The Power of Stories
Jesus was the greatest storyteller ever and communicated to people of all ages, classes, and cultures through stories and parables. In fact, about 75% of the Bible is made up of stories! The Bible is also full of psalms and songs that were originally communicated orally, accompanied by instruments and, at times, even dancing. Everyone loves a good story and a good song, whether they are two-years-old or ninety-nine! We can follow Jesus' model in the Bible.
One day I simply began "telling" Bible stories to my friends while sitting in their living room drinking mint tea and eating couscous, rather than reading the stories to them or helping them to learn how to read them. It was like a light bulb went on in their hearts and minds. I was finally speaking "their language", the language of stories! And to see how they would naturally learn the stories to tell them to their family members and neighbors. I never had to urge them to go and tell someone the story. That is just what they did naturally in their "oral storying" culture!
This is how I discovered "orality", which is simply using stories and other oral methods (songs, drama, etc.) to communicate to people who learn best by hearing. We often call these people "oral learners". Did you know that 2/3 of the world is made up of "oral learners"?
Some oral learners, like those in North Africa, are in areas of the world where they have never had the opportunity to learn how to read and write. These people receive and pass on information through the form of stories and music. They usually have amazing memories and are incredible storytellers.
Other oral learners are sitting in our church pews in North America and other post-modern cultures and simply have a preference for learning orally. I think that this is the case with many of our youth. Sometimes I wonder if tomorrow's teenagers will even know how to read, as they are constantly bombarded by an audio/visual world! Do we know how to communicate with them in a way that they can truly "hear" and respond?
Let's re-think the way we are doing things and re-learn how to communicate to oral people in a way that they can hear, TRULY hear . . . those in the African bush and those sitting next to us in church!
Until ALL have heard,
Renee, Orality Consultant for Alliance International Ministries