By Jerry Wiles
At the end of an Orality Training Workshop by Living Water Intl. in Southern Ethiopia, an evangelist and church planter shared a story about a Muslim community led by a chief elder, who was also a Muslim Imam.
The chief elder was very distraught over the fact that his ten-year-old daughter had been missing for several days. After hearing the stories of how Jesus performs miracles, he asked if Jesus could still perform miracles today. The evangelist said, “yes.”
The chief asked the evangelist if he would pray that he could find his daughter. He said that if he could find his daughter, he would become a follower of Jesus.
The evangelist agreed to pray that they would find the daughter. They found her the very next day. The chief elder followed through with his promise to become a follower of Jesus. Not only did he embrace the Good News of Jesus, his family became followers of Jesus and the entire village as well.
Two of the stories that are part of LWI’s basic orality training are The Samaritan Woman at the Well, from John 4, and the story of The Demon-Possessed Gadarene, from Mark 5. When the appropriate questions are asked after trainees have learned the stories, amazing insights and lessons come alive. People really come to understand how Jesus can transform lives and how entire communities and geographical regions can be impacted by one person.
In India, all ages learn and retell stories
In our training, we emphasize that you don’t have to be a great story teller, because we have great stories to tell. And, that it is the work of the Holy Spirit that touches hearts and changes lives as we simply tell the stories and share the Work of God.
We often hear testimonies of how people, who have never personally led anyone to Christ, are telling the stories and asking the questions and seeing people come to the Lord. One man reported how he used to go into villages and pass out tracts and share his testimony, and the people wanted to argue with him. He said, “Now we go in to the communities, make friends, tell stories and ask questions, and the people want to receive Jesus and follow Him.
A leader in Asia reported that in the regions where the orality training had taken place the year before, the churches are thriving and new churches are being planted. Orality-based evangelism and disciple making efforts are removing barriers and also minimizing opposition and persecution.
The late Dr. Avery Willis, who was senior vice-president of Overseas Operations with the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, founder and executive director of the International Orality Network, and a key leader in the modern Orality Movement, pointed out that “seventy percent of the world’s people today can’t, don’t or won’t read.”
In addition to his work as a missionary and seminary president, writing and publishing of MasterLife, Avery Willis led the strategy and work of 5,500 missionaries on the IMB, worked to develop and promote Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God and authored several other books.
Dr. Jerry Rankin, former president of the IMB of the SBC said, “What Avery did as a missionary in Indonesia, in the proliferation of MasterLife, and through his overseas leadership with IMB, pales in comparison to the global impact (he) made in becoming an advocate and leader of orality strategies.”
Improved research in recent years shows us that more than 4.35 billion people in the world today are oral learners, by necessity or by preference. Yet, an estimated ninety percent (90%) of the world’s Christian workers present the gospel and do discipleship using highly literate communication styles. Thankfully things are changing and increasing numbers of churches and mission organizations are discovering the power and impact of telling stories, asking questions and using other oral methods in evangelism, disciple making and church planting.
In an article entitled “Not A Passing Fad” in The Lausanne Global Conversation, Dr. Grant Lovejoy, former seminary professor, director of Orality Strategies with the IMB and a member of the advisory council of the International Orality Network said, “Orality will be a factor in missions strategy of the next half a century. The late Dr. Ralph Winter, founder and former general director of the US Center of World Mission said, “New, radical insight into old (Biblical) methods of telling God’s Story are now exploding in the world of missions.” — Jerry Wiles, Living Water International (www.water.cc)
|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|