Evangelism in Oral Cultures
It may sound like a ridiculous question, but how do we share our faith in an oral culture? The answer greatly depends upon how the person sharing is accustomed to sharing in their home culture. How should the presentation of the Gospel be adjusted for an oral culture?
We should not assume there will ever be any one answer to a question like this, but we are wise to ask these questions so that the Gospel is better understood and received among all the peoples of the earth.
One answer is right in front of us. It is encapsulated in the true message of the Old Testament. The Old Testament is not a wordy history of the Hebrew people nor a well preserved collection of legends and stories from the Jewish culture. The only message from Genesis through the prophets is God's one big answer to our one big problem.
If that does not sound too much like an answer to you yet, we need to carefully compare the context in which the Gospel is to be shared and the medium through which the Gospel has been given to us. The Dong people love telling stories, and the Old Testament is a collection of stories. The Old Testament is highly oral based.
The Dong people do not know that sin is keeping them from a personal relationship with God himself, and the Old Testament tells of the relationship before the fall and of the fall itself and then God's great plan to restore that relationship. In essence, that is the Gospel.
The Dong people know nothing of Jesus, but the answer is not to start out talking about Jesus. They have no frame of reference in which to put him...or rather, they do have a frame of reference, but it is not that of God becoming man, taking our sins on himself, and cleansing us from that age old curse of death.
The Old Testament stories are the key to building a proper context in which Dongcan place Jesus and his message.
We should pray for those who are sharing this message among the Dong people. We should pray that God will give them the wisdom to help the Dong fully understand Jesus by sharing of God's plan of salvation, starting immediately after the fall. And above all, we should pray that the Dong people will be able to see and understand who Jesus is, what he is, and what he has done.