When I was younger and growing up in a missions minded church, I heard about the unreached people groups. I was fully drawn into reaching them. My senior pastor at that time used to always say ‘Why should anyone hear the Gospel twice, before everyone has heard it once?’ I echoed his motto, even today.
Why should anyone hear the Gospel twice, before everyone has heard it once?
After university I entered the market place, but ‘reaching the unreached’ never left me. I thought, surely we can give the unreached better messages, better tools, and more options to know about the Gospel of Jesus. In fact, when I left the business domain and entered into the ministry world I set out to do just that—seeking better tools, faster distribution of messages, and broadening the appeal of messages. In fact, I also started, owned, and operated businesses just so that the unreached could be reached.
Until one day, over a decade ago, I had a spectacular failure in communications. I was traveling through Mozambique and was requested to give messages. During that cool morning where the sun was stuttering through the clouds, I found the audience eagerly nodding in agreement with the message because they were falling asleep. Nothing I did could jolt them out of the enjoyable slumber; and it was only about 10:30 am in the morning.
I went back to the office and ‘owned’ my communication failure. There were two passionate souls in our office who brought me stacks of papers for me to read and learn. I entered into the world of orality and oral preference learners. I learned that I was in version 1.0 of communications from the dark ages; I made and delivered my message in the way that I had been taught, with little regard to the listener.
I learned that I was in version 1.0 of communications from the dark ages; I made and delivered my message in the way that I had been taught, with little regard to the listener.
I learned that orality has to do with how the oral learner ‘receives the message’, ‘processes the message’, ‘remembers the message’, and ‘passes on the message’. Some of their favorite ways of learning are through stories, songs, dances, dramas, poetry, chants, and visual arts.
There are 5.7 billion oral preference learners in the world today. That is 80% of the world’s population do not depend on the printed page. In fact, they do not ‘hear’ you when you provide information to them in literate ways and means. A possible segmentation can look like this: 2.4 billion are children, 1.6 billion are just below the literacy rate, 1.4 billion are highly literate but prefer to learn orally, and over 300 million people who are highly cultured, but do not have a written script. They might not even recognize that there is a system of writing. In fact, they do not have a single verse of the Holy Scripture in their own heart language.
That is 80% of the world’s population do not depend on the printed page.
Oral preference learners are with us and amongst us. As men and women of Issachar, how do we steward what is entrusted to us and engage the oral preference learners?
Recently, a Muslim Background Believer from North Africa declared that “you cannot reach the Muslims with the Bible, nor with a gospel tract, but you can reach them through Bible Stories!” Would you consider becoming an accurate Bible Storyteller and experience how oral preference learners process the story?
Given oral preference learners are approximately 80% of the global population, one would think that the allocation of our giving would match accordingly with 80% allocated to reach oral preference learners. But, it is exactly the opposite and worse! Less than 10% of the generous resources flow to reach orality strategies, and over 90% of the resources flow to print-based strategies. What would you do differently?
There are over 300 million people without a single verse of the Holy Scripture in their own heart language. They are dispersed amongst over 2,200 Unengaged and Unreached People groups. Would you consider provisioning resources so that at least one of the unengaged and unreached people groups will have the opportunity to hear the stories from the Bible in their own heart language for the first time in their history?
Imagine! Oral preferences learners will never be the same again when you are engaged to make a difference.
by Rev. Samuel E. C.
Rev. Samuel E. C. is the Executive Director of the International Orality Network