The following is the foreword to the book ‘Orality Breakouts – Using Heart Language to Transform Hearts‘. A chapter will be posted here each week.
The room was abuzz at the 2000 Amsterdam conference on evangelism, sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Six hundred of the ten thousand participants were hard at work discussing how to finish the Great Commission in the next ten to fifteen years. We sat at Table 71. As the meeting concluded we were still hard at work when Marcus Vegh, a friend of several years, came up to me and startled me with a question that was to change my life forever. I looked up at his six-foot-three-inch frame and wide smile and felt his piercing black eyes staring through me. “How do you make disciples of oral learners?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I replied, shrugging my shoulders. “People have asked me that question for twenty years. I just say, ‘I am not working with illiterates. If you are, figure it out.’” Marcus retorted, “It’s been twenty years and no one has done it. You know about discipleship. It’s your job. Seventy percent of the unreached people in the world are oral learners.”
I heard his voice as if it were the voice of God. I am not sure why it hit me so hard. While serving as Senior Vice President for Overseas Operations with the International Mission Board of Southern Baptists, I had helped lead our five thousand missionaries to focus on reaching the unreached. I was aware of oral learners and Chronological Bible Storying, but never considered they were my responsibility. Now I heard God telling me it was.
One outcome from that conference was the formation of “Table 71,” a loose association of Christian organizations committed to working together in partnership among the remaining unreached people groups in the world. The goal is to help evangelize and make disciples, and to begin to nurture indigenous church-planting movements.
In 2004, the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization Forum in Pattaya, Thailand, was organized around thirty-one issue groups, including the Orality Issue Group. This group produced a book, Making Disciples of Oral Learners, which became a groundbreaking publication and, by God’s grace, is being used by thousands of people worldwide. Tens of thousands of copies of the English version are now in circulation, and it has been translated into Chinese, Spanish, French, Russian, Hindi, and Arabic.
This Orality Group organized the International Orality Network (ION) with the mission to radically influence the way oral preferenced communicators are evangelized and discipled in every people group. ION exists to accelerate the process of making the Gospel available to all oral learners in their mother languages and to do it better, faster, cheaper, and more effectively than when literate methods alone are used. The orality movement mobilizes mission organizations and denominations around the world to work together to share oral strategies, to disciple oral preference learners, and to accomplish the vision of reaching all unreached people groups.
The focus of Making Disciples of Oral Learners was evangelism, discipleship, and church planting. The book you hold in your hands is a follow-up resource that was created with the intent to deepen your understanding of the breakthroughs in orality strategies in all areas of life. It focuses on using heart languages as well as oral communication styles to transform lives. Welcome to the world of orality!
On behalf of the orality movement, ION received the first ever Innovations in Missions award from The Missions Exchange in 2009. This innovation is really accomplished through men and women who are passionate about orality and are enabling the breakouts globally. This book is about how God is breaking down resistant fields of mission endeavor, bringing His stories to unreached people groups alive, and birthing His Church around the world. Join in and witness what God is doing with orality.
Avery T. Willis, Jr.
International Orality Network
Arkansas, United States