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Friday, March 14, 2014

The Transforming Power of Water and the Word
Out of the Darkness, into the Light

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

HOUSTON, TX (ANS) -- A pastor participating in an Orality Training Workshop in a West African country told of how his first nine children had all died shortly after they were born. The witch doctors and idol worshipers in his community told him he must make more sacrifices to the idols if he wanted his children to live. Then someone told him the story of Jesus of Nazareth, and he decided to become a follower of Jesus and worship Him instead of the idols.

What a delight to share Living Water and the Living Word with those who hunger and thirst after righteousness

The people in his village told him he would die if he followed Jesus. He told them he would rather die for Jesus than live for Satan. This man did live and has had many years of fruitful ministry. He is recognized as one of the wise, senior leaders in a rapidly reproducing church planting/disciple-making movement in his country. He testified of the power of the Story of Jesus to deliver anyone out of darkness, into the light of Jesus Christ.

Many of the pastors in this region of West Africa have never been to school, and some have never learned to read and write. However, they have experienced the transforming power of Jesus. They know what it’s like to be in bondage to darkness and the joy of being delivered and set free from the powers of Satan, witchcraft and idolatry. These pastors and their people have learned stories of Jesus and tell them to others, who in turn tell others. They are a wonderful demonstration of the reproducing life of Jesus Christ, in and through the redeemed humanity of forgiven sinners.

All ages can learn and retell true stories
from the Word of God

The Good Story (News) of Jesus is spreading throughout this country and churches are multiplying rapidly. One of the interesting features of this movement is that they don’t have a lot of overhead or tradition that keeps them from reproducing. The communities of faith (churches) meet under trees, sit on logs or rocks, or bring their own buckets or stools to sit on. These followers of Jesus are being trained and discipled very much like the Early Church that we read about in the Gospels and the Book of Acts.

These churches have very little of this world’s resources--no buildings; no Bibles or hymnbooks; no musical instruments other than the drums, beads and instruments they have made themselves. Most of the people have never learned to read. These followers of Jesus have very little of the resources that churches and ministries in the modern Western World and North America enjoy. However, they have Jesus, and they have passion for Him and His kingdom. They have had life-changing experiences with the Living Christ, Jesus of Nazareth. They experience the power of the Holy Spirit on a regular basis, and they have a passion for sharing Him with others.

I would say that these people are pretty wealthy in terms of the things that really matter in life and for eternity. There is a lot we in the Western World can learn from them and from the life, Spirit and teachings of Jesus and the Early Church.

Waiting in line to get water is an excellent time to tell true stories

While there is great need in the countries where Living Water International works--for clean water, food, housing, healthcare and other basic necessities -- we find people who live very simple lives, but are rich in spiritual life and depth in their relationship with God and each other. There are many lessons we in North America and the Western World can learn from the more communal, relational and oral cultures that could greatly impact our churches, organizations and families about relationships and sharing life.

In the 1990s, Mother Theresa, during a visit to the United States, observed that this is a nation living in relational poverty. The good news about relational poverty is that it is a solvable problem, and the solution is not complicated or expensive. The solution to relational poverty will not be found in financial success, bigger buildings or institutions. Nor will it be found in technology or modern innovations. The answer, of course, will be found in the person and work of the Lord Jesus and a personal, intimate relationship with Him -- following and obeying Him.

Orality Training Workshop in the bush
under a tree

On a recent trip to Africa I heard many testimonies from people who live in villages that have a new water well, and as a result, a new church. The community transformation in those regions has prompted other villages and communities to request a church, and of course, a new well. The water is a bridge to share and demonstrate the love of God. Being an oral culture, telling stories and asking questions are amazingly effective and reproducible.

It is liberating for many who experience Orality Training and realize that one does not have to be a great storyteller, because we have great stories to tell. We don’t have to have all the answers to effectively share the message of Jesus. As we simply and accurately tell biblical stories and ask the right questions, we see how the Holy Spirit touches hearts and changes lives.

There was a man who learned the story of the blind beggar, known as Bartimaeus, from Mark chapter 10, in an Orality Training Workshop. One of the discussion questions about the story was, “What do we learn from the fact that the blind beggar threw off his coat (outer garment) and came to Jesus?” After some reflection, the man said, “I see that this blind man’s coat, or outer garment, represents idols in my life, and that I should get rid of all my idols.”

Witchcraft and idol worship are very common among this people group. However, when we think about it and consider what the Bible teaches about idols, we realize that idolatry is a worldwide problem that is just expressed in different ways in different cultures. Idols in the modern Western World can take on many forms of expression. The Holy Spirit might speak or reveal to people about forsaking other things that could keep us from the Lord and His plan for our lives. Actually, we might think of idols as being icons or statues, but in our culture, they could be careers, money, status or any number of other things that would take the place of God and the Lordship of Christ in our lives.

Orality Training is engaging, exciting and enjoyable in all cultures around
the world

I had the opportunity to spend some time with a few people who had attended LWI’s Orality Training Workshop two years ago. Fifteen of those people were asked how they had been using the stories and what kind of results they had seen. From their combined testimonies, 791 people had come to the Lord. Consider the fact that more than 1,000 people attended the same training two years ago that the fifteen attended. Only the Lord knows how many more have come the Christ through the other 985 participants.

The seed of God’s Word will have great impact when it is planted in fertile, receptive hearts. It is a joy to see the reproducing and multiplying effect of the Good Story (the gospel) of Jesus when it is shared in ways that people can understand, respond to, and share with others. I am continually reminded that we in the modern Western World often make the gospel and sharing our faith more complicated than it needs to be. I’ve often noticed over the years that just mentioning the name of Jesus in a conversation can open a door for a fruitful, meaningful and often life-changing experience.

I recently reconnected with a friend that I got to know 30 years ago. He told me about a conversation we had and something he learned that has had an impact on him and many others since then. He learned to use a couple of questions in sharing the gospel with others. Using those questions has been instrumental in him introducing the gospel and engaging people in conversations that have led to an average of one person a week coming to the Lord over the past 30 years. That would be more than 1,500 people who have indicated their desire to confess their faith in Jesus and follow Him.

It is amazing how God can use such simple things to greatly impact so many lives. Those two questions that my friend learned and has used so effectively over the years are:

1. “I bet you’ve been thinking more about the Lord lately, haven’t you?” (He then shares his testimony and the Good News of Jesus). Then he asks,
2. “Can you think of any reason why you wouldn’t want to give the rest of your life to the Lord Jesus Christ right now?”

Dr. Bill Bright

After all these years, he is still excited and passionate about sharing Jesus and seeing how the Holy Spirit is faithful to use His Word to bring spiritual transformation. The late Dr. Bill Bright used to say that effective witnessing is, “Sharing the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit, and leaving the results to God.” I can imagine that of the 1,500 people who indicated their desire to receive and follow Jesus, many of them have been instrumental in others coming to the Lord.

It is such a delight to see the reproducing life of Jesus worked out in and through common, ordinary people who come to Jesus and follow Him, and to discover that we can all be vessels, instruments of His redemptive activity in the world today. The same God who lived in Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago is living in each of us who is born of His Spirit.

For information about resources and training opportunities, visit www.water.cc/orality.
 


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This story is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of the ASSIST News Service or ASSIST Ministries.
Jerry Wiles serves as president emeritus of Living Water International (http://www.water.cc)  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 JerryWiles@water.cc

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