What is the best way to communicate God’s message to people in a way that fits their culture and communicates most clearly to them? For some people, the written word may be enough. But for people whose cultures have traditionally relied heavily on oral communication, something more may be needed.
One of SIL’s guiding principles is that everyone should have access to God’s word in the language that speaks to them most clearly. When Clyde Smith tried to communicate this concept in the Samo language, the local adaptation of the phrase became, “The Bible is for Everyone.”
A big step toward making the Scriptures accessible to everyone happened in March when church leaders from three languages met together. They grappled with the question, “What else can we do to help people know God’s word besides reading the Bible aloud from the pulpit?”
They adopted a method where the pastor first told the Bible passage as a narrative. Since the people of this area have always shared information by telling stories, this approach fit naturally into their traditional oral culture. It communicated more clearly to the people than having the same story read from a book.
After telling the story, the pastor led a discussion following the traditional way of processing information. When people were encouraged to share their ideas in the style of a village meeting, they were eager to participate. No one was asked direct questions, but all were given the opportunity to speak and share their thoughts about the story.
As teams of pastors representing several language communities went around the villages sharing stories in this way, there was a change almost overnight in the way the communities viewed the church. Before this, the villagers thought that church was only for good people. Now the young and old, men and women came out of their houses to join in the village discussion. Suddenly it didn’t matter to them if they were good or not. They had discovered what the Smiths knew all along:
The Bible is for everyone!