How Do We Disciple through Stories?
We may be able to recognize an oral culture when we see one. We may even be able to adjust the style of evangelism to fit an oral culture by storying chronologically through the Bible. These two tools or adjustments would greatly improve our efforts to bring all the people of the world to a better understanding of who Jesus is. Once they believe, though, how can the church continue to grow and disciple if there is no written language?
This is a crucial problem for the chruch in many people groups; the problem of church growth in oral cultures is not restricted only the Dong, or even the people groups of China.
Storying has proven effective even in non-oral cultures: even people who have grown up in the church in the United States have listened dumbstruck upon hearing the core message of the Bible communicated through basic chronological storying. They had masses of Bible knowledge, but had never clearly caught the central themes of the Bible. They had a huge ring full of keys, all important, but among the boggling number of keys did not realize which ones opened the front door.
Storying is especially effective for evangelism. As we have seen, even in non-oral cultures, it has the ability to clearly explain the core truths of the Bible in a way that paints a much clearer image of Jesus. Once these people come to Christ, though, how do they grow? Can stories also be used for church growth, for discipling?
The quick answer is "yes." But how? The greatest problem is not the method. One person can learn what they need, a particular set of stories and a set of teachings connected to those stories, and share those with the church on a regular basis. The problem is how these things can be easily replicated in the church.
Ever since the Reformation and the wonder of the printing press, we have based much of our theory of church growth and discipling on the printed word. We can turn to the Bible, maybe even in numerous translations. We can go to the local bookstore and buy teaching materials. We can work through the newest workbook series put out by our favorite Christian press. The issue here is not the difficulty of creating these materials among a people that do not yet have a written language, but rather the core issue is that our entire theory (or, at least, habit) of education may not be applicable to the situation.
It is time to come up with completely new ideas, new theories, new solutions to these problems. There is only One who knows all the answers to these questions. There is one Spirit who fills us with teachings to make them useful, regardless of the situation or method employed. It is our charge to pray through these issues, pray for solutions, and especially to pray for those who struggle with these issues every day.
Let us pray for the non-Dong who are working among the Dong: the foreigners, the Han Chinese, and the Christians from other Chinese minority groups. Let us pray especially for the Dong church as they struggle to find a way to grow in Christ, a way they can easily teach new churches and apply among all Dong people.