Orality

My university had a Gutenberg Bible. I remember standing over its glass case and feeling deep emotion as I considered how God used people like John Wycliffe, John Hus and others to bring the written word of God to common people. With no disrespect to the memories of those that gave so much so we can read God’s written revelation to us, as people involved with planting churches we must wrestle with the fact that there are approximately 3-billion adults that are primarily oral learners and will never open their Bible. It is important to us to consider methods of bringing the revelation of God to people that can not appreciate that Bible I stood over.

As people involved with planting churches we must wrestle with the fact that there are approximately 3-billion adults that are primarily oral learners and will never open their Bible.

I’ll presume the majority of readership of the Calvary Church Planting Network blog are either North American, or otherwise strongly connected to North America where the majority of people are literate. It is reasonable in those settings to expect the majority of people present to understand when the pastor, or small group leader says, “Please open with me to the Gospel of John, chapter 3.” While it may not seem like a major concern for those planting in the North America, I would like to propose two reasons why oral strategies for bringing God’s revelation should be considered along with our Movement’s rich heritage of systematically expositing the Bible.

The Next Generation of Churches

Recently I heard there are 1,600 current Calvary Chapels. Of course the greatest concentration is in the United States, with Mexico coming in second. While I pray every Calvary remains honest and true to what makes us distinct, and what I believe is a strategic role in the greater Kingdom, I also suspect the next 1,600 Calvary Chapel churches will operate vastly different than the first. Among those differences will likely be more churches planted among those that learn orally and not from a Bible in their lap. This means not changing the gospel message itself, but adapting the Biblical preaching, Biblical teaching and Biblical methods of discipleship to orality methods. This will be important as Calvary Chapel missionaries continue to open foreign fields, but also among America and Mexico’s immigrant populations (as God is faithful to bring the nations).

People not in Church Now

The United States Census Bureau reports almost 20-percent of the population has at least one disability. In the majority world those numbers are likely larger, especially if we include gender inequality and lack of education issues that hinder ability. Joni Eareckson Tada summed it up by saying,  “Only five to ten percent of the world’s disabled are effectively reached with the gospel, making the disability community one of the largest unreached (some say under-reached) or hidden people groups in the world.” While the disabled may not be able to carry a Bible, hold a Bible, sit with their Bible or follow a traditional church service, they are still image bearers of God and worthy of being reached out to in creative ways that allows them to become disciples that make disciples.

“Only five to ten percent of the world’s disabled are effectively reached with the gospel, making the disability community one of the largest unreached (some say under-reached) or hidden people groups in the world.” – Joni Eareckson Tada

What Can Church Planters Do?

First: consider creative ways to bring the revelation of God to oral learners. In Schools of Ministry and other settings, consider adding oral techniques of discipleship such as Chronological Bible Storying along with the traditional Inductive Bible Study training. Consider starting small groups based around audio scriptures, like Talking Bibles, in the mother tongue of immigrants in your community. Both these and other oral techniques are effective for oral learners and the disabled in all settings.
Second: consider purposely reaching out to the disabled by bringing them to church gatherings, but also possibly by going to them. For a church plant on a budget, small group studies, prayer meetings, or even mid-week services in a local convalescent homes can be very attractive to the existing church, but also to those that otherwise would not come to where Jesus is (Mark 2:3). The disabled may not be able to fill a pew, give much, or serve in traditional ways, but they are completely able to be the church and be ministered to by church planters.

The disabled may not be able to fill a pew, give much, or serve in traditional ways, but they are completely able to be the church and be ministered to by church planters.

Ed Compean is a church planting missionary and coach based in Nairobi. You can follow his Twitter feed @Ed_Compean, or check out the Uttermost Blog.

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