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Oral communication cultures and Christian evangelism

Reaching them online

The enormous growth in Web access in the non-western world gives us a powerful means of sharing the good news in the 10-40 Window and beyond.

It is important to realize that many of these nations and people groups have ‘oral communication cultures’. They do not process information in the same way that you may – who probably had the opportunity of many years of education and are part of an educated ‘book culture’.

The West is often oral too!

Because Christians are a ‘people of the Book‚ who usually read widely, we assume that others receive their information the same way. But it is not so! Even in the educated West, a considerable percentage of people are not natural readers – many read very little. I could take you to houses in my own street where they possess maybe six books in total. These people are literate, and read magazines, newspapers and TV schedule listings. But most of their information is received through radio, TV, and conversation. In other words, many people in the West are some way along the spectrum that leads to oral rather than book communication. Yet we assume that we can reach them using the methods that we prefer and understand – literature, books, and relatively abstract lecture-style sermons.

Research shows that even in the West, effective adult learning should include elements which are essentially oral communication methods.

This has implications for web evangelism, whether we are trying to reach non-western cultures, or the increasing numbers of western people online who are not really 'bookish' at all. Styles of web communication which may work well for a student or professional may not be very accessible to them. Homiletic sermons, Christian books, and many of our traditional methods, do not relate easily to many people. In fact, the two-way informality of the Web is arguably often much nearer to oral communication than printed literature. This is a subject which deserves considerable research and discussion.

There is an informal network for all interested in any aspect of oral communication including video ministry: Visual Story.

But it seems likely that web strategies which use short easy language with no jargon, short audio or video presentations, and aim at relationship-building, will be more likely to engage with oral cultures.

Understanding oral communication

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