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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Transforming Power of Water and the Word
Orality Strategies and the Supernatural Work of God

By Jerry Wiles, President Emeritus, Living Water International
Special to ASSIST New Service

HOUSTON, TX (ANS) -- One of the great joys we have in Living Water International ( is working in the regions of the world where simple, ordinary people, often with very limited educational opportunities, receive and grasp profound spiritual truth. When we tell stories of Jesus and ask the appropriate questions, people often articulate deep, profound spiritual insights from the Word of God. It’s a demonstration of the faithfulness of the Holy Spirit and His supernatural work in people’s hearts to reveal the deep things of God, the mysteries of the Gospel.

Water, for Life, in Jesus’ Name -- Can Transform Communities, Physically and Spiritually

It is the life of God, resident within the hearts (the inner being) of His people that produces real change and fruit that remains. Try as we may, in the energy of our own human efforts, and all that we can produce will be wood, hay and stubble, according to 1 Corinthians 3:12.

Spiritual transformation really is a supernatural and miraculous work of God the Holy Spirit in the lives of people who receive, understand and respond in obedience to the Lord. We learn so much from people in remote villages, slums and tribes who have had little opportunity to get a formal education. Many people in these more communal, relational, oral cultures are often very bright and spiritually perceptive. Some may speak 5 to 7, or more, languages and dialects, even though they may not be able to read or write any of them.

One man in a Central American country, who attended one of LWI’s Orality Training Workshops, learned the story of the Samaritan woman at the well from the forth chapter of the Gospel of John. During the post-story discussion, he shared a profound insight. He observed that the woman had had five husbands, and the man she was living with now was not her husband, but the sixth man in her life. He went on to say that Jesus was the seventh man in her life. He pointed out that seven is the number for completion or perfection, and that she now had found what she needed and had been longing for.

Isn’t that the way it is with so many who often spend years searching, seeking and trying to find meaning, purpose and fulfillment in all the wrong places and in the wrong ways? Then, when we have an encounter with Jesus, coming to Him in repentance and faith, we can experience a sense of completion, fulfillment and great joy in knowing Him. I once shared the gospel with a lady who was open, responsive and eager to trust Christ and receive Him into her life. After a time of sharing and prayer, she said, “Why didn’t you come sooner? I wish I had done this years ago.” She had great joy that she had never known before. It is Jesus, Himself, who satisfies our deepest thirst.

A New Well often means that the Women of the village no longer have to walk hours every day to get Water

It is transformational when we are able to bring clean water, along with sanitation and health and hygiene training to a community. However, the greater, more lasting and eternal difference in people’s lives really occurs when they come into a living relationship with the living Christ. In that story of the woman at the well, Jesus tells her that whoever drinks the water that He gives will never get thirsty again—ever. In fact, the water that He gives will become within her a spring or fountain of water, welling up to eternal life.

Another great lesson from this story is about the nature of worship. The woman had in mind a place of worship -- the mountain or Jerusalem. Jesus told her that true worship is in Spirit and Truth. Then He said, “These are the kind of worshipers that the Father seeks.” It is encouraging to realize that God is seeking a relationship with us. He is not willing that any should perish, but that all would come to repentance.

Many people today still think of worship in terms of a place or house of worship, rather than the Living God. People often refer to a worship service, or going to church, rather than a life of worship and recognizing the Church -- the Body of Christ. The Church is not primarily about buildings or organizations, but it is an organism, a body of believers. All who are born again are indwelt by Christ Himself and are the temples of the Holy Spirit.

Small Group Orality Training Experience

On a recent trip abroad, I listened to music on a plane, which was described as, “musical images that conjure beautiful inner landscapes.” Then I thought of art and how God is revealed in so many different expressions. Years ago I got acquainted with a man who used nature and the weather as a starting point in sharing the gospel. I started thinking of all the ways God can reveal Himself through His creation and the creative expressions of who He is, according to Romans 1:20.

My daughter is an amazing artist and creates paintings and works of art that communicate messages of beauty and provoke thought. Creative expressions are evidence of a Creator God. The glory of God is seen in His Creation for those who have eyes to see. It is God, Himself, who gives His creatures the gift of creativity. He is the source of creative expression.

The beauty of stained glass windows in cathedrals throughout Europe and Latin America can be used to communicate the character, plan and purpose of God. They were created in an era when the majority of the people in the world were oral learners. In fact, the majority in the world have always been, and still are, oral learners, by necessity, or by preference.

All ages Participate in Orality Training

Music, art, drama, poetry, proverbs and parables are all ways that God has used throughout all of history to reveal Himself. These are all expressions of orality. Orality is not just about telling stories and asking questions, although that is an important part of it. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” we read in John 1:1. The Word, the revelation of God, was around long before anything was in a written form.

A lady recently shared with me about her husband, who learned about orality and the power of biblical storytelling. She and her husband live in a retirement community where many of the people either don’t know the Lord, or are unsure about their salvation. She was so excited as she told me about her 90-year-old husband who learned the story of Nicodemus from the third chapter of the Gospel of John. He told the story to a few men in the community. One man in the group immediately began to ask questions, then said, “I want to be born again.” They were surprised and amazed at the receptivity from simply telling stories and asking questions. She said, “We need to know more and do more.”

Following another Orality Training Workshop, a gentleman in his 80’s, who had been teaching Sunday School for 60 years, told me, “I wish someone had taught me this (orality) 70 years ago.” These two experiences lead me to believe that it is never too late to learn and practice something new. On the other hand, it is never too early to learn either. We have seen children as young as 6 or 7 years of age learn and retell the stories accurately. When pastors and church leaders observe this, they often catch a vision of how they can equip, train and mobilize story-telling evangelists at every age and socioeconomic level.

Certainly we are blessed to have the Written Word of God available to us today, but the majority of the people in the world still do not have it available to them in a form they can read, understand, respond to, and reproduce. That is one of the reasons it is so important to recognize the unlimited creative ways that God can use to communicate His beauty, His character and His plan to people in all places and to all people groups. It is ultimately the supernatural activity of the Holy Spirit that makes it all possible and produces fruit that remains, regardless of our methods, techniques or strategies.

The water stories throughout Scripture are also beautiful pictures of the character, the power, the presence and the redemptive activities of the Living God and the work of the Holy Spirit. Not only does the Living Water of Jesus bring fulfillment and completion, His promise is that it will overflow to those around us. This is His reproducing life, as we allow Him to work in and through us.

There are many symbols used in Scripture as tools to communicate spiritual truths. For example, baptism and the Lord’s Supper (communion) are forms or expressions that are useful in communicating to oral learners. Baptism is a picture of our being placed in Christ (buried with Him by baptism into death, raised to walk in newness of life). The Lord’s supper is a picture of Christ being formed in us (the broken body and the shed blood of the Lord Jesus). Baptism is a one-time event. The Lord’s Supper is something we do repeatedly. Both of these are beautiful pictures of our oneness and union with Christ. The supernatural work of the indwelling Christ is conforming us to His image as we yield to, trust and obey His Word.

There is a great need in the world today, and even in the Body of Christ, for more awareness and understanding of the greatness of God -- His unlimited, all-knowing, all-powerful and supernatural ability -- and, how that should affect how we live and share our faith. The more we get to know Him in a more personal, intimate way, the more we can be the channels of His Living Water and the overflowing of His life to those around us and those around the world.

A former pastor used to say that our life in Christ should be supernaturally natural, and naturally supernatural. Supernatural does not mean sensational or spectacular, but a recognition that we have a relationship with a supernatural God. It does, however, take spiritual eyes and discernment to recognize and comprehend.

As the Orality Movement continues to gain momentum globally, increasing numbers of church and ministry leaders in North America are becoming interested and requesting training. For information on attending or hosting one of LWI’s Orality Training Workshops, visit

Jerry Wiles serves as president emeritus of Living Water International ( Living Water is one of the world’s leading faith-based water solutions organizations with operations in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America. Having gotten involved in orality-based evangelism and disciple making strategies in the 1980s, he has been a paradigm pioneer in the orality movement and presently serves on the advisory council of the International Orality Network. Wiles has more than 35 years experience in ministry and international mission work. He can be contacted at

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