limited exposure. They be knowledgeable in a certain aspect of Orality or Storytelling, but not be familiar with the depth, breadth and multi-faceted aspects of the Orality Domain or Movement.
In the area of preaching and teaching of the Bible, some think that exegetical, verse-by-verse expository treatment is superior to Orality-based methods, storytelling, or narrative communication. (It certainly is in some contexts). However, Orality concepts and principles can be expository in nature. Other critics have said that storytelling is not evangelism. Of course, that too, is a faulty understanding of the power of spoken communication and Orality concepts. Another concern about Orality practices is maintaining accuracy of the message. That also is a result of not understanding the nature of Oral Cultures or Oral Traditions.
The more we understand Oral Traditions and Cultures, especially recognizing the sovereignty of God, the better we can appreciate how God preserved the accuracy of His Word in Oral Cultures before it was recorded in written form. Actually, a large percentage of Scripture is narrative in nature.
Over the years I have had the opportunity to spend time with followers of Jesus, pastors, missionaries and disciple makers living in Oral Cultures where they have no Scripture in their language and most have never learned to read or write. However, they can hear the stories of Jesus, and understand who He is and what He has done to redeem and restore them to a relationship with the Living God, their Creator. They embrace the message and share it with others, and they become reproducing followers of Jesus.
Isn’t it amazing that well-educated church people in the modern Western World can miss some of the most important aspects of the Kingdom of God? Biblical, simple and reproducible truths from the Word of God are somehow missing from our scope of knowledge. An important point, and yet a very simple idea, is considering the best ways and means of communicating the Good News of Jesus that are appropriate to the receptor culture, rather than our own preferred methods.
It is refreshing and encouraging to be among communities of followers of Jesus, observe the reproducing life of Jesus worked out in the lives of simple people who worship under trees (they have no buildings or Bibles), and pastors who have never had the opportunity for formal theological education. Yet, they have embraced the Good News, pray with great passion, many have been delivered from witchcraft and idolatry, and the Kingdom and growing and spreading much faster than in the Western World.
It shouldn’t surprise those of us who know our Bibles to understand how believers in the Early Church spread the Gospel throughout the entire populated world in the First Century, before radio, television, the internet or even the printing press. Only a small percentage (perhaps 3 to 12 percent) of the people at that time would have had access to the Scriptures and could have read them with understanding. An important question would be, “Can God do today, what He did then?” The answer of course is “Yes.” The same God who lived in Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago, now lives in each of us born of the Spirit.
A good friend recently said that the Orality Movement is really the Jesus Movement, not the modern Jesus Movement from the 1970s in the USA, but the original Jesus Movement from 2,000 years ago. He is alive today and willing to work through any and all of us who come to Him, believe on Him, trust and obey Him. It’s not complicated, and God does not want us to be confused about His redemptive activity, and our role in advancing His Kingdom to all places and every people group. He is an equal opportunity employer, and our value or worth is based on the price paid for us, His very life. That makes each us, as His children, VIPs in His sight.
That should ignite something is each of us to be alert to opportunities to tell our story, and His Story, everyday wherever we happen to be. We don’t normally need to go to some faraway place, but recognize that we all live in a mission field, made up of our families, neighbors, co-workers and friends, and all others. Let’s let the Holy Spirit change our hearts and lives, and be the salt and light that He says we are.
Photo captions: 1) Orality Training – Anytime, Anywhere. 2) Power of the Spoken Word. 3) Reproducing Disciple-Making Cell Groups. 4) Jerry Wiles.
About the writer: Jerry Wiles is North America Regional Director of the International Orality Network, and President Emeritus, Living Water International. He can be reached by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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