Bible Storying course this November at Redcliffe

Bible Storying course this November at Redcliffe

Bible Storying Course image
Photo credit: Elyse Patten, Wycliffe Global Alliance Caption: Tevita Lalahi interacts during a Bible storytelling workshop on the island of ‘Eua

Here’s an exciting opportunity for anyone wanting to learn how to communicate the Bible to people who, for whatever reason, don’t do books.

The Bible Storying course is part of Redcliffe’s Centre for Linguistics, Translation and Literacy and is taught in partnership with the fantastic Wycliffe Bible Translators and SIL. If you are interested in the whole area of the Bible and orality then check out these blog posts on orality, and the Bible and Orality page of our Resources Section.

Here some further info about the Bible Storying course from the Redcliffe website:


Bible Storying course

Monday 18 – Saturday 23 November 2013

From the beginning of time, stories have formed an important part of how we communicate. Where there is no written language, telling stories helps the listener discover their history and see where they fit within a bigger story.

God’s Story as revealed in the Bible is no exception. There are many cultures around the world which rely on oral communication, and many more where large numbers of the population are not literate or do not read – even in the UK.

Our intensive Chronological Bible Storying course will give you the skills to help people engage with God’s Word through the retelling of Biblical Stories.  This method has been used with people who prefer audio or visual ways of learning as well as in cultures where the Bible is not available in printed form. It is taught in partnership with Wycliffe Bible Translators and SIL, as part of Redcliffe’s Centre for Linguistics, Translation and Literacy.


Who is the course for:

  • Anyone interested in learning about story crafting and biblical storying
  • Anyone already, or planning to, work with Scripture in an oral culture
  • Anyone already, or planning to, work with people who enjoy audio and visual ways of learning.

The course will help you to:

  • Tell a story to a small group, help others to learn the story, and lead a discussion about the spiritual application of the story
  • Understand the worldviews of the group, which stories are most appropriate to the group and and how to adapt your story to a given worldview
  • Begin story crafting with a Bibleless language group,  or people already with Scriptures but who need help in engaging with them to understand the Bible’s whole story.  They could be somewhere remote or even in your own town in the UK or Europe!


  • Training is entirely oral and participatory – no texts or handouts
  • It’s an intense 6 day workshop – you must be present for all the days 
  • Dates: 18 – 23 November 2013, Monday – Saturday


Cost and to book

The cost is £275 for 6 days residential, or £187 non-residential (including lunch and dinner each day).

Visit Redcliffe’s website for booking details: Bible Storying course

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.

Chris Wright on dancing the gospel

In his 2003 essay, ‘Future Trends in Mission’ Chris Wright opens with a nice, illustrative story. (the essay can be found in Bartholomew et al, The Futures of Evangelicalism)

‘The people who prefer to dance’ – a very short story

There is a tribe in northern Nigeria known as the Gwandara-wara. During the early part of the twentieth century, two attempts were made by Christian missionaries to reach and evangelize this tribe. Both attempts failed. The gospel was not communicated. Nobody came to faith in Christ. No church was planted. In the mid 1980s, a third group of missionaries tried again. This time they were more successful. They were allowed to live among the tribe and cultivate some land. They discovered that the tribe’s name means, ‘The people who prefer to dance’. From the tribal elders and story-tellers – the guardians of the tribe’s identity and history – the missionaries established that the name went right back to the tribe’s rejection of Islam in the nineteenth century when, in response to the attempt to covert them to Islam, the tribe had insisted, ‘we prefer to dance’ – that is, we will not give up our culture of music and dance for a religion which wants to prohibit them.

Reflecting on this new information, the third group of missionaries came up with a new strategy of evangelism: they would dance the gospel to the ‘people who prefer to dance’. So they devised a means of telling the Bible story, including the story of Jesus and the cross, through the medium of African music and dance. The communication gap was bridged. There was a breakthrough of understanding; some believed the gospel and there is now a church of Jesus Christ among the Gwandara-wara.

Who were this third group of missionaries who succeeded where others had failed. They were not white nor Western, neither American nor European. They were in fact Africans, members of the Evangelical Missionary Society of ECWA – the Evangelical Church of West Africa, one of the largest churches in Nigeria and throughout West Africa. The EMS is a fully indigenous Nigerian mission agency, with some 1,000 missionaries serving cross-culturally throughout western Africa.

This is a story which could be repeated myriad times in many other parts of the world. It illustrates at least three things about mission today and in the future. First, God is still keeping his promise to Abraham. Second, mission, like the church itself, is multinational and multidirectional. Third, God is calling for adaptation, creativity, flexibility and hard thinking in mission.

Reflecting on this story in relation to how we communicate the Bible, it seems to me that Wright’s final points are particularly helpful. We look back and see in Scripture the assured promises of God – we are encouraged. We look around and see the many and varied ways that the global church can join together to understand and communicate the Bible more fully – we are rebuked of the narrowness of how we have done this in the past, but inspired by what might be possible in the future. As we partner together we look ahead to see the ways we as a global church can develop the creativity and appropriateness with which we will strive to communicate God’s Word together.

And I like his final statement. These changing dynamics lead to innovation in practice, but also some hard thinking. The realities of mission should be reckoned with in biblical, theological and missiological thinking, as well as in our practice.

And a brief piece of self-critique to round things off: is it significant that I reflected on Wright’s summary/explanation rather than the story itself? Read up on the differences between oral and non-oral communicators to see why this might have been the case: Bible and orality resources.

Some Bible and Orality websites

This week in our module Story, Song and Social Networks: Bible Engagement and Oral Culture students had to report on websites and ministries that deal with issues of orality and Bible Engagement. I asked them to explore the websites and consider three questions:

1. How do they define or assume orality in relation to the people they work with?

2. What kinds of projects interest you?

3. How do you think the projects might be contextualised to a different context you are interested in?

Lots of great discussion!

We used the list of sites available on the Bible and Orality resources page. Currently the list is as follows:

Bible Society
Bible Storying
Chronological Bible Storying
Communication Across Barriers
Faith Comes By Hearing
Global Recordings Network
International Orality Network
The Java Club
OneStory Partnership
Orality Strategies
Scripture Engagement
Scriptures in Use
Simply The Story
T4 Global Blog
Wycliffe Bible Translators (UK) 

Are there any sites we’ve missed? Leave a comment to suggest ones you think we should be including.

And if you want to reflect on issues of Bible and orality in more depth, you can always come to Redcliffe on either the BA(Hons) in Applied Theology in Intercultural Contexts, or even the MA in Bible and Mission!

Bible Engagement and Oral Culture part 2

Translating the Bible into ActionThe theme of orality is one I return to again and again, especially over the summer with our MA module in ‘Bible Engagement in Intercultural Contexts’ and a forthcoming new undergraduate module called, ‘Story, Song and Social Networks: Bible Engagement and Oral Culture’.

We are also developing the Resources section of this microsite to include a whole section on the Bible and orality. There you will find links to websites, journal articles, books, etc. on the subject. Let us know if you find anything we’ve missed!

In the meantime, here is a quote from Hill and Hill in their book, Translating the Bible into Action: How the Bible can be Relevant in All Languages and Cultures

(for context, this is part of a section entitles ‘General barriers to engaging with Scripture’)

A. Literacy barrier

Printed Scriptures are effective when people know how to read and like to do so. But many people prefer to communicate using oral rather than written means, or they don’t know how to read. Even if literacy classes were available, people may not be interested in attending them. In some cases, those who do learn to read may still prefer oral means of communication, and soon lose their new skills. In other cases, people may want to learn to read but they are hindered by poor eyesight or other problems. If Scripture is only presented in written form to people who do not know how to read or like to read, this is a serious barrier. (pp. 3-4)

They then refer to five chapters in the book that deal particularly with this topic:

ch. 2  Using appropriate Scripture Products
ch. 16  Bible Storying
ch. 22  Engaging People with Scripture through Music
ch. 23  Engaging People with Scripture through Drama
ch. 24  Engaging People with Scripture through the Visual Arts

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

IBMR July 2011 issue on mission and the care of the environment

IBMR July 2011 cover

The latest issue of the International Bulletin of Missionary Research is now out. The theme is ‘Mission and the Care of the Environment’ and features a number of articles on the subject (see contents below).

As well as those, the issue also has two articles on missional hermeneutics and orality. Here are some details:

‘The Biblical Narrative of the Missio Dei: Analysis of the Interpretive Framework of David Bosch’s Missional Hermeneutic’ by Girma Bekele


This article examines David Bosch’s missional hermeneutic, using it as an entry point into his understanding of the biblical foundation of mission. Until his tragic death in 1992 in a car accident, Bosch was chair of the Department of Missiology at the University of South Africa. He studied New Testament under Oscar Cullman at the University of Basel. The development of his theological thought was also shaped by his experience as an Afrikaner, as an ordained minister of the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC), and as a missionary in the Transkei. The sociopolitical and theological setting of South Africa during apartheid was, as it were, the anvil against which he hammered out his ideas of the vocation of the church within the world. His vision of missionary self-understanding and of the church as the “alternative community” is rooted in a strong conviction that the New Testament must be read as a missionary document.

Bosch follows the same general outline in both Witness to the World (1980) and Transforming Mission (1991): first, a discussion of mission crisis (this section is brief in the latter work), followed by a scriptural foundation of mission, an overview of historical perspectives on mission, a presentation of the emerging missionary paradigm, and development of a relevant theology of mission. A certain understanding, interpretation, and application of the Scriptures characterize each paradigm of Christian missionary history as it engages with its own particular context. Bosch is convinced that the task of each generation is to unlock, as if with its own time-conditioned key, the biblical foundation of mission and the biblical narrative of the missio Dei. He insists that, since the New Testament is “essentially a missionary document . . . it is incumbent upon us to reclaim it as such.”

‘Orality: The Not-So-Silent Issue in Mission Theology’ by Randall Prior


I recently had a student from Indonesia in my class. He had completed theological studies and was an ordained minister before migrating to Melbourne with his family. He had settled into a newly formed ethnic Indonesian congregation and accepted the role as their leader. His task was to build up the congregation and to help immigrant relatives of the members to find their feet on Australian soil. Limited financial resources in the congregation meant that he was paid only a small amount of money for this ministry, and so he supplemented his income by driving a school bus in the mornings and afternoons. His love for the Gospel, his dedication to his community over a period of time, and the quality of his leadership all led to his church congregation growing impressively. As a result, he sought to become formally recognized as an ordained minister within the Australian church context, which meant that he needed to complete further studies.

From the very first day of class he impressed me as a man devoted to the Christian faith, with a strong sense of vocation to a ministry of leadership. It soon became clear, however, that if I were to impose upon him the same requirements as for the remainder of the class—namely, written pieces of critical and analytic discourse—then he would fail the course. While he was perfectly capable of handling the work, had a zeal for the class material, and impressed his class colleagues, his cultural background was oral. After some consultation with a faculty colleague, an arrangement was made for him to do his assignments orally. As a consequence, he gained a “credit” grade for the course. Soon afterward he was formally inducted as the minister of the Indonesian congregation and continues to give inspiring leadership to his people.

This anecdote raises issues and questions beyond the field of the delivery of formal theological education. With the relative decline of the church within the Western world and the rapid increase in the membership of the church in areas of the world where oral cultures dominate, a question is raised about the very shape of theology itself. Let me illustrate what I mean by way of experience and observation over a generation of involvement in the South Pacific.

IBMR are to be commended for making their journal available for free (though a log-in is required). It is a tremendous resource.

The Bible and Lausanne’s Cape Town Commitment – part two

The excellent Scripture Engagement website highlighted another part of the Cape Town Commitment related to Bible and Mission.

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.

Missiology journal focuses on orality

Engaging people with the Bible is often a challenge but what about when working in the context of an oral culture? This is a huge issue in Bible and mission so any good reflection on the topic is to be warmly welcomed.

The theme of the April 2010 (vol. XXXVIII:2) issue of the journal Missiology: An International Review is ‘orality’. Here’s the contents:

Translation and the Visual Predicament of the “JESUS” Film in West Africa – Johannes Merz
Focusing on analysis of the “JESUS” film, this article shows that much more is communicated through a film’s cinematography than through its spoken message.

Discipling through the Eyes of Oral Learners – W. Jay Moon
By viewing a funeral through the eyes of an oral people, this article describes oral learning preferences, in order to reveal effective and transformative discipling practices.

Pedagogical Conversions: From Propositions to Story and Symbol – Tom Steffen
While living among the Ifugao people, the author discovers the multiple and integrative roles that stories and symbols play in communication.

Telling Our Stories Well: Creating Memorable Images and Shaping Our Identity – Janet Stahl
This article claims that wisdom gleaned from ancient practices reveals a place in storytelling both for recitation of Scriptural texts and for more creatively crafted techniques.

Bible Translation as Contextualization: The Role of Orality – James Maxey
Bible Translation is actually contextual theologizing in which local host communities demonstrate their appropriation and proclamation of the Bible in their own languages.

Matters of the Heart: Orality, Story and Cultural Transformation—The Critical Role of Storytelling in Affecting Worldview – A. Steven Evans
With storytelling in particular as a catalyst, worldviews, cultures, and values can change, resulting in the transformation of an individual’s life and of an entire culture as well.

Coming to Terms with Orality: A Holistic Model – Charles Madinger
A holistic approach to orality incorporates seven converging disciplines, which, when more fully incorporated, can increase the transformative power of a message.

Lausanne global conversation on Scripture in mission

The Lausanne Movement is calling on Christians from around the globle to engage in various conversations that will help the church to engage with the big issues of contemporary mission.

The Global Conversation covers the following categories and topics:

Truth: Bearing witness to the truth of Jesus Christ
– Marketplace Ministry
– Personal Witness
– Truth and Secularity

Reconciliation: Pursuing peace in our broken world
– Environment
– Ethnicity and Identity
– Poverty and Wealth
– Resource Stewardship

World Faiths: Loving our neighbours of other faiths/worldviews
– Diaspora
– Unreached People Groups
– World Faiths

New Missions Priorities: Discerning God’s priorities for the future
– Children
– Forming Leaders
– Orality
– Urban Mission

Authenticity and Integrity: Living a Christ-like lifestyle
– Prosperity Gospel
– Women and Men
– The Human Future

Partnerships: Serving together in love and humility
– Globalization
– Indigenous Leadership
– Partnership Development
– Scripture in Mission

Below I’ve put the general blurb about the conversation along with descriptions about two of the topics most closely aligned with the Bible and mission: orality and Scripture in mission. Do have a look and get involved: Join the global conversation

The Big Picture
We are living in a time of enormous challenge and amazing opportunity for the church. The life and witness of the church around the world is being assailed by external pressures while simultaneously being weakened by internal troubles. Yet the church also faces unprecedented global opportunities for the spread of the gospel and open doors for ministry in regions traditionally closed to the witness of Christ.
Unfortunately, a concerted and well-reasoned response to these global issues and opportunities has been difficult because the church, and evangelicalism in particular, is highly fragmented.
The Lausanne Global Conversation is one step towards bringing together the global church to engage with these important issues related to world evangelization.
We believe these global issues need global conversations.
So let’s talk, let’s strategize, let’s work together. Above all, let’s pray–with a sense of expectation and hope–for the Lord to bring wisdom through the counsel of many (Proverbs 11:14).
Your voice in the conversation is needed. Every Christian has unique experience and insight to offer the church.

Two thirds of the people in the world are oral communicators – who can’t, don’t, or won’t learn through literate means. Western Christianity has, since the time of the Gutenberg Bible “walked on literate feet” and has directly or indirectly required literacy of others, ignoring the vast majority of people who are oral communicators. Literate Christians must make significant changes in evangelism, discipleship, leadership training and church planting to reach the 4,000,000,000 oral communicators world-wide.

Scripture in Mission
The purpose of the Scriptures as Paul wrote to Timothy is to make us wise about the way of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and to equip us for every good work as God’s people (2 Timothy 3:14-17). The Scriptures therefore are essential to evangelism and to Christ-like transformation. However, where the Scriptures are not available or where people cannot study and apply them, we find “Bible poverty.”
In this conversation we want to consider the issue of “Bible poverty.” Bible poverty exists when people find themselves in a context or setting that blocks them from hearing the truths of the Scriptures. This happens, for example, when they do not have access to the Scriptures in a language they understand well, or they are unable to engage with the Scriptures in a meaningful way, or they do not have the opportunity to apply them to their lives.
Contexts such as these can be called “barriers.” Some barriers are universal or nearly so while others differ according to context. We want to consider what barriers exist in urban contexts, in rural contexts, in contexts where other major religions dominate, and in contexts of the post-modern West.
As we consider barriers to the Scriptures, we also want to identify the bridges that would allow people to transcend and overcome these barriers. In some cases the bridges are easy to identify, but in other cases they will require searching together under the guidance of the Spirit of God to discern the way forward.