HOUSTON, TX (ANS – October 7, 2015) – Why are things the way they are? Why are people the way they are, and why do they do what they do? These are vitally important questions that can be transformational and life changing when taken to heart. I personally needed to answer those questions as a result of a recent experience. I found myself in a situation where I needed to interact with some people who have a very different lifestyle and a different set of values than I do. It was a situation in which I needed to have a change of attitude in order to connect with them.
It took some time of observing their lives and family, and hearing their stories before I could empathize and identify with their needs and why they lived the way they were living. I had judged according to appearance, rather than judging righteous judgement, which we are told in Scripture not to do. I think it is something we all face from time to time, which is why we need a change of heart and mind, in many cases, in order to connect with the people (or people groups) who need the Lord. The Lord convicted me that I needed a change of attitude and perspective, in order to better understand, relate to and connect with those people.
As one observes what is happening in the world today, I think most of us would agree that we are living in a time of great disconnection and disunity. Many are disconnected within their own families, neighborhoods, work place and society in general. Sadly, many churches, ministries and mission organizations are failing to connect with the people they are seeking to reach and minister to. So, an important question to ask would be, “How do I (or we) need to change, in order to connect with the people (or people groups) that need the Lord?”
With our work in Living Water International around the world, we connect with people through clean water solutions (which also includes hygiene education, sanitation services and community development). Water is a great connecting point. We also connect with people through the Word of God, the Living Water of the Good News of Jesus, which alone satisfies the deepest thirst. We know that it is vital to communicate with people based on understanding the receptor culture, worldview and learning preferences of those we are seeking to serve.
Sometimes churches, ministries and mission organizations have attempted to connect with people in different parts of the world in the same or similar ways that they have in their own homeland. It’s in those cases where there is a need for a change of mind and heart, a change of methods and strategies. When we understand the culture, worldview and learning/communication preferences of those we are seeking to reach, we can change and adapt for greater effectiveness. Of course, we now know that most of the people of the world do not prefer to learn and communicate by modern Western textural based methods, but by the more relational oral methods. Enter the Orality Movement.
Even on a personal or individual level, we now know that the more relational, participatory and Orality-based methods are far more effective than textual-based communication methods. In relation to sharing or communicating spiritual truth, it is the work of the Holy Spirit that produces lasting fruit. It is the Holy Spirit that communicates spiritual truth to the human spirit. We can share true stories of Jesus, from the Word of God, but ultimately, it is the Holy Spirit that touches hearts and changes lives.
The Holy Spirit is faithful to enable connectivity in human contact and relationships. Important questions to ask would be, “What needs to change in us, in order to be sensitive to the Spirit? What kind of attitude or method needs to change in order to better connect with the people we interact with on a daily basis?” Active listening is one of the most important ways we can connect with others. When we engage people in conversation, and really listen to them, we should also be listening for that still small voice of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. We have the promise from Scripture that He will guide us into all truth, and He will give us a word fitly spoken at just the right time.
While recently conducting a one-day Orality Training Workshop with a group of church and mission leaders, I could sense a greater affinity and kindred spirit with a few of the people in the training. There are some people that we seem to have instant rapport with — we connect with them. Others seem to be distant, but often it just takes more time and conversations in order to connect with them.
The most important question each of us should consider, in relation to changing in order to connect is, “What changes need to take place in our own lives in order to connect with God’s redemptive purposes?” Of course, we should recognize that ultimately it is the Holy Spirit of God who changes our hearts, attitudes and lives as we trust and obey Him. The Holy Spirit has an amazing ability to enable us to connect with others, to discern their needs and interests and to share God’s love and truth with them.
Jesus is the master connector, and it is His life in us that enables us to be change agents, to be salt and light to those around us, every day, where ever we happen to be. He said we are the light of the world, so we should let our light shine, that others may see our good works and glorify the Father in heaven.
In relation to the Lord’s Great Commission, to communicate the Good News of Jesus to everyone, to the ends of the earth, and to make disciples of all people groups, we need to consider how we do that. It’s actually more than a proclamation of the gospel, it’s more than doing acts of kindness and good deeds, as important as they are. It’s important that people hear the Good Story of Jesus, understand it, respond to it, process it, be able to remember it and pass it on to others.
Someone has said, “The Good News of Jesus came to us on the way to someone else.” So, we are not to keep it to ourselves. A friend of mine often parts with this statement, “Keep the faith, just don’t keep it to yourself.” That is very good advice for all of us who are followers of Jesus.
For information about Living Water International or Orality Training resources and opportunities, visit www.water.cc/orality.
Photo captions: 1) Connecting with Communities through Water and the Word. 2) The Power of Connecting through Conversation. 3) Orality Training in a Gym/Worship Center. 4) Jerry Wiles.
About the writer: Jerry Wiles is president emeritus of Living Water International and serves on the advisory council and leadership team of the International Orality Network. He can be reached at [email protected].