ION Gatekeeper's blog

The Final Question Is..." Or, How to Close a Bible Story Discussion

  • Posted on: 19 March 2015
  • By: ION Gatekeeper

The Final Question Is…? Or, How to Close a Bible Storying Discussion

By Jenny Giezendanner


“So what have you learned today?” We tell Bible stories so people learn and change. We ask questions to help them learn and change. For Bible storying and similar types of group devotions, one common approach to interacting with listeners follows the sequence of observation, interpretation, and then application. First, the facilitator asks questions to ensure that everyone in the group is tracking with the key facts of the story. During the interpretation stage, the facilitator stimulates the group into exploring the meaning behind the actions taken in the story. Finally, for the application, the facilitator asks the learners to think about how they will implement their new insights in their own lives. The rationale for this approach stems from the apostle James himself: looking in a mirror certainly doesn’t help unless the viewer takes fitting action! (James 1:22-25)

In another approach to leading a discussion of oral Bible stories the storyer uses a standard set of “five questions.” This practice has the advantage that the questions become easy to remember and are always ready to use. A disadvantage emerges as well: these five questions may not relate naturally to every story, so good storyers find they must carefully adapt them to individual stories after all. The repeated same five questions may also become boring for some listeners.

Yet another, more serious, deficiency is inherent in both the “five questions” and the observation, interpretation, application series. It leads to what I call the “guilt-trip syndrome” of Bible study. After a steady stream of sessions ending with application or “What will I do with what I have just learned?” a listener may see his slow progress in making all those applications accumulate. The many ways in which his life still falls short is growing, even if he is trying hard! The resulting cognitive dissonance and frustration become increasingly discouraging.

A believer, seeker, or accidental participant in a Bible storying session is rightly challenged to see the relevance of God’s Word to his or her life. But is this the only or even the main reason for sharing God’s wonderful truth with her? And is it a respectful and effective process? I don’t think so. The Bible and its amazing story of God’s love for mankind is first of all a story about God Himself.  He seeks to be honoured and appreciated for His glorious works, His loving heart, and His great sacrifice in Jesus Christ. He wants us to embrace His forgiveness, listen carefully to His Holy Spirit, and stand in awe of His power. And He wants all this to overflow into the lives of other people around us. Therefore, the best final question is simply about God. In all kinds of variations possible, it should be something like, “How does this passage reveal what an amazing God we have?” or “What do we see now about God’s character that impresses us most?” or “What do you now appreciate about God that you never saw In any presentation, it is the opening and the closing that stick longest. As we lead others through the beautiful stories of Scripture, let us end our sessions by stopping together to marvel and meditate on God Himself. In taking our eyes off ourselves the One who loves us changes us. It is good to “think on these things."

Please feel free to share.

Sharing a blog from one of the HBU Theological Consultation Participants

  • Posted on: 16 July 2014
  • By: ION Gatekeeper


It's All about The Story

The university where I teach, Houston Baptist University, is hosting a consultation this week for the International Orality Network. I will be attending the consultation and learning all I can regarding this new and important missions emphasis that recognizes that most of the world consists of people who are oral preference learners. What excites me about the movement is that they focus on sharing the gospel by learning to tell great stories from the Bible in the mother language of the unreached people. This is exactly what we hoped to do with The Voice Bible.International Orality Network 1

One of the articles I read in preparation for the consultation is from Tom A. Steffen, former professor at Biola University and missionary for 20 years in the Philippines. In an article entitled, “Why Communicate the Gospel through Stories?” Steffen tells his own story about trying to teach new believers a simple version of systematic theology in the Ifugao language (one of Philippine dialects). Basically, his teaching fell flat because he insisted on relating the content using a western model of education, that is, teaching propositions and concepts. When he saw it wasn’t working, he decided to join his content with some wonderful stories from the Old Testament. He told stories of creation, the fall, Cain and Abel, the flood, and other stories on his way to telling the Jesus story. Once Steffen switched from teaching propositions and concepts to stories, the people caught on, got excited, and began to catch the essence of God’s redemptive love and purposes for the world.

I’ve said all along that human beings are hard-wired to tell stories. God has built that into our minds and hearts. So we are at our bests when we do tell stories. And we are good at it. Go on a trip and have something interesting happen to you and you can’t wait to tell someone. You call your best friend and tell them what happened. You put it on facebook. You may tweet it out. The point is that we are great producers and consumers of stories.

In the article I read Steffen quoted a statistic which I did know. I probably could have guessed at these numbers and gotten close but it is good to see it in print by someone who knows. Here is what he said: the Scriptures contain three kinds of literature: stories, poetry, and thought-organized material. Stories make up 75% of the Bible. Poetry makes up 15%. And thought-organized comprises the remaining 10%. By thought-organized he was referring to a good bit of Paul’s letters that make logical, linear arguments. But as N. T. Wright and others have pointed out, a lot of Paul’s theologizing involves retelling the essentially Jewish story around Jesus; so for Paul Jesus is the climax of the covenant story. In other words, even when Paul is making an argument for a particular idea (e.g., the resurrection of Jesus, the centrality of the cross) he is nibbling around the edges of narrative.
Amazing isn’t it that God chose primarily to reveal himself to us in these marvelous stories. I would have probably guessed that poetry was a higher percentage. I’d be interested to know how these decisions were made. For example, of Job’s 40+ chapters, all but 2 ½ are poetry. But Job’s poetry still tells a story. We might call it poetic narratives. The creation “story” in Genesis 1 is very poetic in its form. So how are these classified? I don’t know. And what about all the Proverbs, were they classified as poetry? I think they probably should have been because they are written in Hebrew poetic style.

It excites me to think is that in doing The Voice Bible we did something very different from other translations. We invited story-tellers, novelists, poets, and song-writers to help us retell the stories and poetry of Scripture. Scholars are very good at the technical bits of translation but we aren’t good at telling a story or of capturing the beauty and rhythm of a good poem. That’s why I think The Voice Bible has come of age when it has; we are moving deeper into a digital age that still recognizes the value of orality. Some scholars have taken to calling it a “digitoral age.” (I’m grateful to Dr. Samuel Chiang, executive director of the International Orality Network, for this useful term.) Too often we’ve tried to analyze the biblical stories using western logic to break them down into (4) points all beginning with the letter “P.” This way of preaching and teaching has had a tendency to obscure the story and make it hard to remember. Storytelling—God’s preferred method—has a way of capturing both the heart and mind for the sake of kingdom purposes.

If you’d like to know more about the International Orality Network, check out their website: 

Blog by David B. Capes 

ION Resources & Books - Free Downloadable (PDF) & Purchasing Hard Copy (Print)

  • Posted on: 16 July 2014
  • By: ION Gatekeeper

International Orality Network Resources

How To Get ION Resources in Print & Download Formats

(To download this information in pdf/print document )

*We offer these resources as downloadable content as well as for purchase in hard copy format.  


How to get ION Resources & Books     

How To Get ION Resources in Print & Download Formats

[ION Resources & Books - Free Downloadable (PDF) & Purchasing Hard Copy (Print)]



International Orality Network Resources 

ION offers many resources as downloadable content as well as for purchase in hard copy format.









TO PURCHASE Hard Copy Resources:

ION Orality Resources available for purchase at:  

CS-BREAKOUTS Orality Breakouts: Using Heart Language to Transform Hearts

Using heart language to transform hearts is resulting in churches in many difficult parts of the world. Breakthroughs with indigenous partnership formations have resulted in brand new Bible stories in an oral format to reach the unreached. Detail $4.95 Shipping charges apply 


CS-BEYONDLIT  Beyond Literate Western Models: Contextualizing Theological Education in Oral Contexts

Beyond Literate Western Models harvests the best insights from the 2012 Orality Consultation by bringing into one volume the insights of theological educators and experts on oral cultures from around the world. It addresses a wide range of practical...  Original price: $14.95 Detail $11.50 Shipping charges apply 


CS-LEARNERS1 Making Disciples of Oral Learners

Around 70% of the world's population communicates mainly by stories, proverbs, drama, songs, poetry and chants which all happens in a face-to-face context. The majority of remaining unreached people groups cannot read or write.  Detail  $4.95  Shipping charges apply 


DVD-ORALITY  Orality around the World DVD

The “Orality around the World” ION DVD brilliantly makes the case for using Bible stories to evangelize, disciple, plant churches and train leaders to reach the two-thirds of the world that can’t, don’t, or won’t read. Detail  $5.00 Shipping charges apply 


DVD-TELLING Telling God's Story DVD

Need a creative way to present the Following Jesus Series? With this DVD you can customize the experience for your church setting. Videos included on this DVD: Knock, Knock and So Many Faces India video: Reaching the Unreached...  Original price: $4.95 Detail  $2.50 Shipping charges apply 


CS-LEARNERS1AUDIO Making Disciples of Oral Learners Audio Book

This audio book is a nice companion piece to the Making Disciples of Oral Learners paperback book. It includes the contents of the entire print version of the book, plus some additional resources: Video footage about oral strategies being used.  Detail  $4.99  Shipping charges apply 


CS-LEARNERS1 Making Disciples of Oral Learners

Around 70% of the world's population communicates mainly by stories, proverbs, drama, songs, poetry and chants which all happens in a face-to-face context. The majority of remaining unreached people groups cannot read or write. Detail  $4.95  Shipping charges apply 


CS-LEARNERSCHI "Making Disciples of Oral Learners" Paperback Book - Chinese Traditional Script

Around 70% of the world's population communicates mainly by stories, proverbs, drama, songs, poetry and chants which all happens in a face-to-face context. Because oral learners tend to believe persons more than abstract truths, the spiritual li...  Detail   $4.95   Shipping charges apply 


CS-LEARNERSCHIS "Making Disciples of Oral Learners" Paperback Book - Chinese Simplified Script

Around 70% of the world's population communicates mainly by stories, proverbs, drama, songs, poetry and chants which all happens in a face-to-face context. Because oral learners tend to believe persons more than abstract truths, the spiritual li...Shipping charges apply.   Detail  $4.95


TO DOWNLOAD any of the ION Book Resources: 





Beyond Literate Western Practices: Continuing Conversations in Orality and Theological Education (2014)

Download your copy: 

Published June 2014. Look for the link to purchase the hard copy soon.


Beyond Literate Western Models: Contextualizing Theological Education in Oral Contexts (2013)

Samuel Chiang (Editor), Grant Lovejoy (Editor)

Download the pdf file 

You can purchase your copy in Kindle: 


To purchase the Hard Copy Books/DVDs/Other Orality Products: 

Product Description - Beyond Literate Western Models harvests the best insights from the 2012 Orality Consultation by bringing into one volume the insights of theological educators and experts on oral cultures from around the world. It addresses a wide range of practical issues, such as training methods, the relationship of non-formal education to traditional formal theological education programs and the importance of the narrative structure of the Bible. It describes how theological education can empower oral learners and leaders, especially in the rapidly-growing Christian movements in Africa, Asia and Latin America.  Shipping charges apply  Original price: $14.95  $11.50


Orality Journal - Published twice yearly

To download any of our Orality Journals:

Volume 1, Number 1   Published 2012: "The Oral Reality: From Rural to Hi-Tech Communities" 

Volume 2, Number 1   Published 2013:  "Scalable Experiments: Bible Translation, Church Planting, Disciple Making in the Digitoral Era" 

Volume 2, Number 2   Published 2013:  "The Seven Disciplines of Orality" 

Volume 3, Number 1   Published 2014:  "Participatory Learning: Catalists, Communities & Emerging Trends" 

- See more at: 




ION Resources available for purchase: 


To Print this information:
How To Get ION Resources in Print & Download Formats 


*We are very grateful for the ION Network Partners who help to make these resources available.

Book Review by Lynn Thigpen -- Reposting from Missio Nexus

  • Posted on: 3 July 2014
  • By: ION Gatekeeper

REPOSTING:   Weekly Book Look provided by Missio Nexus

















Beyond Literate Western Models: Contextualizing Theological Education in Oral Contexts


Samuel E. Chiang and Grant Lovejoy, eds. International Orality Network in cooperation with Capstone Enterprises, Hong Kong, 229 pages, 2013, $9.95 (Kindle) or free download from the International Orality Network


Reviewed by Lynn Thigpen, cross-cultural worker in Southeast Asia and PhD student in Intercultural Education, Cook School of Intercultural Studies, Biola University









Through a focus group of Cambodian church planters who work with oral learners, I uncovered that despite the fact that the majority of Cambodians are oral learners, the church planters expressed a strong conviction that leaders in local house churches must be readers. They have patiently taught many oral learners, but could not conceive of any of them as leaders. I quickly realized we had a serious problem to address.


Millions of similar learners across the globe have been excluded from needed theological and leadership education. James Krabill shares that a recent tome on theological education had “virtually no reference to how the Church should be working at the monumental task of leadership training in oral settings” (p. 114). Thankfully, that oversight is addressed in this cutting-edge volume. Emerging from a consultation of forty-two representatives from eighteen institutions and fourteen agencies, Beyond Literate Western Models examines four perspectives in relation to the oral learner:  formal institutions, non-formal training programs, educating the oral learner, and issues related to the oral learner him or herself. As a researcher and practitioner in the field of orality, I relished reading such scholarship straight from the “trenches.”


In each of the four sections, contributors present their perspectives and a final writer responds—resulting in fifteen chapters of information pertinent to the theological training of oral learners. A glossary, annotated bibliography, and links to video clips and interviews add to the value of this resource.


The book begins with an examination of the education of those who plan to work with oral learners but quickly transitions to training in Majority World settings such as India, Africa, and the Amazon. For instance, Phil Walker from Africa Theological Seminary proposes the use of synergogy—a type of group learning; while LaNette Thompson writes about sound andragogical practices—such as problem-based learning. Miriam Adeney responds with an emphasis on the importance of the metanarrative of scripture and an allowance for contextual theologies. Afterward, Krabill, among others, discusses local movements, the effective ministry of William Harris of Liberia, and the surprising results of setting the truth to music.


While gleaning from the fifteen chapters, I found myself most fascinated with Bauta Motty’s discussion of theological education in Nigeria. Motty’s insights were powerful glimpses into orality as a way of life and the unique relational task of teaching oral preference learners.


If there are any concerns with the book, one might be the continued amalgamation of orality and storying. Certainly, an emphasis on the use of narrative with oral preference learners is warranted, but the field of orality is much broader than storying. As research and experience progresses in this new frontier, a deeper understanding of oral learners and more tools and strategies for theological education—such as oral hermeneutics—will undoubtedly follow. Meanwhile, Beyond Literate Western Models is a commendable start in the right direction.






A weekly book review delivered to you from Missio Nexus

Review provided courtesy of
The Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College

 and Evangelical Mission Quarterly







Used with Permission. Not to be reproduced by any mechanical, photographic, or electronic process, nor copied for public use without the written permission of EMIS, P.O. Box 794, Wheaton, IL 60187. Email: [email protected],  Website:

Article from William Bjoraker - FREE eBook

  • Posted on: 11 April 2014
  • By: ION Gatekeeper
The "People of the Book” are the People of the Story:  Storytelling in Contemporary Jewish Ministry
By  William Bjoraker,  PhD
Director of Operation Ezekiel
FREE eBook
I have been involved in storytelling in Jewish ministry for a few years now, and participate in ION.
I want to submit the attached article I wrote, for public sharing. 
Thank you,
Bill Bjoraker
William D. (Bill) Bjoraker, PhD
Associate Professor of Judeo-Christian Studies & Contemporary Western Culture
William Carey International University
Pasadena, CA

The Foundation of Prayer

  • Posted on: 23 September 2013
  • By: ION Gatekeeper

Our prayer teams have come a long way from the original prayer conference call as our only tangible way to serve in prayer with ION. When Avery Willis asked our teams to come alongside him in prayer we really had no idea where it would take us. What a journey our teams have been on! 

When we began, we were meeting to pray for the work going on in Executive Board Meetings with the Great Commission Partner Groups that eventually led us to covering and being involved in prayer with ION. For our team, this past conference in St. Louis marks the beginning of our 8th year of conferences and the beginning of the 10th year praying for the work behind the scenes. God is on the move in an even greater way as we are linking in so many new ways to the finishing of the Great Commission.

One of the priorities of our team has been to raise the level of awareness for praying for UUPGs. If you have not already done so, may we ask you to pray about adopting a UUPG in prayer. You can do that at the Finishing the Task website where we help to share the need for many intercessors to pray in the harvest of the Lord.

Prayer for UUPGs - Unengaged Unreached People Groups  

Commit to Pray

You and your church can commit to pray for one of these Unengaged, Unreached People Groups. To commit to pray click here. If you would like to place a link from your web site to the commit to pray tool, you may find instructions for doing so here.

Sign up at:



We usually say,
“I’ve got to see it to believe it.”

We need to say,
I’ve got to believe it to see it.”

There are only 4 UUPGs left to be adopted from that original 639 List, but the work of prayer is far from finished.

Many more need to be involved in prayer involving the current list of targeted UUPGs.

Another way to be involved in prayer is to join the Praying for the Unreached People of the Day through the Joshua Project website- you will see they many times that they focus on UUPG - Unengaged Unreached People Groups and adding a widgit to your blog or website from



Mandaean of Iran

The Mandaeans are descendants of Jewish-Christian Gnostics (AD 150), and may be the only sect from late antiquity to identify themselves as Gnostics. Sometimes Mandaeans are called Christians of Saint John. Until recently, Mandaeans lived mainly in Iraq and Iran, but many have now fled Iraq and settled in other countries. "A very strange and singular people, in terms of their rituals, lives in the desert near Baghdad....they are a very simple people and they claim to possess a secret law of God, which they preserve in beautiful books." Ricoldo da Montecroce, c 1290. Mandaeism is based more on a common heritage than on any set of religious creeds and doctrines. They venerate John the Baptist, and baptism is their central sacrament.

Ministry Obstacles
After centuries of isolation the Mandaeans are quite insular and protective of their society and their religion. Christian resources are limited in their mother tongue.

Outreach Ideas
Mandaens now reside in some western countries, and access is easier than in the past. Christians should reach out to befriend these people, and find out more about their culture, their religion, and their world view. There are likely bridges to this people given their ancient roots in Christianity.

Pray for the followers of Christ
There likely are no Christian believers among the Mandaeans, but pray those who will soon find Christ will be able to clearly understand the Good News of Christ, especially the grace He offers.

Pray for the entire people group
Pray the Mandaen diaspora peoples will be able to integrate into the cultures and societies where they now reside, and will be open to new world views.

Scripture Focus
"How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?" Romans 10:14-15

People Name: Mandaean
Country: Iran
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 7,600
World Population: 27,000
Language: Mandaic
Primary Religion: Other / Small
Bible: None
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: No
Audio Recordings: No
Christ Followers: Few, less than 2%
Status: Unreached
Progress Level:

Joshua Project