What would you say to a group of Christian leaders in America about the need for an oral approach to disciple-making? Here are my notes from two presentations last week in Orlando, Fla. The International Orality Network’s North American Region director, Rick Brekelbaum, invited me to lead training sessions at Lifebridge Church and the other at Wycliffe USA.
:: At least two-thirds of everyone in your church is an oral learner. They prefer to learn through social interaction, a story, anecdote, or creative expressions. Lecture is virtually impossible for them to pass along to others, sealing them off from being a disciple-maker in their networks.
:: Johnny Hunt, Woodstock FBC pastor, recently said that 85% of the men in your church will never read another book after school. They prefer to learn through oral means instead. Orality provides handles on what’s going on and how to address it.
:: LifeWay research in 2018, has shown that only 22% of evangelicals have a college degree or graduate degree. The other 78% are very likely oral learners. And of those that self-identified as evangelical, 76% had not finished college. The most highly-literate approaches in society are employed by church leaders who are increasingly in dissonance from those who are disenfranchised from a church that requires literacy in order to fully participate.
:: Only a small percentage in your church — about 13% — are proficient at reading. You and I might enjoy reading to learn, but the rest are increasingly oral.
:: Evangelical pastors can be much more relevant with those in their churches. Orality gives you insights into crossing that divide and entering a world where people ache for biblical truth.
:: Bible studies in your church can be healthier and grow faster when oral methods are used. Participants arrive hungry to master the lesson so they can pass it along to others during the week. The lessons launch weekly movements at work, recreations, or social gatherings. “Hey, did you hear the story about…”
:: Churches that use oral-friendly methods benefit in specific ways:
1. Evangelism becomes more conversational and relevant. Scripture in the form of specific stories address deeply held values.
2. Streamlines and focuses church priorities. A decision to make disciples as a priority puts everything else the church does in line with the Great Commission.
3. Simplifies the discipleship process. You don’t have to be a biblical expert to lead a small group.
4. Multiplies small groups leading to numerical growth. Reproducibility is the key. New leaders are constantly mentored. Each new group must examining three things: Can this become a new church? Can this become a new small group? Should we become part of another existing group?
5. Experiential Bible study engages not just multiple senses, but often the emotions. And emotions etch memories.
6. Bible study is applicable to real life. It’s not theoretical. We know this works.
7. Participants can no longer “hide,” but will be expected to grow spiritually, apply the lesson, and be held accountable.
ION’s North American Conference is scheduled in Orlando September 17-19. Hope to see you there! Click for more info.