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Church Planting, Discipleship, Storying Basics, Strategy

Awakening to the need for Orality in our Churches

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Some 50+ Canadians attended the first TruthSticks workshop in Feb. 2010 held at the YWCA in Montreal, Canada.

In Montreal in February 2010, I tore pages out of a novel and gave it to the 60 people attending the very first TruthSticks storying workshop. (The training was ahead of the book’s release.) I asked them to tell me what they thought the book was about based on that single page that they held in their hands. Nobody got it right. Yet, Sunday after Sunday we do the same thing in our churches. We may not physically tear out pages, but we focus only on small biblical snippets to make our own themes.

We fall so short when preaching or teaching when we race through Scripture to get to our own ideas.

Why is orality in North America seen as something new? First century believers had very low literacy rates – some would place it at 90 percent, yet the gospel advanced (Acts 9:31)! Are those who genuinely seek to make disciples of all peoples in North America actually making disciples? Isn’t that our command from Christ (Mt. 28:18-20)?

Examine what is happening in the average evangelical church. Sermons are of the highest literate formats possible – fill-in-the-blank sermons, intense exposition of not only single verses but word-by-word analysis in the pulpit, overhead projection that provides outlines and pithy quotes sometimes intermingled with video roll-ins that reinforce the worship theme of the day. In our Sunday School classes (those churches that still have them), we find quarterlies tucked in Bibles, workbooks, and learning environments that despite the occasional poster have the austerity of sterile hospital wards. Those that DO read their Sunday School lesson are preparing only for Sunday and it has no connection with their everyday activities.

Beyond the superficial appearances, the Sunday School teacher is a mini-version of the pastor. He gives a lecture to adults and teens. People passively listen. They read verses when called upon, but many do not comprehend what is being read. Yet the lecture drones on.

Church members hop from one church to the other. Denominational loyalty is something of whatever past we thought there was. And because of budget shortfalls, many churches increasingly cut back on efforts at making disciples among adults. And, as I frequently state, teaching a Sunday School lesson is not the same thing as making disciples.

Contrast this to what is at least underway in the children’s areas. Because of efforts of teachers to engage young minds, the learning environments are often bright and filled with music, crafts, well-told Bible stories, teaching pictures, and wall decorations that interpret desired themes for a month or quarter. Somehow between childhood and adulthood, an incredible learning gap has emerged. We assume the adults and tends got the same stories, the same biblical background. Did they?

Praise God for believers that are awakening and engaging an oral approach that intentionally enables disciple-making. For daily updates and resources, be sure to “like” TruthSticks on Facebook and if you use Internet Explorer, be sure to subscribe to this RSS Feed to get updates as their posted.

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About Mark Snowden

TruthSticks originated from the book I co-authored with the late Avery Willis. Truth That Sticks: How to Communicate Velcro Truths in a Teflon World was the book and this blog and Bible studies have resulted. It's great to be partnering with churches who are committed to making disciple-makers. Request a catalog of Bible studies using orality at SnowdenMinistries@gmail.com.

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