Oral people come from all walks of life: Perhaps you can read, but prefer to hear. Audio is how you best take in information. You would rather have a recording of a sermon or a school lesson than take notes because you absorb the points better that way. You may have heard of or even read the Bible in your language or the language of wider communication—a trade language or one of a nearby community similar to yours.
Or maybe writing is not even part of your awareness of the world because your community's language does not have a written form. All of your education, business transactions, and conversations with family and friends take place through spoken communication. There is a chance that you or other people in your community can read the language of wider communication, but not at a level of comprehension equal to your heart language.
Many possibilities exist and overlap, but the commonality between these situations is orality. More than 70% percent—approximately 5.7 billion—of the world’s population are oral learners. Half of the world’s population cannot read well enough to understand the Bible. A question arises: How can you evangelize and disciple oral people?
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. – Romans 10:17
Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you. – 1 Corinthians 11:2, 23a
These are excerpts from Paul's letters. For the most part, Paul wrote letters to churches he had visited and explained the Gospel to in person. We see in the book of Acts how much time Paul spent in the towns and cities he visited, explaining and proving from Scripture that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah:
Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ." – Acts 17:1-3
We read in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 that Paul's intent in writing was to follow up with those very same people in Thessalonica, who had begun to gather as a church in the meantime: "So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter." His letters were a confirmation of the truth he spoke in their presence.
Whatever their background or literacy level, oral people receive information best through oral means. That implies that they need to hear the truth of Scripture in order to receive and understand it. Because of this, Faith Comes By Hearing focuses on recording God's Word in the heart languages of people, so they have the opportunity to hear, see, and engage it.
(Learn more about our mission here.)
Thanks to our ministry partners, we work with translation organizations, national Bible Societies, and hundreds of field partners to record Scripture, adapt Gospel Films, and distribute Audio Bibles. Fortunately, we now have the technology and tools to ensure that oral learners can hear and see God's Word and be transformed.
Once recorded, these Audio Bibles are freely available through Bible engagement and listening programs, resulting in salvations, church plants, and discipleship throughout the world. We provide our partners Audio Bible recordings on various devices, including Proclaimers, Micro SD cards, and BibleSticks. God's Word is also provided digitally via Gospel Films, Global Bible Apps, and Bible.is. Our partners regularly send us stories of life change among the people they work with as more oral learners receive God's Word:
"I was worried and anxious about the future and the terrible things happening around the world. I was obsessed with how and when the end of the world would come. One day, I had an opportunity to listen to an Audio Bible. God spoke to me through His Word, and I found new hope in Jesus Christ. I submitted all my burdens into God's hand, and I received His peace in my heart. Now I don't worry about the future anymore because Jesus has overcome the world." – Raj, South Asia
"It is a local tradition to gather for several weeks after a friend or loved one dies to read texts from the dominant religion in the area. They invited me to one of these gatherings, and during their ritual, I learned that not one person in the room understood what was being read. I asked if I could pray for them, and they were all surprised that I prayed in their heart language. Because of this, they were open to receiving an Audio Bible. They realize that I am a Christian, but they all welcome me into their homes now." – Dinara, Central Asia
"Over a year ago, I abandoned my church over a disagreement. I felt justified in my anger, and as a result, I refused to go back. My wife and children continued to go to church without me. A good friend of mine who was a leader for an Audio Bible listening group did everything he could to encourage me to come back. One day, he brought me an Audio Bible, and I began listening to the Word on my own. When I listened to Romans chapter eight, I broke down in tears. I realized that if I died with this spirit of anger, I would not see my Lord. I pleaded for forgiveness—from God and those I rejected—and returned to my church. I give thanks to God for bringing me this Audio Bible and restoring me to my church family." – Alou, Africa
Through listening to Scripture on a regular basis, oral people are able to absorb, discuss, and act on the truths they hear. They discover that God loves them enough to speak their language. They trust Christ and commit to following Him and sharing His Word with those around them.