The Impact of Oral Bible Storying in East Africa

by | Jul 11, 2024

Reading Time: 5 minutes

How Oral Bible Storying is Transforming East Africa

For years, Petros Network distributed Bibles in written form, believing we were doing the right thing to spread the Gospel among the unreached. It wasn’t until we began working in the Borana region of Ethiopia that our eyes were opened to a more effective method. After one of our training sessions, the crowd stood up and began turning our training materials into a song. We quickly turned to our translators to ask what was happening, and he said, “This is how they remember, and this is how they share with their people.” Petros Network’s mission to spread the Gospel and plant churches in unreached areas relies heavily on effective communication. At that moment, the lights came on, and we began pursuing a new way of training our leaders.  

The Power of Oral Communications Among the Unreached

According to the International Orality Network (ION), studies have shown that 80% of the world’s population—approximately 5.7 billion people—are oral communicators! 

Oral communicators come from all walks of life and levels of education and are not just illiterate people. This means they are more likely to be transformed through stories, songs, drama, proverbs, and media. Whereas American culture is predominantly visual learners, this is not the case around the globe, particularly in areas where Petros Network serves.  

Finding the Right Partners

Our first step was to find a partner who had gone before us in orality teaching. Through divine circumstances, we met Ray Neu and Jodi Stauffer of Spoken Worldwide. Over the course of a year and a half, we began integrating orality principles in everything that we do. As of August 2024, we have trained over 1000 indigenous leaders in East Africa in the Oral Bible Storytelling technique. This innovative approach to discipleship and evangelism revolutionizes how the Gospel is shared and understood in the rural, unreached villages we serve. 

Training Effectively for Oral Communications

The goal of our orality training is to equip missionaries and local leaders with the skills to use this method effectively, ensuring that the message is not only heard but also remembered and passed on within the community, enhancing evangelism and discipleship efforts, and making the spread of the Gospel more impactful. Our oral teaching strategy is simple but represents a significant shift in our training methodologies. Coursework includes:

  • The principles of oral communication and storytelling
  • Methods for engaging communities and facilitating discussions 
  • Strategies for integrating biblical stories into everyday life and culture
  • Utilizing local proverbs to introduce and discuss Bible stories
  • Building a culture among leaders of memorizing scripture 

Training Indigenous Church Leaders in Orality Methods

The training sessions are about imparting knowledge and empowering these leaders to become trainers, creating a multiplying effect throughout the region. We specifically trained 46 key leaders as “trainers of trainers.” These 46 key leaders are responsible for overseeing 15 – 25 church planters. Each of these leaders is required to lead at least one group in the orality method. We have experienced much greater numbers than this because these leaders are so excited about this methodology they are sharing it with multiple groups of people who are then also sharing it. It is multiplying in the areas we serve and beyond and it proving incredibly effective for evangelism and outreach. 

The Success of Orality Training in Unreached Villages

The impact of this initiative has been profound due to several key reasons:  

  1. Cultural Relevance and Communication

By using orality training, Petros Network can communicate the Gospel and other vital information in a culturally relevant manner that resonates deeply with these communities, unleashing a Redemptive Lift CycleTM  that has the power to transform the entire community. 

  1. Effective Evangelism and Discipleship

Embracing Orality training shifted how our leaders enter a community and share Jesus. Traditionally, church planters might preach in the town square. That can be effective, but as we reach deeper into zero percent unreached areas that are often hostile to the Gospel, Bible storytelling over a cup of tea becomes very effective.  

  1. Overcoming Literacy Barriers

In many of the areas where Petros Network works, literacy rates can be low. Orality training allows the message to be accessible to everyone, regardless of their ability to read or write. This inclusivity is vital for the holistic development and spiritual growth of the community, ensuring that no one is left out due to literacy barriers. We use orality methods to share Bible principles as well as teach practical living skills in our girls’ and women’s empowerment training programs. 

  1. Enhancing Memory and Retention

Orality training helps missionaries and local leaders craft compelling stories that are not only engaging but also memorable, ensuring that the teachings of the Gospel are retained and transmitted accurately within the community.  

  1. Building Stronger Community Bonds

Petros Network can leverage orality training to strengthen community bonds as people come together to listen to stories, participate in dramas, and sing songs. This collective experience can help build a supportive community around the new churches being planted, creating a strong foundation for spiritual growth and mutual support. 

Orality training is a critical component of Petros Network’s strategy to spread the Gospel and plant churches in unreached areas. By embracing the cultural preferences and communication styles of the communities we serve, Petros Network can effectively evangelize, disciple, and support these communities, ensuring that the message of the Gospel and our life-giving community development training is accessible, memorable, and transformative. 

    Testimony to Orality Training by Petros Network Church Planter

    Testimony to Orality Training from Church Planter

    My walk with God is a testament to His grace and my unique journey. As a Muslim woman, I was aware of the restrictions within my community, where women were not allowed to follow any religion without the consent of their husbands and families. However, God, in His mercy, allowed me to encounter the Gospel through my uncle, and surprisingly, my husband didn’t oppose my faith. I have a deep desire to share this Good News with others.  

    My mother was delivered from a demonic spirit, which was a tremendous blessing. I praise God for His help and intervention in my family’s life. This experience has strengthened my faith and brought much-needed peace to our household. 

    However, my struggle with illiteracy presents a significant challenge in my ministry. I deeply desire to learn to read the Bible so that I can better understand God’s Word and grow in my faith. I pray that God will help me learn to read and master the different tools. 

    I am grateful for the training provided by Petros Network, especially the Orality training. This method of storytelling through memory and recitation has become a powerful evangelism tool for me, allowing me to share the Gospel even without the ability to read. 

    As a dedicated church planter with Petros Network, I am committed to spreading the Gospel. I humbly ask for your prayers, that God would bless me with the ability to read and further my education. Your prayers and support are not just important, they are vital for our spiritual growth and the success of our ministry. 

    Together, we can make a difference!

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