Orality and a Changing Culture

The landscape of learning, understanding and beliefs is changing in North America at a surprising rate. The Church is struggling to find ways to better communicate the Gospel in meaningful and life-changing ways. Many of the problems can be corrected by a better understanding of the literacy issues facing us coupled with increased skills in effective oral communication. If the church needs an example, she needs only to turn to Jesus who lived in a 95% illiterate, or functionally illiterate society. Jesus was the master oral communicator!

Orality refers to the style of communication between individuals and generations that functions without the use of a writing system. However, it is a deeper concept than the mere absence of writing. It produces its own thought forms and processes that constitute ways of learning, conceptualizing, and communicating that are quite distinct from those of literate thinkers and communicators. Oral thought processes are less linear, and logic is associative rather than deductive and sequential. Orality also affects worldview, particularly in the area of truth perception. For literates “truth is seen as consisting in facts – specific descriptive statements about an objective, perceivable reality. Knowledge is the accumulation of facts. The oral culture, on the other hand, places priority on relationships, which produces a concept of dynamic truth. This focuses on relational skills, and truth is seen in terms of personal integrity and fulfilment of relational and family obligations” (Orville Boyd Jenkins,“Orality and the Post-literate West”). An oral culture is characterized by relational, face-to-face communication using stories, proverbs, drama, songs, chants, poetry and others forms of participative, communal and interactive events.

One has only to have a cursory understanding of post-modernity to see the parallel implications of orality in contemporary North American culture. Let he who has ears to hear….

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Orality and the Communication of the Gospel

Around two-thirds of the world’s population, either by necessity or choice, are oral communicators, and they are found in every cultural group in the world. Among unreached people groups – those not highly penetrated by the gospel – or language groups without the Scriptures, the figure is significantly higher. One people group that interestingly and perhaps unexpectedly often displays many of the traits that scholars associate with the term orality (although it cannot properly be called “oral”) is deaf people.

Apart from those who have known only oral communication all their lives (“primary orality”), an increasing number of previously literate communicators, influenced by the audio-visual impact of mass media (TV, radio, telephones, interactive computer software, movies, music, etc), are adopting orality as their preferred communication style (“secondary orality”). This is often referred to as “post-literacy”. It should also be noted that many members of so-called literate societies are in fact only semi-literate at best, and are more comfortable with oral communication (in the USA for example up to 50% of the population have poor literacy skills).

On the spectrum of learning styles from primary oral learners to highly literate learners, there are generally recognized to be five broad categories: 1) primary illiterates; 2) functional illiterates; 3) semi-literates; 4) functional literates; 5) highly literate. (The categorization is that of James B Slack, reproduced in “Making Disciples of Oral Learners, Lausanne Committee for World Evangelisation and International Orality Network”). Only the “highly literate” primarily use a literate communication style, while even “functional literates” learn and communicate a significant amount in oral ways. While there are many people who use only oral communication styles, there is not really anyone who exclusively uses literate means of learning and communicating. This does not diminish the value of literate learning, but rather brings the value of oral learning into perspective. Needless to say, these categories bear no necessary relation to intelligence. Many primary illiterates, for example, have memorization skills that are superior to many highly literate learners.

The Church must learn better oral communication skills if she is to continue to effectively communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ to an increasingly oral learning society.

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What is Racism? Who is a Racist?

Definition: The American Heritage Dictionary lists two definitions of the word “racism”:

1. The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to

2. Discrimination or prejudice based on race.

There is great confusion and argument over the terms “racism” and “racist” – some groups are classified as “racist” while others are considered “incapable of racism due to power difference.”
The first definition can be evidenced when we consider the views of White Supremacists and Jim Crow Laws (which legislate the belief that Whites were entitled to more civil rights than others). The underlying assumption is that one race – the white race – is superior to all others. Laws based on this belief (e.g. Apartheid in South Africa) reflect racism. People who ascribe to
this belief are then, racist.

The second definition leaves greater room for discussion and debate. This broader definition tells us that “discrimination” (treatment or consideration based on class or category rather than individual merit) or “prejudice” (a preconceived preference or idea) allows that people of any race can be labeled as racist and any biased (def: an unfair act or policy stemming from prejudice) acts to be categorized as racism.

Also Known As: racialism, racial discrimination

Examples: The teen who verbally or physically attacks another simply because he is of a different race can be considered to be engaging in a racist act, whether he is White or Black, Asian or Latin. Beliefs that all people of another race (be they White, Black, Latin, Asian, etc.) are bad, evil, less than, reflect racism. Of key importance is the idea that racism and racist
behavior is not owned by any one group.

From Susan Pizarro-Eckert, “Your Guide to Race Relations.”

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Cross-cultural Church Planting Starts Where the Scripture Starts

Cross-cultural church planting has it’s foundation in the very beginning of the Word of God. It starts where the Scriptures start. God has displayed His creativity not only in the creation of the heavens and the earth, but in ethnic diversity, in redeeming the world, and in building His church. In a fast-forward way, we can see God’s plan through other key biblical passages. “The Lord had said to Abram,‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation…I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing…and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you’ ” (Gen. 12:1-3).

To this man of faith who would go on a great pilgrimage, God unveiled a plan to reach the world. Through this one man who left his people, all peoples on earth will be blessed. “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age’” (Matt. 28: 18-20).

Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth. Jesus commanded His followers “to make discip les of all nations.” This key command echoes in different ways throughout the New Testament (Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-49; John 20:21-22; Acts 1:8).

In “Let The Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Misions,” John Piper declares,“God’s great goal in all history is to uphold and display the glory of His name for the enjoyment of His people from all the nations.” In step with“God’s great goal” described by Piper, the Lord has allowed world migration today to bring many different peoples to the major cities. In the major metropolitan areas around the globe,multicultural churches are microcosms that simultaneously reflect a fulfillment of the Great Commission (see Matt. 28:18-20) and foreshadow the reality of heaven (see Rev. 5:9-10; 7:9-10; 14:6-7; 15:4; 21:3).

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Immigrants Fueling Growth of U.S. Cities

According to a recent CBS News report, “Immi-grants are filling the void as domestic migrants are seeking opportunities in other places,” said Mark Mather, a demographer at the Population Reference Bureau, a private research organization.

Immigrants long have flocked to major metropolitan areas and helped them grow. But increasingly, native-born Americans are moving from those areas and leaving immigrants to provide the only source of growth.

The New York metro area, which includes the suburbs, added 1 million immigrants from 2000 to 2006. Without those immigrants, the region would have lost nearly 600,000 people.

Without immigration, the Los Angeles metro area would have lost more than 200,000, the San Francisco area would have lost 188,000 and the Boston area would have lost 101,000.

The Census Bureau estimates annual population totals as of July 1, using local records of births and deaths, Internal Revenue Service records of people moving within the United States and census statistics on immigrants. The estimates released Thursday were for metropolitan areas, which generally include cities and their surrounding suburbs.

Among the findings:

Atlanta added more people than any other metro area from 2000 to 2006. The Atlanta area, which includes Sandy Springs and Marietta, Ga., added 890,000 people, putting its population at about 5.1 million. And for Atlanta, that means big problems. The city is struggling to keep up with demand for more roads and waterways, CBS News’ Pete Combs reports. Gaining the most after Atlanta were Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Phoenix and Riverside, Calif.

On a percentage basis, St. George in southwest Utah was the fastest-growing metro area from 2000 to 2006. St. George’s population jumped by 40 percent, to 126,000. The next highest percentage increases were in Greeley, Colo., Cape Coral, Fla., Bend, Ore., and Las Vegas.

The New Orleans area, still recovering from Hurricane Katrina, lost nearly 290,000 people from 2005 to 2006, reducing its population to just over 1 million. The Gulfport-Biloxi area in Mississippi, also hit hard by Katrina, lost nearly 27,000 people, dropping its population to 227,900.

Parts of the Rust Belt also had large declines. The Pittsburgh metro area led the way, losing 60,000 people from 2000 to 2006. Its population loss was followed by declines in Cleveland, Buffalo, N.Y., Youngstown, Ohio, and Scranton, Pa.

Houston edged past Miami to become the sixth-largest metro area, with about 5.5 million people. Miami slipped to seventh.

There are about 36 million immigrants in the U.S. About one-third are in the country illegally. The Census Bureau, however, does not distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants.”

Here is the latest from thechurchplanter blog…the blog connected to thechurchplanter mini-magazine of Kurt Miller
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