Orality

What makes a good oral Bible story

Story group in West Africa

What makes a good oral Bible story? There are many ministries that develop oral Bible stories, and they have varying approaches on the process of developing an abbreviated and simplified story from a biblical passage(s).

Good story development follows four principles embraced by many in the story community of biblically faithful to the textual Bible passage(s), orally reproducible (meaning that that story can be easily learned and told by others), naturally told and the story is appropriate to the culture, often expressed in the use of key terms understood by the local community. In addition, a good oral Bible story based on a Bible passage(s) has a plot or story line that keeps the listener interested and engaged. The actual storyteller can also influence the quality of the story experience to the listener

When developing an oral Bible story, a ministry may embrace common elements practiced by other story practitioners (e.g., testing the story with those who don’t follow Jesus) while having nuances (e.g., use of technology) in the story development process that is unique to the ministry.

So what makes a good oral Bible story? Two important aspects are fidelity to an established process and people embracing the story.

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Recording God’s Word by Any Means

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Imagine: You live in a secluded village on an island in the Pacific. You have only ever known the religion and rituals of your community, but you know in your soul that there must be something more. You yearn for truth and peace. Once, a foreigner brought a book in the local trade language and tried to tell your people about God, but your heart language does not have a written form. Only a few of your family members and friends can read the trade language to a small degree. The book that the foreigner brought contained complex wording that made no sense even to them. You eventually resign yourself to the fact that if there is a God, He doesn’t care about you enough to speak His truth in your language.

…Until one day, your neighbor shows you an interesting device. Emitting from it are words you recognize. Your neighbor tells you that at last, because of this device, your community can hear God speak—in your language.

Faith Comes By Hearing strives to ensure that every last person has the chance to hear God’s Word, no matter where they live or what language they speak. To carry out this work, we employ a variety of methods in recording and providing Scripture to more people.

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Oral Bible Translation

Oral communicators account for 70% of the world’s population. Many of them do not encounter situations in their daily life when they need to read or write. Using their rich oral tradition, they sing, tell stories, pass down history and teach skills to the next generation. There are over a thousand oral cultures in the world today, whose languages have not been written down. The Apostle Paul said, “There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning.” (1 Corinthians 14:10)  Yes, oral languages are meaningful, and significant.

It takes years of language study and analysis before even a Bible translation team can start translating in these languages using traditional methods. Even if the Bible is finally translated, only the literate few will be able to encounter the Word of God. It will remain unreachable for the majority of people speaking these languages. Oral Bible Translation overcomes these hurdles and engages millions of people with the Word of God.

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How to Make Oral Communication More Effective

How to Make Oral Communication More Effective

Communicating effectively to non-readers

Author: Rick Brown
Publisher: International Journal of Frontier Missions (21.4 Winter 2004)

In seeking to free ourselves from the biases of a print-oriented culture, we need to consider, not only the kinds of media and discourse genre (e.g. narrative) that are most appropriate for oral cultures, but also the most effective ways to use those genres and media. What do non-readers like to see and hear? What do they enjoy listening to? Their choices will not necessarily be the same as those of print communicators. If the styles of presentation are ones which oral communicators prefer, then they will be more likely to listen, to understand, and to remember what they hear.

In this paper, Rick Brown argues that oral cultures have their own preferences for ways to communicate truth, and that these are often different from what print-oriented people prefer. In order to share the message most effectively, we need to find out what media and methods work best for them. In most cases this will include a multi-media approach with an emphasis on memorizing the Scriptures with the aid of high-quality recordings from skilled actors or voicers.

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