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Orality at Home

The language of postmodernism.
2006This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

Much of the world's oral majority can read, but doesn't. Sound familiar? The National Endowment for the Arts reported in 2004 that more than half of American adults no longer engage in literary reading. They are what the 2004 Lausanne paper "Making Disciples of Oral Learners" calls "secondary oral learners," people who choose to be entertained, to learn, and to communicate via oral means.

"The storytelling around the campfire that we view as the practice of the ancients has been replaced by storytelling from the flickering light of the television screen," says Grant Lovejoy, the Southern Baptists' director of oral strategies.

Steven Douglass, president of Campus Crusade for Christ, is experimenting with a new approach to Bible study among students at the University of Central Florida. "We start out discussing an easy truth, like, 'Wouldn't you say a relationship thrives out of a sense of feeling accepted?'" he said. "Then I tell the story of the prodigal son and say, 'How do you think that relates to the truth we were talking about?' Students get into that."

Although Douglass is quick to say that his oral tactic is experimental, he's noticed a difference in students' enthusiastic discussion.

LaNette Thompson, an IMB orality consultant, has observed that Western postmoderns and non-literate West Africans have much in common. Both are highly relational and experiential. "It's not enough to share stories," she says. "We [also] have to live in a way that gives credence to what we're sharing."

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