Week 3 (April 19-25) --Focus our listening

  • Posted on: 14 April 2015
  • By: ION Gatekeeper


Week 3 (April 19-25)Focus our listening — Really focus on hearing the dreams, visions and aspirations you and others have for the movement.

We find ourselves in the third week after Easter… Let’s take a few minutes and ponder, “The disciples and followers of Jesus found themselves in a time of learning to wait!”

All of us who have been in seasons of waiting. This time can bring forth transformation. For the disciples on their 50 day journey, many of them for the most part would be passed the initial despair of the reality of the crucifixion and Jesus not being “with them daily”.  In the midst of the waiting, things were definitely different. While they had enjoyed times of joy when they were able to experience seeing and being with Jesus in His resurrected state, this was a different time for them individually and as a group. We know from the accounts in the Scriptures that Jesus continued to teach and prepare them for what was to come in His visits. They were in a time of transition, moving from “where they had been” to “what was to come.” For those who were counting off the days since Jesus death, burial and resurrection, certainly they were becoming a different group of men and women. Along the way they were picking up the “Next Generation” — students and young adults believers that were drawn to run with those who had been with Jesus.





Can we envision the disciples dreaming and asking each other about visions and aspiration of what it was going to look like into the future? Under the surface was the new reality of the movement of the Church. Can we imagine what was happening as they saw how the media-ization — “getting the Story out” was happening? Many were being drawn to the Story of the Risen One. Getting the Story out, was just happening for the most part. The disciples must have been amazed! Just as He told them, after His death He would come to them, He was preparing them to stand and be all of who they were called to be… Before he ascended, He gave them the Great Commission, “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.”  Jesus also told his disciples to stay in Jerusalem and to wait for the gift the Father would send. Jesus had told His disciples about this gift in the past. He knew that the disciples could not carry out their task without help. They needed the power of God living in them to give them strength to share Jesus’ message with the world. They needed the Holy Spirit! As they waited they must have felt impatience, confusion even fear. They continued to be a people of the Word and a people in prayer.

Can we envision what it might be like for us as the ION family to be dreaming and asking each other about visions and aspiration of what it is going to look like into the future?

That is what we are asking in this Week 3, let us, Really focus on hearing the dreams, visions and aspirations you and others have for the movement.

In the story from John 21 of Jesus appearance to the disciples after the resurrection, Jesus appeared again to his disciples.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

(John 21 at

As Jesus performs his last recorded miracle, the disciples were overwhelmed. Shortly afterward is the moving story of Peter’s reinstatement.  Peter, who had denied knowing Jesus three times during is questioned by Jesus… three times. It is during this questioning that Jesus gives Peter the famous charge to “Feed my sheep.” What was it going to take to ‘Feed my sheep’? Now in the days after all this happened, the reality was upon them. Their path was set to GO and their global positioning was forever changed. It did take more than just them to carry out the directions Jesus had given. So what might that mean for us today? What might that mean for ION?

During these 50 days from Easter to Pentecost let us

REMEMBER Easter: The Story

And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here.”  

Easter: The Story –​Listen again to the 9-minute dramatized audio production (from taken word-for-word from the New Testament book of Mark (chapters 15 & 16). The lifelike recording was made using multiple character voices, music, and sound effects to maximize the excitement and emotion of the Scriptures.  

Click here to listen: Easter: The Story

The Easter Story is a story for each of us today as well. He is risen, just as He said… go quickly now… we are a a people of prayer and in the Word daily…

Let us pray:

​Hear us when we call, O Lord, You will enlarge us when we are in distress; have mercy on us and hear our prayer. We seek the Lord, and His strength and seek His face continually. You Lord, promise to be near all who call upon Your name, to all who call upon Your truth. Lord we ask for good gifts, gifts that will bring You glory. We cry out to You day and night during these 50 days from all around the globe. We look to You, the God of Angel Armies, The Most High. May it come to pass in these days that we might really focus on hearing the dreams, visions and aspirations that You have given. We pray and do not faint; We call upon the Spirit. We continue in prayer, We pray without ceasing in our hearts for You to work in taking us to where we need to be in the days ahead.

Lord, give us a fresh, historic outpouring of the Holy Spirit, upon the International Orality Network and ION Partners, so that we might fulfill our call to Influence the body of Christ to make disciples of all oral learners. We are asking for a new anointing as we seek to influence the body of Christ to bring the Gospel to those oral peoples, unengaged unreached people groups, and oral Bible-less who still wait to hear the saving message of Jesus Christ in a way that they can really understand and receive. Amen

1 Chronicles 16:11, Psalms 4:1, Psalms 145:18, Matthew 7:11, Luke 6:12, Luke 18:1, Romans 8:26, Philippians 4:6, Colossians 4:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:17

·      The disciples were in prayer. Let us be people of the Word in prayer.

[*Please note: This information will be posted in the ION Blog section of the website ]

ION Pentecost Prayer Initiative /Week 2 (April 12-18) Seeking Out

  • Posted on: 11 April 2015
  • By: ION Gatekeeper







Week 2 (April 12-18) — Seeking Out

Looking out & seeking potential stakeholders who may not yet be part of the network, but have a desire to be connected.


Image result for timeline jesus 50 days easter to pentecostWe are in the second week after Resurrection Day on this 50 day journey…

Let’s take a few minutes and ponder, “What might it have been like to have been one of the disciples in the journey to Pentecost”


What might it have been like to have been a disciple, a “stakeholder” so to speak in the ministry and realize the task now fell to you and His followers to respond into the future. The written accounts of what happened after the Resurrection are shared very differently throughout the Scriptures. In Matthew and Mark the accounts end shortly after the Resurrection, but both finish with the “Great Commission,” and Jesus’ instructions to his disciples to go out into the world and spread the good news of salvation. “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.” (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV). The Gospel accounts of Luke and John give us a little more detail, but really what is written in Scripture is really just small glimpses into His visits during this time. What must the disciples have wondered, where might they have found themselves?

Let’s take another look at the global positioning of ION…

1. Where are we?  Where are we not? — Like the disciples in that 50 day journey, there was so much more happening than they were personally seeing. The same is true for the orality movement and the network.

2. Who is involved? Who might want to be? — Just like the disciples on the journey, their reality was how they fit in, or how does this fit alongside me? The same is true for some in ION. Not so different than what it might have been for the early Church and His disciples. Yet as they began to see they were on a journey to Pentecost, they would see God was doing a much bigger thing. More followers would be needed, more followers would come, along the way. God is at work, He is working His plan.

3. What are we willing to do to allow for those who have like interests or concerns for oral peoples of the globe to be involved? What might it take to involve them? –Lord, give us a larger view, give us Your perspective of what YOU are doing across the globe in orality and cause us to want to seek out those who You are using. Allow us to walk together. 

ION Stakeholders… Definition of a Stakeholder: A person, group or organization that has like interests or concerns. Stakeholders can affect or be affected. Not all stakeholders are equal. Stakeholders may be both internal and external to the movement.

Keeping in mind that ION is a network. Our goal is “Influencing the body of Christ to make disciples of all oral learners” / Influencing =  The body of Christ = All Christians, everywhere, believers in one church, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord Jesus Christ, one faith, one baptism, one God. “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” -Romans 12:4-5 “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.” -1 Cor. 12:12 “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.” -1 Cor. 12:27  [For your reference: ION is a network of over 1,200 organizations & agencies, and over 5500 individuals, who link together. See the ION website for the founding stakeholders listing: and the web-link listing page: ]

Let us pray:

Lord, take us where You want us to go. Let us meet You this week in our prayer times. Let us see Your Presence in the work You have allowed us to be a part of, for Your Glory. Prepare us to step back from what we think we know. Lord, take us to where You want us to go. Let us be ready and willing to receive. Let us be open to discover what You are wanting us to see and receive from You. Give those open spaces, open chairs, open arenas to allow for others that You are wanting to bring, to step in. We are making space for You and for those You are drawing. Let us receive them to bring the portion that only they can bring.

Lord, let us see the big picture. Align the body, to see our true global positioning. We know that in order to fulfill what You have called us to be a part of in Your plan, things may change, we trust You. Father, we are asking You to show us how that might look in these coming days.  May we be waiting expectantly and ready. Just as the early disciples had to wait, we wait on You. May You pour out a greater portion of the Holy Spirit, may we receive power from on high to be Your witnesses in (our) Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. For Your glory. Father, link us together as one body, in unity and in fellowship, so that the world might know YOU. Amen

·      The disciples were in unity and fellowship. Let us be people of the Word in unity and fellowship.


Looking at the










​​Some of the appearances of Jesus: ​

  1. The Earthquake Matthew 28.2-4
  2. Mary Magdalene finds the empty tomb John 20.1,2
  3. The disciples run to the empty tomb John 20.3-8
  4. The angel appears to the women Matt. 28.5-8 or Mark 16.3-8 or Luke 24.2-9
  5. Jesus meets the women Matthew 28. 9,10
  6. The road to Emmaus Luke 24.28-35
  7. Jesus appears to the disciples Luke 24.36-42 or John 20.19,20
  8. Jesus promises the Spirit Luke 24.44-49
  9. Jesus commissions the disciples John 20.21-23
  10. Jesus breathes the Spirit in the upper room John 20. 22.23
  11. Jesus reveals himself to Thomas John 20.24-29
  12. Jesus appears at the lakeside John 21. 9-13
  13. Jesus confronts Peter John 21.15-19
  14. Jesus and the beloved disciple John 21. 20-23
  15. Jesus appears to the five hundred 1 Cor. 15.3-6
  16. Jesus commissions the disciples Matthew 28: 16-20
  17. The ascension Acts 1.3-11
  18. Pentecost Acts 2.1-11
  19. Jesus appears to Saul (Paul) Acts 9.1-18 or 1 Corinthians 15.8

[*Please note: This information will be posted in the ION Blog section of the website ]

Letter from ION Executive Director - April 1, 2015

  • Posted on: 1 April 2015
  • By: ION Gatekeeper

Letter from David Swarr, ION Executive Director

Since its inception God’s faithfulness has been abundantly evident as ION has grown and flourished under the excellent leadership of Avery Willis and Samuel Chiang. The foundations of the movement are well laid, the awareness and understanding of orality has increased in the Church, orality has moved to the forefront of mission discussion and practice, and has begun to influence thought leaders and institutions.   


As I take up the responsibility of Executive Director I am sobered by the reminder that we are stewards in the King’s household and vineyard who will account for our management of what has been entrusted into our hands. Therefore the questions we must ask ourselves are – what is the Lord’s vision for ION in the next five to ten years? And how do we best position ourselves as a network for maximum effectiveness and fruitfulness in making disciples of oral learners? 


In this new season, I am calling the network to an extended season of prayer and listening in which we ask the Lord to give us fresh vision and insight into what He wants to do with and through the network in the next few years. Between now and Pentecost you will receive communiques from the ION prayer leadership. Please join me in prayer and thoughtful listening to the Lord Jesus and to those throughout our network constituency. I will be also seek out potential stakeholders who may not yet be part of the network, but have a desire to be connected. I’d like us to focus our listening on hearing the dreams, visions and aspirations you and others have for the movement, exploring the felt needs that the network should be serving, and discovering how a broader circle of those from around the globe would like to contribute.  


There are tremendous demographic shifts taking place in the Church globally. At current rates of growth it will not be long before there will be more Chinese Christians than American. By 2050 one in three Christians will be African. The fastest growing mission sending nations are in Asia and Latin America. There is a massive and as yet untapped missionary workforce in the global southeast to be mobilized and equipped to reach oral learners. I would like to see the network extended to a broader base internationally with much greater participation and influence from the Church in the majority world. Making disciples of all oral learners will require a synergy between the west and the global southeast that maximizes the strengths of each.  


As we look to the future, the potential of the orality movement lies within the next generation.  These young people contain a plethora of creativity which can be channeled into great effectiveness in all the disciplines of orality thereby strengthening our collective influence and impact in every sphere of society. We must focus on enabling engagement from a younger demographic so that the ION workforce of the future is fueled anew by the 20 to 40 year olds, supplemented by the contributions of those both older and younger.


Kingdom movements are fostered by prayer and the flow of information. I hope to see ION better connected with all forms of media outlets so that the stories from around the world and wealth of knowledge bubbling up globally can be more rapidly and broadly disseminated. We need to prayerfully and strategically consider how the network can see this facilitated.  


We all know that obedience to the Word of God is the essence of discipleship and key to life transformation. As followers of Christ and ION stewards we are entrusted with a responsibility to maintain the centrality of the Word of God in all we do as we focus on making disciples of oral learners. Whether in our training, theological education, leadership development, social action, or any of the other domains of life in which the disciplines of orality are exercised, we must make the Word of God the foundation and core of our orality practices.


Now as we look ahead in this Easter season leading up to Pentecost when God’s Word was proclaimed in the heart language of all who heard, let us celebrate what the Lord has accomplished in past years and look expectantly at what He will yet do through ION. Join me in prayer that the network can serve the Church with increasing effectiveness, fostering and encouraging a global orality movement to disciple all oral learners.


InvitationPentecostPrayer ION Pentecost Prayer Initiative

ION Pentecost Prayer Initiative

50 days... Easter to Pentecost 7 weeks / 7 topics


Lord, Teach Us To Pray -- Lord, Teach Us To Finish Well: 

Celebrating the Resurrection & Looking to the Spirit of Pentecost


Week 1 (April 5-11) -- Listening Afresh -- Asking the Lord to give us fresh vision and insight into what He wants to do with and through the network in the next few years.


- To listen afresh alludes that we are in the habit of listening. Are you in need of a fresh ability to listen? Looking back at the background for Pentecost: After the resurrection of Jesus, the disciples remained for 40 days, instructing, encouraging and waiting as instructed to be witnesses throughout the world (Acts 1:3,1:8). Afterwards, he ascended into heaven and about 120 of his followers remained in Jerusalem in anticipation, praying and encouraging each other (Acts 1:4, 1:8).


As we begin our 50 day journey to Pentecost... Pentecost, falls on the Sunday 50 days after Passover, or after our Lord’s crucifixion. This year it will be on May 24th. Pentecost is not the coming of the Holy Spirit for the Holy Spirit made His first appearance in Genesis 1:2. Pentecost is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on human flesh to give birth to the Church. Pentecost – marks the Holy Spirit descending for the empowerment of Jesus’ followers – is the birthday of the Christian Church
(Acts 2).


The 120 who were assembled to wait did not know what to expect. How could they? Pentecost was nothing like anything that had ever happened before that time. Nothing could have prepared them for what was to come. They knew His Story, they waited together. In that 50 days they found themselves at a different place. Moving from being a frightened, rag-tag group of men and women, to being a group focused in their purpose, in prayer and having expectant hearts. Some had lived with the Lord and some had simply heard the amazing witness accounts of His life and His resurrection. They all believed, and were waiting obediently. On the eve of Pentecost they were filled with expectation, no one was thinking this was the birthing of the Church and the true Global Positioning for the body of Christ that would set the pace into the future of going after the Harvest.


In the early days of the Church their GPS coordinates were quite different than what we find today. The shifting and movement of the Church has set the pace and will continue to set the pace, for the body of Christ. What is our global positioning for ION?


We are asking everyone to LISTEN AFRESH -- Let us pray: Lord to give us fresh vision and insight into what He wants to do with and through the network in the next few years. As in Acts 1:8, may we be aware and receive the power of the Holy Spirit to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Lord unfold to us individually and as a corporate group our global positioning as the International Orality Network #makingdisciples. In Jesus name. Amen


[*Please note: This information for the 7 week Pentecost Prayer Initiative will be posted in the ION Blog section of the ION website]

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.

Making the Best Use of our Time

  • Posted on: 12 January 2015
  • By: admin

By Joe Handley

As we entered 2015 a few weeks ago, I found it interesting that the Lord spoke into my life at least three different times, from three different sources unbeknownst to one another, and all saying essentially the same thing. The picture you see here was the final incident as I was watching the film, “The Fellowship of the Rings” from Tolkein’s masterpiece trilogy, The Lord of the Rings:

‘All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.’ – Gandalf the Grey

Not long before watching this film, I met with a well known Chinese Leader (an Asian Access alumnus) who said: "Thank you for your and A2's great influence on our country. You have played an important role for the Church of China and I ask that you would leverage your influence to further this impact."

Just a few days prior, Samuel Chiang from the International Orality Network and A2 reference council member shared a similar concept. He essentially suggested that my and A2's influence is now such that we have gained a 'statesman's like' stature and we need to be judicious in how we use it.

How humbling all of this was to hear!

As I thought further about the task the Lord has given to Asian Access and to me, I'm reminded about how important it is for us to prayerfully seek the Lord's face as we move into this new year and into the next several years. The Lord has given A2 great favor: from the tsunami that swept through S and SE Asia in 2004, to the triple disaster that hit Japan in 2011, and to the influence we now seem to garner from many corners of the world. Even Charity Navigator has taken notice as their CEO mentioned we are one of only 7% of charities that has received their four star rating 4 years in a row and thus our effectiveness is top tier.

Given this favor, it’s important to take heed to these words of wisdom and live into God’s calling to leverage our influence and make the best use of our time. Reflect for yourself on the following verses and their surrounding contexts and discern how the Lord might be speaking to you as the new year begins!

"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is." - Ephesians 5:15-17

"from Issachar, men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do." - 1 Chronicles 12:32

"David had served God’s purpose in his own generation…" Acts 13:36

My Journey in Bible Storytelling

  • Posted on: 8 January 2015
  • By: admin

By Paul Trinh
For years, I had been struggling in witnessing. Although I could tell people the Bible many concerns pulled me back from witnessing. These concerns included (1) people might not be interested in my witness, (2) repeating the same gospel presentation to the same person, and (3) the available witnessing time was so short.

Seventeen years ago, I learned about the Chronological Bible Storying during my missionary career orientation. Nevertheless, its requirement to complete a worldview study of the non-believers before telling Bible stories hindered me from storytelling. Then throughout my first term, my mission agency kept promoting and training missionaries, including my wife and me, to storying the Bible.

In my second term missionary career, my wife and I began planting new churches among the Cantonese in the Dominican Republic. One day, I told an individual Bible story to an unbeliever. To my surprise, he listened attentively. Thus, I initiated my journey in Bible storytelling.

In the mission field, I told Bible stories at various settings. First, I told Bible stories in shop-to-shop visitation. During business hours, I spoke Bible stories to workers as they were working. They listened. While we returned to the same shops, we were often asked, “What story are you going to tell me today?” It opened the door for us to keep telling different Bible stories. In a few occasions, shop owners were even listening to Bible story instead of responding to their customers.

Second, I engaged Bible stories at break time of the language classes for newly immigrants. Since the new Cantonese immigrants encountered difficulty in learning Spanish, our new Chinese church started Spanish classes for them. At the break time, my wife taught them gospel songs, and I told them a series of stories of Abraham. Sometimes they were listening, but they made small talks at other times. At the end of the semester, I reviewed the life of Abraham by asking these new immigrants questions. Amazingly, they could answer every question.

Third, my wife and I employed Bible stories at the new church in Dominican Republic. I told Bible stories as my “sermons” and people paid attention. Once I trained two new leaders to tell Bible stories. One of them spoke eloquently and had no problem to retell the stories. Another leader spoke stutteringly and hesitated at the beginning. He could tell stories as well after our resilient encouragement and his repeated effort. After we left the field, they kept leading the church.

Therefore, my reluctance in witnessing disappeared. Now I am not concerned about the interest of people, for I am sure that every person loves story. I am not concerned about repeating the same gospel presentation to the same person. I know that more than five hundred Bible stories could be told. I am also not concerned about not having enough time to witness, because telling a Bible story usually only takes two minutes. Consequently, I am eager to employ Bible storying as my witnessing strategy—to lead people to follow Jesus Christ.

Returning to the United States, my wife and I began teaching believers to tell Bible stories. I met many believers sitting on the pews for years but not being able to tell a Bible story. Also many misconceive that story is for children only. Thus, we are making effort to overcome these hindrances. As a result, some believers have become excited about telling Bible stories. They are actually telling people the Bible.

Today, I tell Bible stories to both non-believers and believers. Following the examples of storytellers in the Bible, I recount Bible stories wherever I go. At the same time, I train my church members and other believers, in the States and overseas, to tell Bible stories. I know that I am actually telling people the Bible.

Storytelling Works at the Restaurant

  • Posted on: 22 September 2014
  • By: cindy

Storytelling Works at the Restaurant
By Paul Trinh

At a mission’s conference, I was introduced to a local believer. During our chatting, she told me, “I like Chinese food. In fact, I have been eating frequently at a Chinese restaurant for ten years.”

“You’ve eaten at the same Chinese restaurant for ten years?” I asked with curiosity.
She nodded.
“Have you ever shared the gospel with the Chinese workers there?” I inquired further.
After thinking for a moment, she confessed, “I have never thought about that!”

My heart sank, “Why didn’t you tell them the gospel? They’ve worked so hard every day. They worked on Sundays. They need to know God.”

I taught and encouraged this believer to tell Bible stories to the workers at her favorite Chinese restaurant. At the same time, I committed myself to Bible storytelling at restaurants. At the very least, whenever saying grace at a restaurant, I pray, “Lord, please bless the workers here to know you more.”

* * * *
Storytelling Works at the Restaurant
By Paul Trinh
Once while dining with my family at a restaurant, I wanted to tell a Bible story to the waiter. There seemed, however, no opportunity.

At the end of our meal, the waiter was talking to the diners at the next table. They exchanged ideas about weather, sports, news, and more. I looked at my watch and timed their conversation. Seven minutes! I thought to myself, “They can talk to the waiter for seven minutes. My story only takes three minutes or less. They pay tips. So do I. Then why can’t I tell this waiter a Bible story?”

Subsequently, the waiter approached our table. He greeted us with a typical, “How was the food?”
At that moment, I boldly stated, “I just thought of a story.”
“Which story?” he asked.

I proceeded to tell him the following:
One evening, a teacher told his students, “You guys go ahead to the other side of the lake.” Later at night, the wind was blowing powerfully against the boat. Those students were in trouble as they fought heavy waves.

After midnight, the teacher walked on the water to reach his students. However, they were afraid when they saw someone or something coming on the water. They cried out, “Ghost! Ghost!” Immediately the teacher comforted them, “Don't be afraid! Take courage. I am here.” After recognizing their teacher’s voice, the students calmed down.

Then one student called out, “Lord, if it is you, let me walk on the water to you.” The teacher told him, “Come!” So this student got out of the boat. He walked on the water toward his teacher. Suddenly, a strong wind blew, and the student was terrified. He began to sink into the water and cried out to the teacher, “Lord, save me!” Immediately the teacher Lord Jesus grasped his hand and said, “O man of little faith! Why did you doubt?”

Then the teacher Lord Jesus brought the student back into the boat. As soon as they got inside the boat, the strong wind stopped. When the other students saw what had happened, they knelt down and worshiped the Lord Jesus, “Truly you are God!”

The waiter listened as if it was his first time hearing this story. I concluded the story by saying, “I have called out to this teacher Jesus, ‘Lord, save me!’ He did save me.”

The waiter gave me a strange look and walked away without saying anything.

* * * *
Storytelling Works at the Restaurant
By Paul Trinh
During a family vacation, my wife, her siblings and I went to a steakhouse for dinner. It was late; we were tired and hungry. After dinner, the waiter chatted with us, “I worked as a high school teacher before.” His use of the word teacher seemed to be a good opening for me to share God’s word with him.

“You make me think of a story of a teacher,” I interjected into the conversation.

“Which story?” he asked.
I told him the same story from Matthew 14:22-33. He listened attentively as if he had never heard the story. After I completed the story, he laughed, “Do you mean I can be like Jesus?”
“Yes, but you need to trust in Him first,” my wife responded.
“I think I’ve heard this story before,” he replied.
“When you are in trouble, just call out to Him, ‘Lord, save me!’ And He will.” I left with him this challenge.

* * * *
Storytelling Works at the Restaurant
By Paul Trinh
On another occasion, as my wife and I finished our meal at another restaurant, she asked me to get some toothpicks from the counter by the front door. As I returned to my seat, I met the manager. He kindly greeted me. I told him, “The food was delicious!”
“I’m glad about it,” he responded.

“It makes me think of a big group of people having nothing to eat in the wilderness,” I said, and then began my story:
They were so hungry. They cried out to God for help. God answered their prayer and sent them food every morning. God told them, “You need to work six days a week to collect food for each day. On the seventh day, you need to rest. But on the sixth day, you can collect a double portion of food.

Some of the people didn’t listen to God. They went out on the seventh day to look for food. They found nothing. Then they realized God’s word was true. Thus, God fed them for 40 years.

The manager listened. After the story, he began talking about other subjects. I returned to my seat and committed the result of my witness to God.

* * * *
Storytelling Works at the Restaurant
By Paul Trinh
Restaurants have become one of my favorite places to tell Bible stories. The workers there work so hard and are so stressed each day. I hope they can enjoy God’s love.

Over the years, I have developed some guidelines:
1. When it is possible, eat out before or after the peak hour.
The restaurant workers are less busy and will have more time to talk.
2. Ask the Lord for divine appointments.
3. Pray for the workers at the restaurant while saying grace.
4. Be proactive and tell Bible story as soon as possible.
5. Leave a generous tip.

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

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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

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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 


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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


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

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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


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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







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