Current estimates suggest that around two-thirds of the world’s population processes new information by oral means. Some are oral communicators by necessity—they cannot process information by literate means. Others may have a degree of literacy for certain basic functions, but will not use literate means to process more complex information such as is in the Bible. For these oral communicators, life lessons are processed by observation, participation and oral communication—stories, proverbs, genealogies, drama, song, chants, dance, ceremonies, rites of passage, oral histories and epics.
Communication of the gospel by means of these same oral deliveries often has a greater effectiveness in largely oral societies than the literate methods that churches and mission agencies have long used. Based on grassroots initiatives in varied situations around the world, mother-tongue storyers and cross-culture workers are reporting the effectiveness of these oral delivery strategies, in many cases among groups previously uninterested in or resistant to the gospel.
In recent years, a growing number of individuals and agencies have been periodically gathering for consultations on orality, networking on issues such as chronological Bible storying, as well as related oral and audiovisual expressions. At the 2004 Lausanne Forum, a permanent task force was formed to address various aspects of making disciples of oral learners. It has come to be known as the International Orality Network.
In a parallel development, Table 71, a regular gathering of mission-agency leaders that arose from the Amsterdam 2000 conference, adopted a cooperative strategy centered on orality and Bible storying. An intersection of these different streams resulted in OneStory (formerly called “Epic”), a partnership managed by the five largest global organizations involved in both. These agencies shared a common motivation, goal and focus in reaching the least-reached people groups and Bibleless language groups of the world. Each organization brought a unique set of strengths to a partnership centered on Bible storying:
• Cru (then Campus Crusade for Christ, International): evangelism, discipleship, partnering networks, production and distribution of audio and visual media for broad sowing of the gospel.
• IMB (International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention): church planting, discipleship, leadership development, orality research, experience in storying.
• TWR (Trans World Radio): global broadcasts and mass media network reaching the world for Christ.
• Wycliffe: language and culture research, application of that research to heart-language translation of the scriptures.
• YWAM (Youth With A Mission): urgency for evangelism; training, discipleship and mobilization of large numbers of workers from a multiplicity of cultures and nationalities.
Besides our main partner agencies, OneStory has worked with other compatible agencies, churches and individuals. Like-minded agencies continue to be welcomed to come alongside OneStory regionally or globally.