International (MNN) – The Bible provides instruction, correction, joy, and comfort, but what if you are illiterate? For many people around the world, a faith that requires reading is not only impractical, it’s unloving.
Ed Weaver, President and CEO of Spoken Worldwide explains, “I think what we have done unintentionally as the Western Church, and Western missions, in missiology is that we’ve unintentionally implied to unreached people groups in the world that if you can’t read, God doesn’t love you. If you can’t read, you can’t be discipled. If you can’t read you cannot be a pastor in a church. And I would say, the way I look at it, God loves readers and non-readers equally. There is no difference and I think what happens, unfortunately, is non-readers in the world see themselves as less than, they see themselves as second-class citizens in the kingdom of God.”
An illiterate pastor?
Weaver points out that while we might not say so out loud, many people assume that unless you can read, go to seminary, and learn Hebrew and Greek, you’re not cut out for pastoral ministry. But is that correct?
For many around the world, their whole community is illiterate. They don’t rely on the written word to communicate at all.
Yet the Bible is clear that God doesn’t look at the things man looks at. Even though they cannot read, oral groups have no lesser a need for indigenous pastoral leadership than other people groups.
If that is true, then a different way of preaching, studying, and teaching must be offered. Non-reading people groups need Gospel hope and the ability to train up pastors in God’s Word.
Bringing the Gospel to non-readers
For Spoken Worldwide the answer was simple. Oral cultures need to experience the Bible in a way they can learn from and understand.
So they stepped into the world of the illiterate in 2004 to shine the Word of God into darkness in new ways. Using technology and high orality standards, they create faithful oral renditions of Scripture.
Weaver says, “We’re trying to bring the Torah and the Gospels, the Prophets and the Pauline Epistles, the writings and the minor epistles and Revelation all available in story, song, drama form. So that they can understand the context, they can be discipled, they can disciple others. There is no difference in their capability in the kingdom.”
This not only shares God’s Word with more people worldwide, but it also shows unreached oral cultures that Christianity is not a rich or white person’s religion. God cares for all people regardless of their ability to read.
Making the most of the time
Illiterate people need to know God’s Word, but for that to happen, they need to hear it from someone.
Weaver notes that, “Where we’re going are the places in the world that nobody wants to go. There are no beaches. There are no mountains. It’s not interesting, but the people there are loved by God. And we want to help people, individuals, churches, and other organizations figure out ways to get more engaged in those places that God loves just as equally as the places that are beautiful and easy to get to.”
He asks that the Church pray about how they can get involved with unreached people groups who are illiterate.
One specific request is to pray that God would give greater understanding to missions agencies and those on the field regarding non-readers.
If you would like to know more about Spoken Worldwide or join their ministry to oral cultures, visit them online here.