English speakers have an incredible amount of materials on hand to facilitate learning: books, magazines, web sites, laws, and everything else in print. We all know some languages have no written form; no news there. However, the definition of "oral culture" is far more broad than just language that do not have a written system. Many cultures have that written language, but still tend toward oral communication in passing on culture.
Many of us reading this journal come from non-oral cultures. When we assess what needs to be done for the Gospel to spread among all peoples, we begin to think they need our help to develop a written language, teach them to read, and start producing printed material. When all that is done, what is the value attached to those printed materials, from the perspective of the host culture?
That question is too far off to answer, and likely has many answers for many situations. However, for those of us who long to see a truly Dong church reproducing in a way natural and easily replicable for Dong other people, we have to constantly evaluate what is modeled when non-Dong reach out to Dong.
In what forms of communication does the Dong culture place value? That is the question. Almost all information about the Dong tells of their love for singing. They love singing at home, as they work, or in public performances through Dong opera or on videos distributed in the local markets. The songs are taught, memorized, and passed down orally. There is no sheet music.
How do they receive the local news? They talk to neighbors, of course. Plus, they have sayings and proverbs with ingrained lessons. They recognize a reference to specific Dong stories, even if they do not remember having ever been told the story.
The Dong culture is an oral culture. That stated, what will the Dong church need to grow? How will new teachers be taught to teach? What will they teach? For what can we be praying?