By Jerry Wiles — “The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But the Lord will answer them,” (Isaiah 41:17). Jesus said, in John 7:37-38, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams or rivers of living water will flow from within him.” While assisting communities in acquiring clean, safe drinking water, we want to facilitate their experiencing the Living Water of Jesus, which alone satisfies the deepest thirst. Since 1990, Living Water International has had many amazing opportunities to be the hands and feet and voice of Jesus, working with local churches and other partners around the world. The number of people without access to clean water has been reduced from more than 1.2 billion around the year 2000, to less than 780 million today. However, there are still great needs and opportunities for reaching people with Water and the Word.
Millions are being Impacted
Many of the people without access to clean water are also those who have had the least access to educational opportunities, basic health care and the gospel. These are the neediest people on the planet, both physically and spiritually. Thankfully, through the work of LWI and others over the past three decades, millions have gained access to safe drinking water. However, the best news is that God desires and is prepared to transform individuals, families, communities and even nations through the person of Jesus Christ. Now, with better research and understanding about the ways most people in the world learn and communicate, we can be more effective and strategic in sharing the Living Water of Jesus and carrying out our Lord’s Great Commission.
How Most People Learn and Communicate
Recent studies have shown that more than 70% of the people in the world today are oral learners, by necessity or by preference. In the regions where LWI works, it is probably more like 80 – 90% of the people who are oral learners — those who can’t, don’t or won’t read, or prefer to learn and communicate by means other than written instruction or print-based media. Since launching Bible Storying and Orality Training programs, LWI has equipped thousands to become more effective in communicating the gospel and making disciples in ways that are biblical, understandable, and reproducible.
The Impact of Women and Children
In many parts of the world, women and children are not given the opportunity to participate in the life of the church. In our Bible Storying // Orality Training Workshops, everyone is engaged, and everyone participates. It is encouraging to see how women and children come alive with new excitement and enthusiasm as they retell the stories. When people of all ages learn stories, discover their meanings and applications, they tend to tell them to others. Consider how many people can be impacted over the lifetime of a young child learns a few stories and a set of questions. A few years ago, a lady participated in one of Living Water’s orality training events in West Africa. She immediately began using the training in her home country. A few months later, we received reports that she had conducted orality training with over 300 people, and more than 70 received Christ.
The Good News of Jesus spread throughout the entire populated world in the first century, primarily through ordinary believers, using primarily oral methods. Someone has said that the Twenty-first Century Church may look a lot like the First Century Church. While modern technology can be a great blessing, the simple methods we learn from Jesus are still very important. Prayer, the work of the Holy Spirit and personally sharing our faith and making disciples the way Jesus and the early church did it will never go out of style. These are timeless methods that should be foundational to all we do in obeying our Lord’s Great Commission.
Global Issues Shaping the Church
Respected scholar and missiologist J.D. Payne, identifies Orality (or Oral Learners) as one of “Twelve Global Issues Shaping the Face of the Church.” In his book, “Pressure Points,” he points out that, “For centuries, the Church has “walked on literate feet.” Many people in the world do not have their language in a written form, making literate communication impossible.” We also now know that a large percentage of the population of the United States is made up of oral preference learners.
Characteristics of Great Movements
Another important lesson we learn from church history is that the great movements of God in the world have not started with big fanfare or massive media campaigns. Many are now realizing the value of focusing on the few, to impact the many. We see these principles illustrated in the teaching of Jesus about the mustard seed and the yeast. A small seed can produce a large plant, and a small amount of yeast can affect a large lump of dough. The account of the Samaritan Woman at the well from John 4 and the Gerasene man recorded in Mark 5 are great examples. They were used by God to bring transformation to whole communities and the ten-city region of the Decapolis. It is encouraging to realize that the little things we say or do can have great impact on others, even bringing transformation to families, communities and even nations today.