“I can’t read this,” declared the woman, who, along with several others, received her first Bible. Her shoulders slouched, her gaze fell as she held the Scriptures respectfully in her hands. It was in her language, a gift she would always cherish—but the pages were as inaccessible as a locked treasure chest with no key.
This is the reality for billions of people who cannot read or prefer to communicate orally.
Many are seekers. Others, new believers. But each one desires the answers to life’s most thought-provoking questions about God, our nature, and the human condition. Thirsty for the Truth, they want to discover the meaning of life and what their purpose is in it.
During biblical times, God spoke to the prophets who wrote down His words. What we now call the Old Testament was accessible only to the priests and not to the common people. Because most were oral communicators and did not know how to read, Scripture was recited out loud, and people had to learn and retain God’s Word through hearing and memorization.
The early church adopted this same model, as the letters to the churches in Corinth and elsewhere were also read aloud. People relied on one another to understand how to apply the teachings in their daily lives. Christ’s followers deepened their relationships with one another as they grew in their understanding of God. They encouraged and edified each other, as seen in Acts 2:42: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
Today, more than 70% of the world’s population are oral communicators, who depend on audio or audio-visual means to receive, process, remember, and pass on information, just as the early church did.
Much of Faith Comes By Hearing’s work aims to provide God’s Word to oral communities around the world in a language and format that they can understand. For many, that is an Audio Bible or Gospel Film. These Audio Bibles or Gospel Films are freely shared with hundreds of partners in the field, who use them to minister to and disciple people.
One of the most effective ways of facilitating Scripture engagement is by establishing listening or watching groups where people gather to hear the pure Word of God in their heart language—often for the very first time. Through these listening groups, people have the opportunity to engage in discussion with others as they learn and grow in wisdom, knowledge, and relationship with Jesus Christ.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. – Hebrews 10:24-25
Local pastors or members who have been Christians for a longer period will often step into the role of the group leader and, once trained, facilitate the group discussion by asking specific questions that encourage deeper reflection on Scripture. Those who are new can ask questions they would not have an opportunity to ask during a church service. But no matter where a person is in their spiritual journey, all can benefit from the fellowship and meaningful interaction that an in-depth discussion can bring. Time and time again, we hear stories of people falling in love with God’s Word, miracles and healings, and grace and forgiveness among families and villages.
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. – Romans 15:4
Today, there are tens of thousands of listening groups meeting around the globe, hearing the audible Word of God in their heart language, and exploring what it means. Before COVID, groups would often meet as part of a weekly church program or in the community square. Now, listening continues on a smaller scale: in family gatherings, with close-knit neighbors, and through social media platforms. Because of these listening groups, the body of Christ is being built up through loving, exhorting, worshiping, studying, and proclaiming the Good News.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Several months after receiving her Bible, the woman mentioned above was invited to a Bible listening group in her local village. There, she had the opportunity to hear and engage God’s Word with others in a way she had never experienced before. Finally, she had the key to unlock the treasure found in her Bible.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. – Matthew 6:21