For the last few years, I have been studying orality. This issue of orality is one of the main obstacles to the spread of the Christian faith to the nations. Too often over the last century, those of us in the West teach about our faith using the written Bible and lessons. If people cannot read, we offer literacy training. And certainly in the last 150 years, those who led and pastored churches were those who could read and graduate from theological studies.
Now studies have shown that probably 80% of the world prefer to learn through oral means. Some are illiterate; some have poor reading skills; some are blind; others are young children. And of course, there are secondary oral learners who may know how to read, but choose to learn through non- literate means, through watching a screen on TV or a computer or a smartphone. Thus these 80% of the world’s population need access to the Scriptures in an audio format.
So as I have seen and read about the great need for full audio bibles, I have led prayer for Davar Partners International, a ministry which aims to give access to people of every tongue, that is, people from every language.
So what is my story? I consider myself a literate learner… one of less than 20% of the world who prefers to gain information through reading. I like to read the news instead of watching it on TV. I prefer to read a book, instead of going to a movie. But recently I have changed my own status! What happened and why?
My favorite part of any sermon are the personal examples that are shared. When I teach, I realize the best way to connect with people is by telling stories. Of course, I plan on the 5 major points I want to teach, but people walk away forgetting the 5 points and only recalling the stories I shared. And of course, the greatest disciple maker of all, Jesus Christ, taught through storytelling and modeling what His disciples should do.
I recently had a conversation with my married daughter. We were at a party at someone’s home and before the meal, one of the ladies took off her rings and washed her hands and then left her rings by her dinner plate until the meal was over. My daughter asked why she would do that and she responded that she did not know why. Then she realized that her mother did the same thing. And my daughter proclaimed, ”My mom taught me to never take your wedding rings off!” Did one of these young ladies read these rules in a book? NO, they learned from their mothers.
So I began to ponder where and how I learned things in life… I did not read a rulebook… I heard the truth, often in stories or modeled by people in my life. I learned by listening!
“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”
It is by hearing that my faith grows! I am an oral learner! And I am convinced that 100% of the world are oral learners… we may read, but we learn much more when we hear! This is why we need to not only read the Bible, but listen to it as well. Sometimes this means we need to read it aloud… so we can learn by seeing and hearing both.
Now I recognize that the Word of God must be available to people of every tongue in their own language. It is vitally important that we listen and obey, that we not be hearers only but doers. The scripture in James 1 does not say we are to do what we read, but do what we hear! So I join you, oral learners of the nations… let us hear what the Lord has to say to us!
Vicky Porterfield served as International Director of Prayer for Davar Partners International 2012-2016. Contact her at [email protected].