The Literacy Conversation – Part 2

“Could it be that orality is not about literacy at all?”

Six years later, this is what I have learned from experiencing it as a practitioner:

“No, orality is not about literacy. It’s not about literacy at all. Orality is about STORY.”

In fact, we at Freedom to Lead believe in this so strongly that we use the word “storycentric” to describe the cultures we work with. We recognize that “orality” has connotations- real or perceived – that can cause confusion. But it is story that captures the heart of both the nonliterate and the literate. It is both biblical stories and current, personal life stories that inspire all people to embrace the God of the Bible.

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“Orality” – The Literacy Conversation – Part 1

I think I’ve been getting it wrong all these years. Since that time two millennia ago in Antioch when followers of the Way were first called Christians, the church has carried God’s mission to the world. Evangelism and discipleship methods have varied over the centuries and the local church’s involvement in the advancement of the kingdom of God has looked different from culture to culture and has changed with the times. During the last decade, for example, there has emerged this new term in missiological communities called “orality.” Orality methods are essentially methods of evangelism and discipleship that involve oral-based communication like story, drama, music, and the arts to portray the gospel rather than linear, abstract, literate-based communication that has been done since the invention of the printing press. Missions groups have been recently saying that they would like to begin using orality methods for peoples and cultures that cannot or do not read. The tried-and-true literate-based methods would still be used for peoples and cultures that do read. At least that’s what I thought they were saying.

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Telling the Story: The Great Commission to Oral Learners

Who are Oral Learners?
Statistics conservatively suggest that more than 70% of all people in the world today – more than 2 of every 3 – are “oral learners.” “Oral learners” is not a familiar term. When I use it, some people look at me and say, “Do you mean ‘moral learners?”

No, “oral learners.” A simple dictionary definition of an oral learner is one that relies upon spoken rather than written communication. Before writing was invented, everyone lived by spoken communication. They read nothing, took no notes, never looked anything up. For those with papers due this week, that sounds like a pretty sweet deal.

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