…. they were unschooled, ordinary men …. they had been with Jesus …. the crippled man healed standing with them – Acts 4:13,14

India – Orality: Storytelling the gospel to oral learners & cultures

Just learnt a new word this week – Orality
— communicating the gospel to non-western, non-literate communities through Bible stories and narratives.

A large portion of the Bible is narratives/stories.   A significant portion of the non-western world is non-literate, without the opportunity of receiving an education;  they are oral learners.

All children love stores, and storytelling the gospel is also effective in reaching out to children. Children unconciously share the stories they have heard with their parents, other adults and children.

The books of the New & Old Testament were birthed in a very non-literate world.

Jesus did not write a book.
Jesus’ words and sermons were first heard before it was written out by the Gospel writers.  The Gospels were expressed in ways that’s memorable for oral cultures — parables, Hebrew poetry symmetry/parallelism forms, play of words, smilie, metaphor, hyperbole, etc.

The oral Bible has been around for along time,

Deuteronomy 6:4-7 (HCSB)
“Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart.

Repeat them to your children.
Talk about them when you sit in your house
and when you walk along the road,
when you lie down and when you get up.
(i.e. during the course of a day, in daily life)

Nehemiah 8:2,3 (HCSB)
On the first day of the seventh month, Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women, and all who could listen with understanding. While he was facing the square in front of the Water Gate, he read out of it from daybreak until noon before the men, the women, and those who could understand. All the people listened attentively to the book of the law.

Interesting orality work in India:

Here’s thoughts & actions on orality from Campus Crusade, Navigators and World Vision

Here’s a testimony of a non-literate man who came to the Lord simply by hearing God’s Word.  Click here.

Here’s Mark’s Gospel – oral storyteller version, click hereMarks gospel 2

In centuries past, … the West had a sizeable population of non-literate people.
The truths of the Gospel was shared orally through hymns that people heard and sung;
similarly, in the Bible, many Messianic prophecies are embedded in the Psalms.

Also there was the Poor Man’s Bible;  much like today’s multimedia tools like the Jesus movie, audio Bible, gospel radio, etc.

The term Poor Man’s Bible has come into use in modern times to describe works of art within churches and cathedrals which either individually or collectively have been created to illustrate the teachings of the Bible for a largely illiterate population.  …
The most common theme for the Poor Man’s Bible is the Life of Christ, the story of the Birth, Life, Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. This may be related in a continuous sequence of pictures, either in paint, mosaic, wood sculpture or stained glass, and located either around the walls of a church or, particularly in French Cathedrals, in niches in a screen that surrounds the Sanctuary, so that they might be seen by people walking around the ambulatory.
(Source:  Wikipedia)

Nick Ripken:

More than 80 percent of the unreached people in the world are oral communicators. By definition, that means they cannot read or write at a functional level.  These people live in oral cultures. …

While believers around the world long for the written Word of God, in a church planting movement, there is little time for literacy training or traslation of Scripture.  The written Word and the ability to read it are of absolute importance, but while these goals are being sought (through Bible translation and literacy training), the stories of the Bible are communictaed orally.  Taking the time to translate Scripture or taking the time to provide literacy training is a luxury that these rapidly growing movements cannot afford.  Those without Jesus should not be forced to become literate in order to be welcomed into God’s kingdom.  The need to share the gospel is immediate, so it is shared in the only way that it can be shared:  orally.  The point must be repeated; a literate Bible is indispensible.  Yet those carrying the gospel to the nations must not wait ten to twenty years for the first printed Bible in an unengaged and unreached environment before broadly sowing the Good News …

We found the church in China, in particular, hungry for the written Word of God;   at the same time, the church in China was not paralyzed by the absence of the written Word of God.  Earlier in their movements, copies of the Bible are extremely rare, but Bible stories were known and repeated and memorized.
…  Waiting for ten years (or more) for an initial Bible translation is simply not an option.  By its nature and by necessity, the incipient movement is oral.

In many of the people groups that are without Jesus, illiteracy can be as high as 45 percent for the men and 90 percent for the women!

Source:  Nik Ripken, The Insanity of Obedience, Walking with Jesus in Tough Places, B&H Publishing Group, 2014, pg 50,124, 125. 163
(Note:  This book is on missions, not on orality)

Further Reading:

Harry Box, Don’t Throw the Book at Them: Communicating the Christian Message to People Who Don’t Read, William Carey, 2014

Missions | Sharing Jesus | India

by 林弟兄, bro Lim
June 9, 2014

Copyright © 林弟兄 bro Lim, Laymanointing, 2014-2016 – All Rights Reserved
Creative Commons License



This entry was posted on June 9, 2014 by in Asia, Children, cross-culture, Ministry, Missions, Sharing Jesus and tagged .

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