HOUSTON, TX (ANS – July 11, 2016) – A modern phenomena that we often hear about these days is something called a “Paradigm Shift.” In 1962, Thomas Kuhn, an American physicist, historian and philosopher introduced the term “Paradigm Shift.” While he used the term in the context of scientific advancement, it really can describe change from many different perspectives.
For example, the invention of the printing press by Johann Gutenberg in the 1440’s is considered a paradigm shift, because it was a transformation in terms of the dissemination of knowledge. The first book ever printed was the Bible, which brought about big changes in the Church World.
Another paradigm shift has been the invention of personal computers and the Internet. Technology overall has changed the lives of many around the world. There are many other changes that have taken place throughout history that could be considered “Paradigm Shifts.” In the modern Church and Mission World, many global missiologists would identify the Orality Movement as a paradigm shift.
In addition to the sweeping changes that have transformed lives, families, communities and even nations, in reality there are paradigm shifts or transforming experiences taking place every day around the world. Sometimes a transformed life can result in changing cultures and the structures of society. Sometimes a crisis situation, a war, or a natural disaster can bring major changes.
A pastor participating in an Orality Training Workshop in a West African country told of how his first nine children had all died shortly after they were born. The witch doctors and idol worshipers in his community told him he must make more sacrifices to the idols if he wanted his children to live. Then someone told him the story of Jesus of Nazareth, and he decided to become a follower of Jesus and worship Him instead of the idols.
The people in his village told him he would die if he followed Jesus. He told them he would rather die for Jesus than live for Satan. He did live and has had many years of fruitful ministry. He is recognized as one of the wise, senior leaders in a rapidly reproducing church planting/disciple-making movement in his country. He testified of the power of the Story of Jesus to deliver anyone out of darkness, into the light of Jesus Christ. This man became a change agent and the Lord has used him to bring transformation to many lives and communities in that region.
Many of the pastors and church leaders in that part of Africa, as well as other parts of the world, have never been to school, and some have never learned to read and write. However, they have experienced the transforming power of Jesus. They know what it’s like to be in bondage to darkness and the joy of being delivered and set free from the powers of Satan, witchcraft and idolatry. These pastors and their people have learned stories of Jesus and tell them to others, who in turn tell others. They are a wonderful demonstration of the reproducing life of Jesus Christ, in and through the redeemed humanity of forgiven sinners.
The Good Story (News) of Jesus is spreading throughout this country and churches are multiplying rapidly. One of the interesting features of this movement is that they don’t have a lot of overhead or tradition that keeps them from growing and reproducing. The communities of faith (churches) meet under trees, sit on logs or rocks, or bring their own buckets or stools to sit on. These followers of Jesus are being trained and discipled very much like the Early Church that we read about in the Gospels and the Book of Acts.
These churches have very little of this world’s resources–no buildings; no Bibles or hymnbooks; no musical instruments other than the drums, beads and instruments they have made themselves. Many have never had the opportunity to learn to read. These followers of Jesus have very little of the resources that churches and ministries in the modern Western World and North America enjoy. However, they have Jesus, and they have passion for Him and His kingdom. They have had life-changing experiences with the Living Christ, Jesus of Nazareth. They experience the power of the Holy Spirit, live in community and faithfully reach out to those who need the Lord.
I would say that these people are pretty wealthy in terms of the things that really matter in life and for eternity. There is much that we in the Western World can learn from them and from the life, Spirit and teachings of Jesus. An important lesson is the power and benefits of small, simple, reproducible and transferable systems and structures. There is much we can also learn from the Early Church. These are the ways that the Gospel spread throughout the entire populated world in the First Century, before radio, television, the printing press or the internet.
On a recent trip to Africa I heard many testimonies from people who live in villages that have a new water well, and as a result, a new church. The community transformation in those regions has prompted other villages and communities to request a church, and of course, a new well. The water is a bridge to share and demonstrate the love of God. Being an oral culture, telling stories, asking questions and discussing in community are amazingly effective and reproducible.
There was a man who learned the story of the blind beggar, known as Bartimaeus, from Mark chapter 10, in an Orality Training Workshop. One of the discussion questions about the story was, “What do we learn from the fact that the blind beggar threw off his coat (outer garment) and came to Jesus?” After some reflection, the man said, “I see that this blind man’s coat, or outer garment, represents idols in my life, and that I should get rid of all my idols.”
Witchcraft and idol worship are very common among this people group. However, when we think about it and consider what the Bible teaches about idols, we realize that idolatry is a worldwide problem that is just expressed in different ways in different cultures. Idols in the modern Western World can take on many forms of expression. The Holy Spirit might speak or reveal to people about forsaking other things that could keep us from the Lord and His plan for our lives. Actually, we might think of idols as being icons or statues, but in our culture, they could be careers, money, status or any number of other things that would take the place of God and the Lordship of Christ in our lives.
I had the opportunity to spend some time with a few people who had participated in one of Living Water’s Orality Training Workshops a few years earlier. Fifteen of those people were asked how they had been using the stories and what kind of results they had seen. From their combined testimonies, 791 people had come to the Lord. Consider the fact that more than 1,000 people attended the same training that the fifteen attended. Only the Lord knows how many more have come the Christ through the other 985 or so participants.
The seed of God’s Word will have great impact when it is planted in fertile, receptive hearts. It is a joy to see the reproducing and multiplying effect of the Good Story (the gospel) of Jesus when it is shared in ways that people can understand, respond to, and share with others. I am continually reminded that we in the modern Western World often make the gospel and sharing our faith more complicated than it needs to be. I’ve often noticed over the years that just mentioning the name of Jesus in a conversation can open a door for a fruitful, meaningful and often life-changing experience.
Photo captions: 1) Johann Gutenberg, German inventor, and his famous printing press. (Artwork: J. L. Beuzon). 2) The Power and Impact of Partnerships and Collaboration. 3) The Importance of Communal, Relational Learning. 4) Blind Bartimaeus. (http://www.biblewaymag.com). 5) Cross-Cultural, Reproducible Training. 6) 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].