Masters Degree – for non-readers


Regina's English class - note the higher level under the distant tree.

(Regina’s English class – note the higher level under the distant tree.)

Regina’s English class precedes my Bible class. In one of the early lessons 25 adults took most of the class trying to write their full name correctly. Now they are on to three-letter words – we are going too fast for some. But it is heart warming to see them all leaning forward totally focused on seeing who can sound out the word “TRY’ first. Then, “FLY, MY…”,  and the one that always throws them, “CRY” – why does the C make a sound like a K???

 Afterwards I step to the plate, and they all sit intent on learning the Bible.

 All my adult life I have taught the Bible. But I have never had anyone more interested – and more totally ignorant, than these. How do I teach them that Father really is their Papa, not their Warden? How do I prove to them that there are only angels and demons – not ancestors hovering around? They already know they are not going to heaven – even though they are very religious! How do I show them that they can in fact be whisked right now into the Kingdom of Life, never to depart? I feel such an urgency!

 All my life I have taught propositional bible study – selecting a theme, then finding supportive texts, leading to a convincing conclusion. This will not work here. Few grasp it.

 So I have been doing the God Story, as we learned it in CPX (click on the first link and you can read the first three stories I told). I first saw it on a powerful film called Ee Taow! where a missionary to a very primitive tribe taught thru the Bible in stories, starting at creation, going to the fall of man, sin staining perfection, sacrifice making temporary fellowship possible, and so forth thru the OT. By the time they got to Jesus they all knew they were rotten sinners deserving hell, and that God was great and wonderful, but holy. Then they fell in love with Jesus. When he died they were stunned! But it suddenly dawned on them that he was in fact the Lamb that died to cleanse their sins – and they suddenly believed and found the rush of the indwelling Spirit of God upon their washed hearts – they spontaneously danced for 2 ½ hours!

 So now I am telling stories – praying for the same miraculous response – and they love it. I am carefully selecting stories that convey the essential gospel message and confront their false religious or their animistic worldview. It is amazing the discussions – sometimes rather heated – we have afterwards.

Once, after I taught about sacrifice in the OT, I asked them, 

“So what is the one thing that will take away sin?” We got all the stock religious answers – “prayer, 10 commandments, obeying God…”  “No, no, no!” They were utterly confused – yelling back and forth in Tonga! Finally I told them – “only sacrifice will take away sin” – and they erupted in anger – thinking I was some Satanist cult, they were ready to throw me to the crocodiles. One lady who seemed so sincere stood up and asked, “What if I don’t have a cow?” Then I knew I had to turn the corner – I let them in on the truth that only one sacrifice can forever take away sin – the sacrifice of Jesus for us – and it does not matter how much you pray or do good things – it is only believing in that sacrifice that will get you to heaven.

 Syncretism is the mixing of Christian beliefs with a people who have never changed their basic animistic worldview. So they go to church and the witch doctor; they say their prayers and they put charms on their kids… N. T. Wright says that stories constitute the core of every culture’s worldview. In order to influence the worldviews of people 

we want to disciple, we need to tell biblical stories that offer alternative answers to the fundamental worldview questions. Wright argues that discipleship that offers only propositional teaching does not reach to the centre of the worldview.

 So I am going to continue to find Bible stories for every theological doctrine we want to impress into these disciples. I am encouraged and hopeful.

 Then suddenly a few days ago it hit me like a ton of guavas!

How do we train people to lead Bible studies if they don’t read!!?? And if no one in the “Bible study” reads!

 Our goal is not just to win a few converts and disciple them in a church. Our goal is to start a movement – we disciple some who will disciple others… So our 

main objective is to train trainers. But how do we train them to impart genuine biblical Christian truth, if all they know of the Bible is what we have told them, along with some mixed messages from their African pseudo-church?

 I was up most of the night wrestling with this one.

Statistics as of Sep. 30, 2004 from Wycliffe International indicate 4558 languages are without any of the Bible, out of the 6913 languages currently spoken in the world. Current estimates indicate that around two-thirds of the world’s population are oral communicators either by necessity or by choice. If this is true, and we want to reach one of these oral cultures, we had better be equipped to train people to understand and teach Bible truth accurately and consistently, without having a Bible. We want to see believers trained in the faith who can also train others who will train others. We want to see this kind of training for evangelism, discipleship, leader training and church planting.

 How do we do that?

 Well, the best discipling resource is not a booklet or a method, but an obedient Christian. Mentorship is our first method. If we take Jesus’ approach and really mentor a few believers who will pass it on – we can start a movement that will change the world.

 Secondly, we must train people in Bible stories – teach them to memorize the stories, to act them out, to ask questions about the cultural implications, to wrestle with the theology of the story. There are several ministries who are blazing a trail for us in this – and we will gladly learn.

 At one such leadership training center in N Africa they train oral students for two years, memorizing 135 Bible stories. They were tested by a seminary professor (oral exam) to see if they knew the facts of the stories, theological topics, the nature of God, the plan of salvation, 
etc. Supposedly the students understood all these things well and skillfully referred to Bible stories to document their views.

 Thank you, those of you who regularly pray for us. God has been so good – and we are so ignorant of how to do his work. We are utterly dependent on Him – and on our prayer supporters. Thanks so much.






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