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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Transforming Power of Water and the Word
God’s Word + Fertile Hearts = Reproducing Life

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

HOUSTON, TX (ANS) -- Ahmed, a Kurdish gentleman who had escaped from Northern Iraq a few years ago, told me his story of how God had protected and guided him in coming to the United States. That conversation gave me the opportunity to share with him about how God often uses experiences like his to capture our attention and demonstrate His love and care for us.

Mentoring and coaching – key ingredients for training and equipping

I shared with Ahmed about how the Lord often allows us to experience various kinds of difficult situations so we know that He is real and that He can preserve our lives and lead us to more a personal and intimate relationship with Him. He was very interested in hearing more and open to learning about the Good News of Jesus and how he could be born again, receive new life and have the assurance of eternal life. After discussing the person and work of the Lord Jesus, Ahmed was eager to embrace the gospel and trust Christ to come into his life and make him a new creation.

After spending a few minutes with him and sharing some biblical principles of what it means to be a follower of Jesus, I loaned him a Bible to read. Two weeks later, I encountered Ahmed again and found that he had been sharing with others about Jesus. Then he said, “I’m almost finished reading the Bible. What should I read next?”

It is always encouraging to encounter people like Ahmed, who are open and eager to embrace the Lord, have a passion to know His Word and immediately begin to share Him with others.

Informal theological education for pastors, church planters, and missionaries in an Oral Culture

Over many years of actively sharing the gospel with people in various parts of the world, I've observed that many people believe in a God (or gods), but have never heard of or understood how they can have new life in Christ. Some have heard of Jesus of Nazareth and have great respect for Him and His teachings. Sometimes a brief conversation is all it takes to fill in the gaps and clarify what it means to be a follower of Jesus and trust Him as Lord.

I’m often reminded of the parable of the Sower in Mark chapter 4, which describes the different kinds of soil. Jesus explained that the seed represents the Word of God, and the four kinds of soil represent the condition of people’s hearts. Some people have hard hearts, some have shallow hearts, some have crowded hearts, and others have fertile hearts that receive the Word and produce 30, 60 or 100 times what is sown. We may not know the condition of people’s hearts until we share the good seed of the Word of God and the Good News of Jesus.

Learning a little, practicing a lot, and implementing immediately, are key
in Orality Training

I recently attended an event sponsored by my friend, Howard Partridge, where noted author and leadership expert Dr. John Maxwell was the keynote speaker. Maxwell said, “The harvest you reap is not as important as the seeds you sow.” It is true that whatever we sow into the lives of others, will always come back into our own. If we sow the Word of God into many people’s lives, it will produce a harvest and not return empty. We may never know the impact we have on others and the multiplying effect that can bring many into the kingdom of God. We cannot control what kind or the amount of the harvest, but we can control how much and how often we sow the seed and share His Word with others. It is liberating to realize that we don’t have to persuade, convince, or compel people to respond Jesus. We can just share Him and trust the Holy Spirit for the results.

We regularly hear stories of people who participate in our Orality Training Workshops, and immediately begin to share with others and encounter those who want to respond to Jesus and follow Him. Sadly, the majority of people, even some active church goers, do not have a passion to share the Lord, and the majority of people who hear the gospel are not open to respond and receive Him. However, the more we sow the seed of God’s Word, in whatever form is appropriate (spoken, written or otherwise), the more we will encounter those who have fertile and receptive hearts. We understand and value the importance of following up and continuous training, but realize that ultimately what matters is getting people on the journey of following Jesus. It is the reproducing life of the Lord Jesus that produces lasting fruit.

Retelling stories and discussing observations, meaning and applications are key components in Orality Training

I engaged a lady in conversation with the intention of sharing the gospel with her. It turned out that she was already a believer, but was excited that someone would approach her to talk about Jesus and what it means to follow Him. She went on to tell me that her husband had come to the Lord just six months earlier. She told me he was unemployed at the moment and had time on his hands. So, he spent a lot of his time sharing the gospel with people, and as a result, 16 people had come to the Lord during those six months.

A young lady who attended one of Living Water’s Orality Training Workshops, shared how effective she found telling stories and asking questions to be in communicating the message of Jesus. She actually led another lady to Jesus after the first day of training and was excited to find how open people were to having a conversation and listening to stories from the Word of God. She had never done that before, but told me, “From now on, I will be sharing the gospel using stories and questions.”

It is amazing how we sometimes can make things so complicated, when they should be simple and natural; or, I should say, “supernatural,” when it comes to communicating spiritual truth and the Good News of Jesus. That is the reason that God sent the Holy Spirit to indwell us and enable us to be salt and light and reveal His life to others. Jesus said that anyone who comes to Him and believes in Him, will have rivers of Living Water flowing from within him. He then explained that He was speaking of the Holy Spirit of God.

Some foundational truths that are important in our work of bringing Water and the Word to the neediest people around the world are recognizing the work of the Spirit in and through us, and the principles of the kingdom of God that Jesus taught, as recorded in the Gospels. He is not always concerned with the big crowds or our big plans. Sometimes it is the seemingly little things and seemingly unimportant people that God uses to accomplish His most significant work.

Orality Training for Trainers (OT4T), training teams, to train as teams is having a great impact

A gentleman in East Africa approached me at a meeting and told me he is alive today because LWI drilled a water well in his village many years earlier. Disease and death was very common in the community in which he lived before the well was there. He explained that the whole region was transformed because of the well. The true impact of helping communities acquire access to clean water and experience the Living Water of Jesus is something that only eternity will reveal, but we can have confidence that God honors those little things, for time and eternity.

A man I shared the gospel with more than 20 years ago recently told me about some of his spiritual journey since our first meeting. As a result of him coming to the Lord, his sister received Christ, as well as his brother-in-law and several other family members. This friend has continued to faithfully share Christ over the years. Only the Lord knows how many people’s lives are being impacted. The Seed of God’s Word has a multiplying effect as it takes root in fertile, receptive hearts.

The late Dr. Avery Willis, founding director of the International Orality Network used to remind us that you can count the seeds in an apple, but you can’t count the apples in a seed. We don’t always need to know the impact we may have on other people’s lives, as encouraging as that can be. If we faithfully share the Living Water of Jesus and sow the seed of the Word of God in people’s lives, we can trust Him for the results. His Word, in whatever form it is communicated, will produce fruit.

There is much that we in the Western World can learn from how the Lord is at work in the rapidly reproducing church planting/disciple-making movements in other parts of the world. Simple people who hear and understand the gospel of Jesus often embrace and share Him with others immediately. The massage spreads quickly throughout these more communal, relational, Oral Cultures. This is really more like the Early Church we read about in the book of Acts. They are timeless principles that will work anywhere and at any time.

For more information about the Orality Movement and training opportunities, visit www.water.cc/orality

Editor’s note: This is the final article in this fascinating series by Jerry Wiles under the general title of “The Transforming Power of Water and the Word.” Now watch out for an exciting new series from Jerry which will be called “Stories of the Thirsty.”


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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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