Orality Missiology: A New Reformation?

By Jerry Wiles

When I think about Orality Missiology, I ask what does it take to ignite a movement, to build a business, or grow a church or organization?

What are the principles, methods or strategies that enable each of us, as followers of Jesus, to make the greatest possible contribution to the world in which we live, and even more importantly, to be a part of advancing the Kingdom of God?  These are pretty important questions to ponder, and I suggest there are some very simple and understandable answers.

The parables that Jesus told about mustard seed and yeast are a couple of examples of Kingdom principles that help us understand how we can be salt and light in society, even be catalysts to start or promote movements that change the world.  From these parables, we learn that little things can have major impact.  Biblical examples would be the Samaritan Woman at the Well, the demon-possessed Gerasene, and Phillip’s encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch. These show how God can use one person to impact a community, a region or even an entire nation.

Conversations Can Change Lives

In the natural realm, think of the fact that every major river starts with a small stream.  A small snowball can cause an avalanche.  A seed is the beginning of a tree that produces much fruit.  Consider how many major corporations started out in someone’s kitchen or garage.  Megachurches, as well as major church planting/disciple making movements, have started in living rooms, storefronts and under trees.

During the “Jesus Movement” of the 1970s, there was a popular song titled, “It Only Takes A Spark To Get A Fire Going.” Many students and young people were ignited with great passion during those days for sharing the Gospel on college and university campuses around the country.  In my own journey, I have experienced how influencing one person, or leading someone to Christ, can result in hundreds of others coming to the Lord.

Relational Disciple Making Anytime, Anywhere

Not realizing it at the time, but that experience had a significant impact on my friend Brian and inspired him to be more proactive in reaching out to share Christ with others.  Just a couple of years ago he told me that he has consistently shared the gospel with others since then, and on average, seen two or three people a week respond to receive the Lord.  Brian is an example of how the Lord honors our sowing the Seed of the Word of God into the lives of others.  When we do so, we can expect that occasionally it will take root in good soil.I recently reconnected with a friend I had some ministry with more than 30 years ago.  We were in Washington, D.C. after a White House briefing waiting for a taxi on a street side.  It was raining and a kind lady nearby shared her umbrella with us.  While we waited together for the taxi, I engaged her in conversation, asked a few questions and shared the gospel with her.  She was interested and open and we had prayer together, and she confessed her faith in Jesus.  The whole encounter took less than ten minutes.

How does all this relate to Orality Missiology or the Orality Movement?  It was in the 1970s and ‘80s that a few missionaries and mission/ministry leaders became interested and began discussing Orality, Oral Cultures and how to reach Oral Learners.  It was from those seemingly insignificant and obscure conversations during that period, and later at Amsterdam 2,000, with the formation of the Oral Bible Task Force, in collaboration with the Lausanne Movement, that resulted in the formation of the International Orality Network in 2004.

Sowing The Seed of God’s Word

Increasing numbers of mission and ministry leaders, pastors and church leaders, business professionals and ordinary followers of Jesus are now paying attention to the Orality Movement.  There are those who are saying that the concepts, principles and practices of Orality could revolutionize the ways that the Church/Mission World communicates the gospel and makes disciples.  Understanding the principles of small, simple and reproducible are key factors that can enhance our potential for witness and impact for advancing the Kingdom of God.  It’s important to think of having a multiplying effect.

Consider — from seed to fruit, from stream to river, from snowball to avalanche.  The Orality Movement is an example of those Kingdom principles being worked out in our time.  If the past 40 years is an indicator of all the Lord has in mind for the next 40 years, we can all be a part of this historic move of God in advancing His Kingdom here on earth and the realization of the prophecy of Habakkuk 2:14, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”


Scripture tells us that God is no respecter of persons.  We often say, “He is an equal opportunity employer.”  We can all get in on what He is doing in redeeming His creation.  We can all sow the Good Seed of His Word, and experience the power of His Kingdom principles.

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].


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