74 new churches!

Using Bible stories and songs in our language

"After I was saved, I studied at Bible college and then started sharing the good news the way I had been taught,”says a pastor in India. “To my surprise, people didn’t understand. After much labour only a few accepted the Lord. I was discouraged and confused and did not know what to do.


"Then I heard about communicating the gospel orally. I discovered that my problem was, I had been lecturing from books, as at Bible school. So I started using Bible stories and songs in our language with our music. Now people understood! Many accepted Christ and were baptised. Before, there was only one church with very few baptised members. Five years later, there are 75 churches with 1,350 baptised members and 100 more people waiting for baptism!”


The best way to communicate the gospel in oral societies is the spoken word. In one such country, a translator has helped to produce a chronological series of Bible stories in his language. He did not know the Scriptures before, but now he says he is at a crossroads. People who hear these stories also understand the issues much more clearly. Some choose God’s way, so they are given stories to strengthen their faith and disciple them. Others find they can’t sit on the fence, and return to their ancestors’ faith.


Chronological Bible stories in another language are used at a story telling club. Each week, mother-tongue speakers help the audience review last week’s story and introduce new concepts, key words and names used in this week’s story. Then they tell the new story, ask questions to help people understand and remember, and then re-tell it. Finally, they end with a cliff-hanger, so everyone returns next week!


People from four language groups in Tanzania were trained to use stories to teach biblical truths. Firstly, they discussed traditional beliefs about God/gods, Satan, spirits, man, sin, reconciliation and so on. To communicate biblical truths effectively, they needed to understand the listeners’ beliefs.


Then the leader told a Swahili Bible story and asked questions to make sure everyone remembered the main points. Next, they had to explain what the story teaches about God, man, Satan, sin, etc. Only information gleaned from stories at the workshop could be used. This way they built up their own ‘oral Bible’—they knew the stories and understood the meaning.


Then each one re-told the story in their own language, while the others checked that every detail was included, with nothing added. They kept closely to Scripture without embellishing things. They quoted what God says in direct speech—after all, it is his word! The final result sounded more natural than it had been translated word-for-word.


Finally, they practised telling stories in their own language, with questions, discussions dramas and songs.


The following Sunday, one of the Sandawe participants took the service in his church. Instead of using the pulpit, he sat with the congregation in a circle and told them a story from the workshop—in Swahili, the trade language used in the churches. To his surprise, they couldn’t answer his questions. So he re-told story—with the same result.


Then he asked one man if he understood. “Oh yes, but I can’t remember,”he explained. “It goes in one ear and out the other!”


Finally, he told it in Sandawe. They all listened intently—and promptly answered all the questions! And the one who re-told it best was the man who couldn’t remember before. God’s word in the mother tongue sticks deeper!


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