United States (MNN) — Technology and tradition are two valuable aspects of society. But in some situations, what is modern and commonplace can keep us from recognizing solutions that have been with us since the beginning of time.
Orality method for sharing the Gospel is growing, but many people have yet to understand how versatile the applications are.
Orality was first recognized as a valuable option for sharing the Gospel with people groups who had no written Scripture in their heart language. But more and more non-missionary individuals have now incorporated it into ministry efforts of discipleship and outreach in communities, immigrant populations, and prison ministries, to name a few examples.
The orality initiative itself has been helped along by groups involved in the International Orality Movement, the Accord Network, and the Mission America Coalition.
We asked Wiles to elaborate on a few ideas presented in the book.
The quickest answer to why orality is a useful tool in our mission work today is this: It’s the most basic and natural way humans learn and communicate.
“When we look back at the early Church, only about three-percent to 12-percent of the population at that time when Jesus was here two thousand years ago would have had access to the Scriptures and could have read them with comprehension,” Wiles says.
So the question they have been asking is how the Gospel spread in the 1st century when not many people could study the Scriptures?
The answer is, by word of mouth.
This method is cross-cultural, multi-ethnic, and international. It’s a way people can hear, respond, understand, and pass on information, including the Gospel.
One thing Wiles mentions in the book is it’s dangerous to be totally dependent on written word to share the Gospel, even in the United States where the majority of population can read.
He clarifies that orality doesn’t take the place of anything that currently works, but rather that we should simply use all the tools available to us.
The danger of relying on written information, Wiles says, is, “If we’re dependent upon it, we’re going to miss a lot of people who may not be reached with those methods.”
Studies done in the last several decades have shown relatively high literacy rates worldwide. But Wiles says this doesn’t take into account the idea of comprehension, and the definitions of literacy span from being able to read a few words to reading fluently. And many people learn better by hearing rather than reading.
Reliance on the Holy Spirit
The idea that we share the Gospel through Bible stories rather than written word might scare some people, because we’re so used to sharing directly from our Bibles. But as Wiles notes, it’s important to remember who is really in command of our words.
“We recognize the sovereignty of God and the work of the Holy Spirit not only to inspire his Word but to preserve it throughout the centuries, that it was preserved in oral cultures before it was written down.”
In the same way, we can rely on Him to use us when we faithfully study and share His Gospel.
Today, we have the luxury of Scripture in written text. Orality training has been designed by a group of knowledgeable people who care that trainees stay true to what the Bible says.
The book points out that in the United States, many members of the Church do not feel adequately prepared to evangelize and disciple. While we are never going to feel completely prepared in this area, we are supposed to be as ready as possible.
Think about it. These days, people are more comfortable communicating through social media than face-to-face. While even social media can be a platform for sharing the Bible, orality can be invaluable to any Christian, young or old, wanting to share the Gospel effectively wherever they go.
“Asking questions and listening is a very important part of sharing our faith, and it’s more relational and it’s more natural.”
Wiles says when we share our story and ask about their story, there’s ample opportunity and openness to talk about God’s story.
Learning how to communicate through conversation can even address current social issues and help us learn how to actively love our neighbors.
Wiles says we have to recognize that we are on a mission field “made up of our families, neighbors, coworkers, and friends,” and many others.
“As we relate to people, as we are praying and asking God to give us a sensitivity to people’s needs and their concerns, if we ask questions and engage in conversation and we’re looking for ways, it’s often the Holy Spirit will direct us to ask a question or to make a statement or to tell a story that will open up a conversation.”
Orality in the context of evangelism is a careful and educated process that allows for the building of relationships, and the communication of important truths and concepts while recognizing the work of the Holy Spirit.
Wiles says orality helps churches reach out to their communities. By getting back to the essentials, we can still share the Word of God effectively in the most basic, technology-free contexts.
“I don’t think the Lord intended for His work — the Kingdom work and the Great Commission — to be complicated. And it’s not for an exclusive few, well-educated people. Common people can come to know Jesus and share His love and share His truth, and the Lord’s willing to use any of us and all of us.”
Orality in America is a helpful and quick read that will tell you more about orality in America and the world. Click here for the PDF.