Orality in America

By Mark Snowden

“Orality in America” is project of the Mission America Coalition. MAC is the USA arm of Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. 


snowden-mar2016A workgroup of evangelical leaders have researched and written chapters on different aspects of orality. And most of the orality methods surfaced among highly literate people and even those that might or might not have an oral learning preference. That’s because disciple-making in America is getting worse and worse. The literate elite (13% of Americans) and their Christian publishing houses are teaching lessons with lots of information. However, those who embrace orality methods have an opportunity to probe deeper into motivation, life choices, and the “volition of the will.” 

As documented in The Great Evangelical Recession, John Dickerson noted that only seven to nine percent of Americans were actually evangelicals. That was about half the ARDA’s reports. The studies that Dickerson referenced put the actual number of evangelicals closer to 22 to 28 million. Evangelicals have lost a net total of 2.6 million church members between 2000 and 2010. Dickerson also points to studies in which evangelicals have diminished cultural influence.

The need for disciple-makers in America is needed as never before. 

The white paper has many anecdotes like the one that I learned from Gary Coomes, who works with discipleship at Living Hope Wesleyan Church in Madison, South Dakota. They currently have 23 small groups, each with 8 to 12 participants. Living Hope uses oral methods in Bible studies. Coomes said, “We have had significant interest, participation, and spiritual growth with Storying.” Coomes got permission to share Vi’s story. She was a new follower of Jesus that has clearly grown spiritually. Vi has taken the stories and used them to prevent a friend from committing suicide, joined in with her husband to share the gospel with a delivery man, and helped another sister in Christ lead a non-believer to faith. Coomes added:

“Vi has retold many of the stories from Scripture, remembering God’s word. Many of us are better equipped and fruitful as we share our stories, hear their stories, and live God’s story together.”

From South Dakota to the Deep South from Oregon to South Dakota, the research team has identified churches that have turned over their disciple-making to using oral methods. The white paper has lots of prophetic punch, but also celebrates scores of churches and ministries across America that are catching on. 

It is noteworthy to praise the Lord that Jerry Wiles and I have been not only asked to lead the workgroup, but lead Mission America Coalition’s Bible study using oral methods. During the typical Bible study time at the beginning of their two-day annual gathering, Jerry and I had the opportunity not just to model Bible Storying, but to bring a significant spiritual encounter as the Holy Spirit worked through us. The evaluations from the 154 ministry leaders and MAC staff responded extremely positively to this “new” method many are just learning to embrace. 

Pray for the white paper as it wraps up. Look for news and links soon as we plan to collaborate with Jay Moon at Asbury Seminary to release it as an e-book complete with video clips and active links to interact with the authors.


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