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Orality is for everyone

By February 26, 2016

United States (MNN) – If you had information that could save someone, would you tell it to them through story?

When it comes to the life-giving message of the Gospel, Living Water International finds that storytelling is very effective. That’s why they’re inviting you to be a part of their orality workshops starting next week.

Recap: What is Orality?

“The definition of the word is a reliance upon spoken or non-written communication,” Jerry Wiles of LWI tells us.

But within the scope of evangelism, he says orality is much broader. It’s a movement.

“Our main focus is on the Great Commission. It’s about communicating the Gospel and making disciples.”

In short, orality for LWI is sharing the Gospel by telling Bible stories through spoken word.

Related: Orality: getting back to the basics of Gospel sharing

Why orality?

(Image courtesy of Living Water International)

(Image courtesy of Living Water International)

With so many resources available, some may wonder if storytelling is necessary.

There are many reasons why it’s effective.

For starters, compelling information spreads quickly by word of mouth. The Gospel, the most compelling news to any human, is no different.

It’s also true that people using the orality method have a ready framework to share the Gospel no matter where they are.

“We say you don’t have to be a great storyteller because we have great stories to tell. So when we tell the stories–the true stories from the Word of God, the Holy Spirit speaks to people’s hearts and brings understanding and application and significant change,” Wiles explains.

In addition, most people are already equipped to learn through story. According to LWI’s website and the International Orality Network, over 70% of the world’s population learns orally.

“Basically, it has to do with the way that the majority of the people of the world learn and communicate–the people [who] can’t, don’t, or won’t read, or prefer to learn by means other than written instruction or print-based media,” Wiles says.

Further still, the orality movement enables people to quickly reproduce the Gospel message so they can take it back to their friends, families, and communities.

Perhaps the most interesting support for orality is its history in the Church:

“The orality movement really is not a new something as much as it is a rediscovery of old, ancient methods and principles that [have] just been neglected for the past few hundred years,” says Wiles.

Who is it for?

It’s easy to assume that orality is only appropriate for societies whose singular or primary form of communication is by mouth. But it would be a shame to miss the advantages it could bring in highly-literate communities.

Wiles says anyone involved in communication and training could benefit from orality training. This includes people in “executive coaching, for example, and professional leadership, leadership development, small business coaching, team-building, organizational development.” Any of these people would learn the benefits of oral communication.

“Once they understand a little bit about communication theory, learning theory, behavior change, and that the orality principles and methodologies apply to so many different areas of our lives, it’s more relational, it’s more communal,” Wiles says.

“We have business leaders now that are applying the orality methods and principles in their business settings, and they’re finding great results.”

LWI refers to the workshops as easy on-ramps to the orality movement which Wiles says “is really the Jesus movement–[not] the Jesus movement from the 70s in the U.S. but the original Jesus movement from 2,000 years ago.”

Where it can be used

Orality Gospel sharing has a variety of applications, which Wiles recognizes as the creativity of the Holy Spirit.

A few months ago, he visited a South African country. Partners using the orality method reported that it was helpful in social justice issues. Wiles gives the example of a child who is abused who doesn’t feel comfortable going to someone for help.

He cites the story of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar who asks for Jesus’ healing. It’s a story that could encourage a child to open up about the abuse she is going through. The child would also hear about the love of Jesus.

“When the stories are told, and they’re discussed, [people] understand them and they understand how they apply to their lives.”

Related: When a story is the only thing heard

The Workshops

The first workshop is taking place March 5. Click here for more information and for the full list of scheduled workshops around the United States.

“I would just encourage people to consider coming to a workshop. People read articles, they learn about it, they hear about it.”

Wiles says, however, that orality is better experienced than explained.

“Our training is based on demonstration, participation, and explanation. Another feature that makes this work is learning a little, practicing a lot, and implementing immediately. Better to know a few stories we tell to a lot of people, than it is to know a lot that we keep to ourselves.”

The workshops are designed to help anyone who wants to share their faith.

“The objective of this training is to equip and inspire and activate and mobilize ordinary followers of Jesus.”

The teamwork behind orality

(Photo courtesy of Living Water International via Facebook)

Orality is an effort to meet spiritual needs alongside the physical needs (Photo courtesy of Living Water International via Facebook)

Living Water International has partnered with International Orality Network and Global Orality Training Alliance in their effort to equip believers with orality training around the world.

“We’re also collaborating with academic institutions and other mission organizations in developing a network of scholars, and researchers, theologians, missiologists with different areas of expertise. So we have a global think tank on these issues.”

Living Water International works to answer physical and spiritual needs around the world by providing clean water to those who have none, and the Living Water to those who don’t know Jesus.

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