Worldview-intentional Bible Storying

Making Disciples in Oral Cultures:

How to shape your communication styles to work effectively in your cross-cultural setting.

Switching to an Oral Style is Not Enough

Do you ever feel like you are not making sense to those in your host culture? Or do you sense people politely accommodating you, but nothing reaches their hearts and souls? Do people in your host community hear the Word and receive it with joy, but quickly fall away in times of crisis (Mk 4:16-17)?

In our last blog, “Making Disciples in Oral Cultures: They wanted . . . I gave them,” we discussed using oral communication styles among oral cultures and oral-preference learners. Oral communication styles include stories, proverbs, riddles, songs, music, dance, drama, and more. In Cambodia, I shifted from text-based communication styles, such as sermon outlines, preaching, and analytical teaching, to Bible storying accompanied by other oral methods of communication.

With this shift, I assumed that merely telling Bible stories that were meaningful to me would be effective in making disciples in any culture. For example, the love of God is a central theme of the Bible and one that Christian Americans draw from and share the most in their initial presentations of the Gospel. “For God so loved the world,” wrapped in the Nicodemus story, is a favored story to share, among others. Surely, every cultural group will respond positively to stories of God’s love demonstrated by his sacrificial death. But stories of God’s love and the cross often triggered a different response in non-Judeo-Christian societies:

Many Buddhists instantly conclude that Jesus must have had bad karma to die so horrifically.

Many Muslims conclude that God shouldn’t even have a son unless he had sex with Mary.

Many Animists aren’t seeking love from a seemingly lofty God or forgiveness for their sins; they seek help with everyday life and the fickle spirit world.

In these cases, our Bible storying methodology confuses more than transforms.

Link Bible Storying and Oral Communication to the Worldview

In his book, Worldview-Based Storying, Tom Steffen writes, “Just telling Bible stories does not guarantee Bible meaning.” Our Bible storying must communicate well within and to the worldview to stimulate meaning, faith, and response.

However, a rightly placed worldview-relatable Bible story can have a significant impact.

For Buddhists, you might want to start with a Bible story that shines hope on suffering, the first Noble Truth of Buddhism, such as A Family Faces Suffering (Ruth 1:1-11, 14-22).

For Muslims, you might want to start with a Bible story that affirms God or Jesus as merciful and compassionate as they state these attributes of Allah in their prayers five times a day, such as Jesus, in His Mercy and Compassion, Heals a Widow’s Son (Luke 7:11-17).

For Animists, you might want to start with a Bible story that reveals God as active in their daily lives and powerful over every spirit of every kind, such as Jesus Restores a Demon-Possessed Man (Mark 5:1-20).

One wrongly placed Bible story can create resistance. However, one rightly placed Bible story can create responsiveness. The Bible stories we choose, the order we arrange them, and the emphasis we place on them should effectively relate to the worldview. As a match is useless without a striking source, so is Bible storying (and other oral forms of communication) without worldview-intentionality.

If you would like training on this topic, check out our virtual course called Not With Ink: Oral-friendly, Worldview Intentional Bible Storying Circles.

This course cohesively blends orality, Bible storying, worldview, and disciple-making principles in one course. A Five Stones Global trainer will guide you or your team via weekly Zoom calls using an e-book that includes imagery, communal readings, stories, proverbs, videos, examples, discussions, role plays, skill development, prayer, and practical application. You will walk away with ideas, tools, and skills for multiplying disciples using worldview-effective oral strategies.

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