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Orality Missiology: The Simplicity Factor and Oral Learners

By Jerry Wiles

Jesus communities meet in southern Ethiopia

Simplicity and reproducibility are vitally important factors for spreading the Gospel and advancing the Kingdom of God.  The simplicity factor and oral learners is not about being simplistic in the context of communicating the Good News of Jesus and making disciples.  It’s really about making the message of the Word of God, the Good News of Jesus Christ, relevant, understandable and transferable.

There’s a lot of discussions these days about the power of simplicity in many areas.  In the business world, in relation to leadership, management, and organizational development simplicity is an important factor.  “The Lost Art of Simplicity” is a topic that has been talked about and written on in recent years.


Rapidly Reproducing Movements

Among church and mission leaders, there is a growing recognition that it’s not enough to proclaim the Gospel.   People need to hear, understand, respond, remember and pass it on.  So, if we’re going to be effective in doing so, we can’t depend on modern, Western, post-reformation traditions and methods.  We really need to think more about what we can learn from the rapidly reproducing disciple-making and church planting movements, as well as the important lessons we learn from Jesus and the Early Church.

Sharing the Living Water of Jesus at a Well

The Orality Movement is a growing community of learning and practice about communicating with the least and last unreached people groups.  The Bible-less and Oral People Groups will not be reached with written or text-based methods.  However, in our everyday traffic patterns, we can connect with those who need the Lord, or need encouragement in their walk with God.  Appropriate Orality Training can equip each of us to be more effective in sharing our life in Christ and impacting others for Kingdom purposes.

Power of Telling Stories and Asking Questions

In our Orality journey with Living Water International, we hear many examples and reports of how simply telling stories and asking questions can be used to bring others to the Lord.  In many cases, it can start by asking a question and having a conversation.  It’s something anyone can do.  Then, with a set of stories from Scripture and the appropriate engagement, followers of Jesus can become reproducing disciple-makers.

Children Who Learn Stories, Tend to Tell Stories

Steve Addison is an Australian church planter and disciple maker, and author of “Movements That Change the World” and other books.  He talks about why Soccer has become the most popular sport in the world.  Almost anyone can play, anywhere, anytime.  It’s simple, economical, fun and reproducible.  That’s a pretty good description of storytelling and Orality methods.

Training, Equipping, Mobilizing

Following an Orality Training Workshop in a Central American country, an older pastor was energized with a new vision.  He recognized that he could train, equip and mobilize women, men and children of all ages to become storytelling communicators of the Gospel.  Orality Training levels the playing ground, so that every follower of Jesus can participate in God’s redemptive activities.  Many people have a mindset, spiritual barrier or stronghold and think they need some special gift in order to share their faith.  However, it can be overcome.

I was recently in a group meeting with some church leaders.  On the topic of sharing Christ in everyday encounters, one man said, “I could never do that.”  My thought was, “Can you have a conversation?”  Having conversations and simply being open to the work of the Holy Spirit is often all it takes.  Over the years I have seen many come alive with new excitement when they can see a demonstration of an encounter with the Lord.

Rethinking Church and Mission

Participatory, Communal Learning is also Needed in the USA

Simplicity and reproducibility are foundational to completing the Great Commission.  Increasing numbers of pastors and ministry leaders are now rethinking the concepts of church and mission.  Think about what a Biblically-based and culturally-relevant group of followers of Jesus would look like in your neighborhood, community, city or region.

Most modern Western (building-based and tradition-oriented) congregations are not very reproducible.  However, with a focus on the life, the Spirit and teachings of Jesus, and what it means to follow and obey Him, it changes everything.  It is liberating to realize that every follower of Jesus can become a reproducing disciple-maker.jerry-wiles


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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