By Jerry Wiles, North America Regional Director of International Orality Network, President Emeritus of Living Water International, Special to ASSIST News Service
HOUSTON, TX (ANS – January 3, 2018) — From what we learn about the life, the Spirit and the teachings of Jesus, we know that oneness and unity in the Body of Christ is very important. The 17th chapter of the Gospel of John makes that abundantly clear. However, in a practical way, how do we achieve unity? How can the Church (the Body of Christ) be unified when there is so much diversity and division among the various streams and traditions of the Church? How can there be unity and cooperation among an association of churches? Or, how can a local congregation (house churches, small fellowships, church plants) achieve unity?
Perhaps an even more important question would be “How can any group, community, organization, or even a family have unity?” Well, it seems that effective communication and trusting relationships would be the most basic building blocks to oneness and unity, anywhere with any group of people. Obviously, from a biblical perspective, the Spirit of reconciliation (which is the Spirit of Jesus) is the basis of resolving conflict and division, leading to genuine unity.
Pastors in East Africa discovered that they had more in common, than the things that divided them. What was the key to this important discovery? It was their participation in an Orality Training Workshop sponsored by Living Water International. Not only are pastors discovering how telling stories and asking questions and engaging in Orality Training experiences can help resolve conflict, remove barriers and build bridges. Individual members of local congregations and communities are experiencing greater unity and connectedness through participating in Orality Training events.
An older, very traditional, church in Texas hosted an Orality Training Workshop with about 30, mostly senior members. It was an amazing experience to see the barriers come down and more intimate relationships grow throughout the day. By the middle of the afternoon, as participants shared their experiences and spiritual journeys, there were many tears of joy as they discovered how much they didn’t know about their friends that they had attended church services with over the years.
They shared about how they had endured many storms of life, about their experience of the new birth, how they had encountered the Living Water of Jesus, and many others. Prior to that day, they had never shared on that level of intimacy. The stories in the training set the stage for new and better relationships.
Families have reported how the concepts and practices of Orality (telling stories and discussing Bible stories) have been effective with family devotions. Simply discussing the stories over meal times can often be more effective with children, than the more traditional (print-based) devotional materials. When children learn stories, they tend to tell the stories.
One pastor in a Central American country caught the vision for using Orality strategies in his church, and as a result, began to experience more growth, as well as enhancing church planting efforts. Another pastor recognized how the principles and practices of Orality would enable him to better equip, train and mobilize storytelling evangelists at every level of education, and among all gender and generational categories.
In the Orality Movement, we are discovering the simple teachings of Jesus and the examples we observe from the Early Church are often overlooked in today’s churches and ministries, and even in families and the business community. These are actually foundational to the organic, simple, house church movements and can be integrated into institutional and traditional church world.
The rapidly reproducing disciple making and church planting movements, primarily in the Global South, seem to be leading the way back to the roots of the Jesus Movement. Hopefully and prayerfully, we can see an awakening in the Western World in the near future, much like what is happening now in other parts of the world.
Following Jesus, making disciples and being ministers of reconciliation is not complicated. God never intended for it to be. It’s just that over centuries of institutional church life, many traditions have made following Jesus more complicated than what we learn from Scripture and the Early Church.
The essence of the Orality Movement is simply a return to the most basic principles of knowing and sharing the reproducing life of the Lord Jesus.
Photo captions: 1) Prayer and Collaboration Enhances Unity. 2) The Power of Engagement. 3) Learning from the Global Southeast. 4) Orality: A Platform for Understanding. 5) Jerry Wiles.
About the writer: Jerry Wiles, a regular contributor to ANS, is North America Regional Director of the International Orality Network, and President Emeritus of Living Water International. He can be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org or at JerryWiles@water.cc
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