…on the front burner…
Do you need to be literate to become a Christian?
Is it necessary to be literate in order to be a leader in the church?
How do oral learners learn & what does that mean for how literate-learning missionaries teach them?
The cold sting of my own biases within those questions was leaving me with a sick feeling. I wanted to ignore Avery Willis and his relentless poking and prodding on our responsibility as missionary communicators so my mind flashbacked to my own efforts and rationale for literate-based discipleship approaches with Venezuelans. In my ignorance and perhaps arrogance, it didn’t dawn on me that Venezuelan believers might be better served with an intentional blend of literate and oral methods in their growth in knowing Christ. I could feel the shame in my growing realization that too often I try to disciple others the way I prefer to learn – Lord, forgive me!
I wish I could have a “do-over”, a mulligan, a second (third, fourth, fifth,…) first impression in ministry and in life!
The International Orality Network (ION), a task force of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelism, is a multi-national, multi-organizational grass roots movement influencing the body of Christ to make disciples of all oral learners. It is estimated that two-thirds of the remaining Unreached People Groups are oral learners and that some 70% of the world’s population are oral learners. No doubt many of you are much further down the oral-literate road as a critical element in effectively communicating the Gospel than I am but a review maybe helpful.
Oral learners are characterized as people who learn by memorization, who use narrative, oratory, recitation, drama and music to teach, who learn by example, who have a holistic overview, and who are event and community oriented. Literate learners are characterized as people who learn by reading, who use analysis, explanation, and study, who summarize and outline information, and who are individual oriented. Oral learners either can’t, won’t, or don’t read to learn. Literate learners rely on knowing where to find the answers rather than memorizing the answers. Oral learners typically think in immediate categories and terms while literate learners typically think in conceptual or abstract references.
Let’s face it, most of us are highly literate learners. However, from our earliest childhood days we heard stories read to us by our parents. We are still powerfully, deeply drawn to great stories that often evoke emotional responses from us. We, too, learn from the stories of others’ lives and experiences, it’s just that our American and WorldVenture cultures place a high value on literate learning. By the way, is it necessary to be literate in order to be a missionary in WorldVenture?
So, how did Jesus teach the masses? How did he teach his small group of disciples? What about Paul, how did he teach the young churches? Any abstract thinking in the book of Romans?! Obviously, multiple teaching methods are used throughout the Bible, so, how about you, what is your rationale for your process of teaching and discipling new believers the way that you do?
Actually, God does give us second, third, fourth, … chances. It’s called applied learning. It is never too late to change, to adapt, to grow, to get better at being incarnational people who are able to so identify with others that some actually understand the message of the Gospel and believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord! If this topic of orality captures your attention, I highly encourage you to check out the online resources listed below. Consider going to the ION conference and training, it may very likely help you in your context to tell His story better!
…good to know… resources on orality...
International Orality Network 2008 Conference
, September 15-18, Dallas, TX
Making Disciples of Oral Learners
by International Orality Network (ION)
Tell the Story: A Primer on Chronological Bible Storying
by the IMB
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