Free acces to new orality Journal from International Orality Network

ion journalOrality is one of the biggest and most exciting issues in Bible and mission today. I have blogged about it many times (see here for posts mentioning orality) and we have even developed a section for resources on the Bible and orality. Orality is also addressed in our teaching here at Redcliffe both at undergrad and postgrad levels (especially through the BA degree’s module, ‘Story, Song and Social Networks: Bible Engagement and Oral Culture’ and the MA module, ‘Bible Engagement in Intercultural Contexts’).

One of the key networks for Bible and orality is the International Orality Network. ION have recently announced the publication of the first issue of a new journal focusing on the theme of orality. You can find a link to the full issue pdf here: Orality Journal – volume 1 number 1.

No doubt this will be an indispensable journal. Here is the description of the journal and list of articles to the current issue:

Orality Journal is the journal of the International Orality Network.  It is published online semi-annually and aims to provide a platform for scholarly discourse on the issues of orality, discoveries of innovations in orality, and praxis of e!ectiveness across multiple domains in society.  This online journal is international and interdisciplinary, serving the interests of the orality movement through research articles, documentation, book reviews, and academic news.  Occasionally, print editions will be created. Submission of items that could contribute to the furtherance of the orality movement are welcomed.


Editor’s Notes – Samuel Chiang.

The Extent of Orality: 2012 Update – Grant Lovejoy. Using UN and OCED stats, the author shares how a credible analysis emerges concerning the size of oral preference learners in the world today.

The Worldwide Spread of Bible Storying: A Look at Where We’ve Been – J.O. Terry. An overview of the recent history and expansion of the Bible Storytelling movement.

The Two Journeys of Shanti and Jasmine – Tricia Stringer. This article covers insights and elucidation of the rippling effects when orality is practiced in hi-tech communities.

One Thousand Orphans Tell God’s Story – Marlene LeFever. The author shares what could happen when a ministry retools in realtime and includes orality principles and practices.

Mind the Gap: Bhutan as a Case Study – A. Steve Evans. A fresh look at using orality in Bhutan.

Lausanne World Pulse on the Bible and Orality

The latest issue of Lausanne World Pulse features an article titled, ‘International Orality Network’s Declaration on Making Disciples of the World’s Oral Learners through Audio Scripture Engagement’.

It it they make the point that

There are 4.35 billion people in our world who are oral learners. They are found in many cultural groups in the villages and in global cities around the world. We recognize that sixty percent of the world’s population can’t, won’t, or don’t hear the gospel when we share it simply because it’s often coming through literate means they don’t understand and to which they do not relate.

The word of God is unchangeable, but the manner or method in which it is communicated does change. We celebrate that God has worked intentionally throughout history to bring his word to the peoples of the world utilizing various media formats, including oral communication, scribe and hand written text, the printed page, and digital means.

The Gutenberg Press enabled a print revolution and unprecedented spread of the word of God. Oral means were available prior to Gutenberg, but a scripture literacy revolution was empowered by means of making the full Bible available to every person who could read. We stand today at another seminal point in history in which digital technology makes it possible for every oral learner to engage with God’s word in audio and audio/visual formats.

The International Orality Network aim

to influence the Body of Christ to make disciples of all oral learners. We believe that the foundation of discipleship is the shaping by, and obedience to, the word of God. It is the inalienable right and privilege of every person to have access to the word of God in his or her own heart language and in a media format he or she understands.

They then issue a number of challenges:

We call upon the Body of Christ to expand the reach of this revolution by making the entire word of God available to every person who can hear.

We call upon the Church to embrace engagement of the audio scripture among oral learners with great urgency.

We call upon the Church to engage all unengaged, unreached people groups and to place into their hands any and every available audio portion of God’s word in their heart language.

We call upon the Body of Christ to devote energies, strategies, and resources to provide access for all oral learners to engage the entire word of God through audio/digital means, so that every tribe, tongue, and people group may hear, understand, and have the opportunity to respond!

Bible Engagement and Oral Culture

International Orality NetworkIn a previous post I highlighted the Cape Town Commitment’s inclusion of the key issue of communicating the Bible in oral cultures.

The Bible and orality is a theme I will be returning to with more frequency, not least because over the Summer we will be preparing a new final year module as part of Redcliffe’s BA Degree in Applied Theology in Intercultural Contexts on ‘Story, Song and Social Networks: Bible Engagement and Oral Culture’.

As a helpful orientation here are a couple of excerpts from the website of the International Orality Network. The first gives a definition of their understanding of ‘oral learners’ or ‘oral communicators’. The second gives some statistics and facts.

Those of us who have tended to learn through literate means simply must get to grips with what this stuff means. Not only will it make our efforts to communicate the Bible more effective. I would argue it would also enrich our appreciation and understanding of the Bible immeasurably.


An oral learner or oral communicator is:

1. Someone who cannot read or write.

2. Someone whose most effective communication and learning format, style, or method is in accordance with oral formats, as contrasted to literate formats.

3. Someone who prefers to learn or process information by oral rather than written means. (These are literate people whose preferred communication style is oral rather than literate, even though they can read.)


Statistics and Facts

1. Over 4 Billion people in the world do not read as their primary method of learning – either they cannot read; they do not read; or they will not read.

2. The vast majority of missions work has been done for a literate audience. Unfortunately the vast majority of the true audience is therefore not able to connect with the Gospel.

3. Oral cultures are very relational – they share their lives with one another.

4. Most oral cultures will communicate with one another in narratives, dialogues and dramas, proverbs, songs, chants, and poetry. When asked what he thought about a new village school headmaster, a Central African replied “Let’s watch how he dances”

This leaves us with some serious questions to answer: how different would our missionary efforts look if we truly took the phenomenon of orality seriously? What could we learn that would apply to a (if I can use this term) ‘post-literate’ society? How much to I base my efforts to communicate on how I would understand something, as if my preferred learning style is objective?

Lots to chew over in the coming months. In the meantime, check out ION’s website