In the past few years there has been a strong movement embracing the use of oral methods of teaching from the Bible. This approach recognizes that oral cultures may be taught the Bible without waiting for a formal, written translation to be completed. I saw this methodology in use on my recent trip to Africa and it was thrilling to see how effective it was.
Since many cultures of the world are oral cultures (verus written cultures), this approach uses their means of passing down truth from generation to generation. It is important to note that orality is not simply a method. It's a way a culture processes truth and information. It's a hermeneutical issue.
I have been networking with others about the way in which this methodology is being used, particularly within the CPM (church planting movement) school of missiology. Here are some broad observations:
- It’s a fantastic tool for oral cultures and for post-modern cultures. Evidence of its successful application abound. It is probably a basic tool all church planters should have in their toolbox, regardless of the target people group.
- CPM training should “wrap it” (be placed before it and after it). If CPM training does not precede it, then churches are started with the wrong DNA for reproduction. If CPM training does not follow it, the highly applicable storying approach crowds out the more abstract fundamentals of reproducible church planting.
- It is controversial with two contrary schools debating the best way to do it. One side sees it as akin to Bible translation and therefore require the stories to be detailed from a translator’s perspective (placing more emphasis on proper accuracy within the local context and focus less on proper use or fast deployment) and the other side see it as a means of efficiently and effectively sharing the gospel story (placing more emphasis on proper use and reproducibility than accuracy). While this is a oversimplification of the issues at hand, it highlights the different ways orality is being conceptualized. The differences have great ramifications for how orality is used in context.
- The ability of non-Westerners to use storying should make us take notice. It is a “viral” methodology which has yet to be effectively captured for use by non-Westerners in a broad way except in a few limited circumstances. It would be very helpful for a non-Western group to develop their own storying training and curriculum in order to compare and contrast their approach and the current curriculums, which have been created primarily by Western mission agencies.