The following is a section within PART II For the world we serve: The Cape Town Call to Action, IV. Discerning the will of Christ for world evangelization
C) Aim to eradicate Bible poverty in the world, for the Bible remains indispensable for evangelism. To do this we must:
(1) Hasten the translation of the Bible into the languages of peoples who do not yet have any portion of God’s Word in their mother tongue;
(2) Make the message of the Bible widely available by oral means. (See also Oral cultures below.)
I’ve posted before on the essential task of the continuing task set before the church of Bible Translation. Living in the West it is too easy to take this for granted. We need our conviction and passion for God’s Word, God’s world and God’s people to spur us on to action. This is an issue of justice as much as anything else. I don’t say this lightly.
D) Aim to eradicate Bible ignorance in the Church, for the Bible remains indispensable for discipling believers into the likeness of Christ.
(1) We long to see a fresh conviction, gripping all God’s Church, of the central necessity of Bible teaching for the Church’s growth in ministry, unity and maturity…
(2) We must promote Bible literacy among the generation that now relates primarily to digital communication rather than books, by encouraging digital methods of studying the scriptures inductively with the depth of inquiry that at present requires paper, pens and pencils.
E) Let us keep evangelism at the centre of the fully-integrated scope of all our mission, inasmuch as the gospel itself is the source, content and authority of all biblically-valid mission. All we do should be both an embodiment and a declaration of the love and grace of God and his saving work through Jesus Christ.
It is not enough to own a Bible (or several) in our heart language. We must know it and engage with it. We must help others do the same. On the issue of technology, how can we engage people with the Bible who ‘don’t do books’? What is interesting to me is the relationship between the ultra-technological generation, many of whom have moved beyond books (or have never engaged with them), and the vast numbers around the world for whom books are not the primary form of communication…
2. Oral cultures
The majority of the world’s population are oral communicators, who cannot or do not learn through literate means, and more than half of them are among the unreached as defined above. Among these, there are an estimated 350 million people without a single verse of Scripture in their language. In addition to the ‘primary oral learners’ there are many ‘secondary oral learners’, that is those who are technically literate but prefer now to communicate in an oral manner, with the rise of visual learning and the dominance of images in communication.
As we recognize and take action on issues of orality, let us:
A) Make greater use of oral methodologies in discipling programmes, even among literate believers.
B) Make available an oral format Story Bible in the heart languages of unreached and unengaged people groups as a matter of priority.
C) Encourage mission agencies to develop oral strategies, including: the recording and distribution of oral Bible stories for evangelism, discipling and leadership training, along with appropriate orality training for pioneer evangelists and church-planters; these could use fruitful oral and visual communication methods for communicating the whole biblical story of salvation, including storytelling, dances, arts, poetry, chants and dramas.
D) Encourage local churches in the Global South to engage with unreached people groups in their area through oral methods that are specific to their worldview.
E) Encourage seminaries to provide curricula that will train pastors and missionaries in oral methodologies.
Dealing with the question of orality is one of the major challenges for Bible Engagement in the coming generations. (indeed, it is fair to say it always has been?). So, as the statement asks of us in the final point, what are we doing here at Redcliffe to address the issue. I’ll highlight three things:
1. In our second year Psalms course one of the assignments is to produce a creative piece that comes out of a deep reflection on a psalm. Students have done this in an amazing variety of ways – painting, drawing, sculpting, welding, video, song, sewing, blogging.
2. An new third year module we are looking to deliver (subject to validation) in the next academic year is called Story, Song and Social Networks: Bible Engagement and Oral Culture. It aims to equip students with an understanding of the thinking and practice of communicating the Bible to individuals and communities of oral learners in a variety of cultural contexts. This might be an ‘unreached’ people group who use song as the primary means of communication, or sections of UK culture whose preferred mode of communication is through web 2.0.
3. As well as a module on missional hermeneutics, our MA in Bible and Mission has a module on Bible Engagement in Intercultural Contexts delivered by some fantastic thinker-practitioners from agencies like Wycliffe Bible Translators and Bible Society.
There is more we could do and more we should do, but that is the challenge before us all.