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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Stories of the Thirsty
Orality: From the Bush to the Boardroom

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

HOUSTON, TX (ANS) -- All it takes is a casual observation of the turmoil in the world today, the persecution of followers of Jesus and the opposition to the Church, to realize that we are living in very challenging times. A critical question to ask is, “How can we carry out God’s mandate to communicate the Good News of Jesus to everyone, to the ends of the earth, and make disciples among all people groups?” Think of the places today where we cannot take Bibles, gospel literature or technological resources without risking persecution or death.

The First Century Church communicated the gospel and processed their faith much like it is being done with Orality Methods and Strategies today

Even what has been known as the Free World, is becoming not-so-free when it comes to preaching, teaching, and sharing the gospel with typical Western methods. Some college and university campuses, high schools, government agencies, businesses and other institutions in the United States of America are becoming less accessible, unfriendly and, in many cases, hostile to Christians and the Church world.

All of the problems, difficulties, opposition, and persecution that have taken place throughout history have always created a hunger and thirst for the spiritual and eternal. People today are showing a greater thirst for the Living Water that Jesus talked about in John, chapters 4 & 7. These are strategic times to contemplate how followers of Jesus can more effectively be the channels for that Living Water to flow to the ends of the earth, to every person and place, and to make disciples among all people groups.

There are some important lessons that we should learn from Jesus, those first disciples and the Early Church. Consider the fact that the gospel, the teachings of Jesus, spread throughout the entire populated world in the First Century. How did that happen? How did they do it? It was done primarily by ordinary followers of Jesus, telling His Story in ways that were simple, understandable, and reproducible.

The amazing power of telling stories and asking questions for training, building relationships and creating community

Years ago, I heard Dr. Thom Wolf, renowned global mission leader and educator, say that he thought that the Twenty-first Century Church may look a lot like the First Century Church. Of course, there are many differences in terms of the cultural, economic, and social issues of the Early Church and the modern, Western Church. However, when we think of the life, Spirit, and teachings of Jesus, human behavior, and the way we learn and communicate, we can find many similarities. There are certain commonalities that are timeless and universal. This is where understanding the Orality Movement becomes so vital and critical in the global missions/church movements, even in the West and the USA.

We in Living Water International have been on an amazing learning journey over the past few years. We have gleaned lessons from many other groups and organizations, and have taken a closer look at Scripture and Church History. In our own experience, the Spirit of God continues to teach us through many sources. We often gain insights and understanding as we discover the power of shared knowledge and the collective memory of common village people who participate in our Orality Training programs. Many hear Biblical stories, then reflect, ponder and discuss them and share valuable insights. It’s a demonstration of the faithfulness of the Holy Spirit to teach, equip, and direct our lives.

Biblical, understandable, and reproducible are important features for rapidly spreading the Good News of Jesus

An African pastor who participated in an Orality Training for Trainers said, “After undergoing Orality Training, I am professing that I am a transformed person regarding my approach and understanding of how to spread the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He went on to say, “This has been an eye opener and humbling in being able to learn in simplicity.” Actually, our modern Western academic systems of education have not emphasized the importance of simplicity and reproducibility. These, of course, are very important factors if we are going to reach every person, to the ends of the earth and make disciples of all people groups. Jesus didn’t say to make disciples of all literate people groups, but all people groups.

In relation to personally sharing the gospel with our families, neighbors, co-workers, friends and others, we are often prone to make it more complicated than it needs to be. I remember sharing the Lord with a lady once whose response was, “You mean I don’t have to go through religion?” She was amazed and surprised that beginning a relationship with the Living God and becoming a follower of Jesus could happen without being in a church building or going through some religious ritual. Many times when I’ve shared the gospel with someone who is open and responsive, I explain that we don’t have to be in a church building or go through a complicated ritual. The main thing is to simply call on the Lord, believe, trust, and confess Him, as we are instructed in Romans 10.

Orality Training participants in the Bush Preparing to go and tell the Good
Story(s) of Jesus in their villages

One thing the Orality Movement is helping us to relearn, especially in the Western World, is that prayer, trusting the Lord and telling the Story(s) of Jesus are foundational and universal. There are certain things that can be done anyplace, anytime and with almost anyone, with just what is in our heads and hearts. The Good News of Jesus really can cross any barrier, boundary, or border and is universal in its application. It is a great blessing to have many of the tools of the age, like the Written Word of God, radio, TV, recording devices, the internet, cell phones, etc. However, it’s more important to recognize the tools of the ages that God has provided, the timeless principles of prayer, incarnational witness and the ability to tell God’s Story and the working of the Holy Spirit.

In a recent conversation with a long-time friend, whom I hadn’t seen in several years, I briefly told him about my involvement with the Orality Movement. He hadn’t even heard of Orality; he thought I was saying morality. However, after briefly sharing with him a few aspects of the movement and the fact that the majority of the world’s population today are oral learners, by necessity or by preference, he got really excited. He told me about a friend who is engaged in a similar type of ministry and asked where he could learn more. I was happy to refer him to some new resources that are available through the International Orality Network at www.orality.net

There are increasing numbers of articles, journals and case studies available on that website, and several others are linked on that site. The Orality in Theological Education Consultations that have taken place over the past three years have contributed to the visibility and credibility of the movement. The documents published from those consultations are also great resources and are available on ION’s website.

I often get the impression that some of my friends and colleagues think I, and others in the movement, are overly passionate about orality. Actually, it’s that our passion is for Jesus and sharing Him with others everywhere, and making disciples among all people groups. It just happens that orality methods are the most universal and transferable and can have a reproducing and multiplying impact anywhere on the planet. They can work in the most remote bush or jungle regions of Africa, Asia, or Latin America, and they can work in the corporate board rooms and university campuses in Europe and North America. Dr. Steve Douglass, President of Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ), has said that the best case for Orality is that it works, better than anything else.

For people who have enough curiosity and interest, it doesn’t take long for them to grasp the significance of the Orality Movement, in relation to communicating the Good News of Jesus and making disciples. It just makes sense when one thinks through the important factors relating to relational, narrative communication and training models, learning preferences and behavior change. Everyone starts out as an oral learner and communicator. Every three- or four-year-old is an oral learner. One amazing fact, however, is to realize that there are many well-educated people who are still oral preference learners.

Another encouraging development taking place within the Orality Movement is the conversation, interest, and experimentation of the use of Orality methods in the corporate world in relation to organizational development, team building, and leadership training. Orality in Business as Mission is also gaining much interest. Followers of Jesus can more effectively be salt and light in every segment of society when we recognize the unlimited power and creative ability of the Holy Spirit to communicate truth and advance the Kingdom of God.

Howard Partridge, a businessman who effectively uses Orality methods in his training and consulting

Howard Partridge, successful entrepreneur, business owner and small business coach has participated in LWI’s basic Orality Training Workshop and is effectively using it in the context of his business and professional endeavors. He is excited about it and says it has phenomenal potential for business as mission and leadership training and development. Others are discovering the broader applications of orality, beyond the Church and missions, in any area where communication, training, people development, team building, and relationships are important.

The Orality Movement, which is in reality the Jesus Movement, is spreading and growing with increasing impact from the Bush to the Boardroom.

For additional information about the Orality Movement 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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