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BETHEL SEMINARY

JESUS AND THE PARABLES A COMPELLING ORAL TRAINING TOOL

A PROJECT SUBMITTED TO DR. JUSTIN IRVING

DOCTORATE OF MINISTRY PROGRAM

BY KEVIN OLSON

OCTOBER 11, 2013

CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION Section 1 - A Efficient Tool to Make Disciples Defining a Disciple Training a Disciple Disciples making Disciples Section 2 An Effective Tool to Teach the People The Purpose of the Parable The Paradox of the Parable Potential of the Parable Section 3 - An Established Tool to Connect Cultures A Rabbinic Tradition The Challenge for Jesus A Model for Missions A Cultural Bridge Section 4 An Enlightening Liturary Link The Living Message The Dynamic Meaning The Oral Learners The Personal Testimonies Section 5 An Exciting Tool to Transform Lives An Amazing Tool A Sharp Tool Changed Lives CONCLUSION APPENDIXES BIBLIOGRAPHY 3 5 5 6 9 12 12 13 16 18 18 20 22 24 25 25 26 28 29 31 31 32 34 35 36 37

INTRODUCTION

For the Christian community, the life of Jesus is lifted up as a model to follow for ministry methods. His mandate to make disciples is a pre-eminent theme for missions and His Word is the foundation for everything that is taught. The student that takes time to look closely into the life and ministry of Jesus can also learn the methods that He used. Jesus used parables to reveal scriptures, to bridge cultures, to transform lives and to enable disciple making. This unique oral teaching style has the potential to change ministry vision and practice. Jesus was intentional in His use of parables and his disciples must also unlock the potential behind this technique. The use of oral training has become widely known and used in the mission community. Its modern history is relatively short, but its use in biblical history goes back to the beginning of the Bible. The use of oral stories has a much broader use than it has been given it credit for. It has been used to pass down history, preserve theology, train leaders and to jump the boundaries of time and culture. This paper will study the history of an oral approach to developing leaders. The purpose of looking at oral training as a method of developing leaders can validate this method as an essential cross-cultural tool for missions, a powerful technique for biblical students, and a revolutionary method for communicating across language barriers. This topic is a chance to do a study of the scriptures that Jesus used to train his disciples and to develop a clear defense of the oral training method. The ministry of Jesus provides a unique look at the use of an oral training method. He used parables and questions regularly as He trained His disciples and taught the masses. Jesus was able to train disciples from a wide variety of backgrounds, multiple languages, and multiple cultures. Even though the bulk of his ministry

was focused in the region of Galilee, scripture records that the people still came to him from everywhere. (Mark 1:45, NIV) In recent history, many mission organizations have moved toward an oral style of training or have added it to the training that they already are using. They have found significant benefits to using this tool and there are many things that can be learned from their experiences Looking at examples can define more clearly the role that oral training can take in modern training settings. The testimonies of those that have been through the training themselves will give added clarity to the value of an oral style as well settings where it is found to be most helpful. As the Ambassador Institute moves forward, it will be increasingly important to clearly lay the foundation for oral training as the method of choice for use in inter-cultural settings and to defend its use in field practice. It seems that this training method will continue to grow in popularity within the mission community as a method to bridge cultures and languages. It will also grow geographically as its use spreads across the world through many organizations. For oral training to grow in or gain respect from the academic world it will also need to pass through the testing process as other training methods have been tested. In the future, the level of student understanding from the oral courses will need to be measured so that a quantitative correlation can be made between the oral style of training and its effectiveness in training leaders. It is possible that this can be the proven instrument of choice to train pastors, disciple people and to rise up the biblical knowledge within mission fields around the world.

SECTION 1 - A EFFICIENT TOOL TO MAKE DISCIPLES

Defining a Disciple Jesus commission to go and make disciples is a familiar scripture and a deeply held value, but the way that it is carried out seems like an ever present mystery. Does it mean going through a Bible study with someone? Is it more than leading them to Christ? How do you know when someone is a disciple? The goal of making disciples was central to the work that Jesus was doing. It is possible to educate people so that they know Gods Word, understand doctrine, can pass tests and train others but yet miss the goal of making disciples. The Complete Book of Discipleship describes it as the relationship I stand into Jesus Christ in order that I might take on His character. As His disciple, I am learning from Him how to live my life in the Kingdom as He would if He were I. The natural outcome is that my behavior is transformed. Increasingly, I routinely and easily do the things he said and did.1 Perhaps a simpler summary could be used; a disciple is more than one who knows about Jesus, a disciple is one who walks with Jesus. That goal of walking with Jesus is at the core of the use of parables. The description above includes three important aspects of discipleship that need further detail: learning, character, and how to live life. One aspect of becoming a disciple is growing in knowledge, the Word of God must become a part of the person. The teachers at a training event in Uganda were asked what they knew about baptism, salvation, the nature of man and the nature of God. One by one the teachers answered these doctrinal topics by sharing one of the stories that they had learned and how it revealed God and His work. They knew Gods Word it had become a part of them and it was
Bill Hull, The Complete Book of Discipleship: On Being and Making Followers of Christ (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2006), 16.
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their natural response. As a disciple grows in the knowledge of Gods Word, they gain a full understanding of who He is, which also affects who we are. Another aspect of becoming a disciple is the change that takes place in a persons character. Students that had completed and graduated from a two year training program in Uganda were interviewed regarding the training they had received. One student, David, was not home when the team stopped at his house. They asked his wife, from her perspective, if the training had been helpful to him. She said, I have identified a change in his life, a change in his ministry and a total change in his character. Character can be best measured by what people say about you when you are not around, for David and his classmates, the change had become obvious even to his family. If Gods Word becomes a part of who we are, it will affect our character and how we live. A third aspect of becoming a disciple is reflected in the life and ministry of the disciple. Fredrick is a milk distributer in Uganda. He is well known over a large area because the milk for the area goes through his office. Fredrick is full of joy and has a great reputation. A Muslim man asked him about the training that he had been a part of saying, How can we get this training as well? Fredrick said, We can train you as well, but instead of meeting in the mosque we can meet under the mango tree. Outreach, ministry and concern for unbelievers are evidence of Gods movement in the heart of a disciple. Making disciples is about walking through life with people in such a way that they gain the knowledge of Gods Word, their character reflects their Lord and the way that they live is patterned after Jesus. Luke 6:40 says, everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. (Luke 6:40, NIV) Training a Disciple

Jesus used parables to answer questions and to teach His disciples, sometimes He spoke with people one-on-one and at other times He addressed the crowds. Jesus used the parables to tell the people about the kingdom of God, to confront them with their sin, to bring them to a personal response and to invite them to follow Him. They were the primary tool He used to train His disciples. Jesus is recorded as using fifty different parables in His instruction.2 Authors vary some in their count and their definition of what is a parable, but the sheer number of parables highlights the fact that Jesus was using the parables intentionally. In Matthew 13, in the middle of a string of ten parables, Matthew records, All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. (Matthew 13:34, ESV) A parallel statement is recorded in Mark, He did not say anything to them without using a parable. (Mark 4:34, ESV) He deliberately used this visual teaching tool. It was more than just a way to teach; it was the way He chose to communicate Gods Word. The knowledge of God or the doctrines are described in multiple parables; each one revealing further aspects about the kingdom and each one building on the previous. Philip said, Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us. Jesus replied, The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me. (John 14:8-9, NIV) The words of Jesus revealed God, they exposed the heart of man, they describe the kingdom of heaven and the way of salvation. The parable of the prodigal son vividly portrays the love of God in the life of the father. It dismantles the self-seeking nature of man in both the son that leaves as well as the one that stays behind. The extent of the grace offered to both sons is scandalous. The parable of the sheep and

The Lutheran Study Bible (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House), Pg. 1609.

goats reveals another aspect of God; His wrath on those that had turned their backs on the king. The same story shows the astounding blessings of God for the one that obeys the king. These pictures leave a lasting imprint of the message Jesus was communicating. The parables are a powerful teaching tool leaving a truth that would stick. Jesus used the parable of merciful king and the unforgiving servant to teach or refine Peters character after he asked Jesus, Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? (Matthew 18:21, NIV) There was nothing further that Peter could say in response to someone that had sinned against him, when the vivid image of the debt owed to the king was forgiven. It was a word picture that would be on Peters mind every time he imagined taking revenge on someone else. Jesus corrected the disciples when they argued about who was going to be first in the kingdom of heaven by putting a child in front of them. (Matthew 18:1-6, NIV) From that point on, every child was a reminder of their selfish desire to be great and Jesus instruction on humility. Beyond instructing them or refining their character, Jesus used the parables to teach them about life and ministry. He addressed fair employment, investing of talents, priorities, marriage, raising children, paying taxes, being a neighbor, loving enemies, evangelism and many others. Instead of giving them a list of instructions to memorize, Jesus put a lasting picture into their minds. It was impossible to love your neighbor as yourself in the same way after hearing the dramatic response of the Samaritan on behalf of the man that had been left half dead. (Luke 10:29-37) The disciples could not sit around and idly watch others take action after hearing the parable of the talents. Their own actions would be tested and measured accordingly on the day when they would have to give an account for what they had been given. (Matthew 25:14-30)

These pictures had a threefold effect; they would pass on the knowledge the disciples needed, they would shock the disciples character into a new way of thinking and change the way the disciples lived.

Disciples making Disciples If the goal of training is for disciples to make disciples, then an oral training model must be given serious consideration. Jesus himself started with twelve, then sent out seventy two, after his death there were more than five hundred. After Peters address at Pentecost, three thousand were added to their number. The oral style of training is not solely responsible for this multiplication, but it is the primary tool that Jesus used and it is the way the early disciples passed on what Jesus had taught them. Avery Willis is often considered the father of the modern oral training emphasis. He wrote and spoke often about the value of oral training. In his book, Truth that Sticks, Willis states, [Jesus] disciple making was not accidental; it was intentional. Jesus intends for us to make disciples as He did. It was His work, and now it is our work. If we follow His example we will intentionally make disciples as He did.3 The Essenes and the Pharisees, although sincere in their desire to teach the law to all men, required that people had to come to their institutions, learn their special language, memorize a large amount of material. They required that the people be extracted from their popular modes of expression and learn new skills. 4 All of these became barriers for people to know God,

Avery T. Willis Jr. and Mark Snowden, Truth That Sticks: How to Communicate Velcro Truth in a Teflon World (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2010), 127. Herbert V. Klem, Oral Communication of the Scripture: Insights from African Oral Art (Pasadena, CA: W. Carey Library Publishers, 1981), 83.
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understand His Word, follow the Lord and tell others about Him. The institutions, languages and excessive requirements made the Word of God inaccessible to the very people that needed it. One of the significant advantages to the way that Jesus taught is the fact that he was meeting the people where they were at. He was stepping into their world, using their language, going to them, and illustrating His messages with common every day examples. Christ took upon himself the social identity of the majority. He used their popular system of communication and accepted their level of knowledge as sufficient preparation to produce spiritual maturity.5 It is a refreshing manner of learning about God. The work involved with ministry in another country highlights the challenge of stepping into their world, using their language, going to them and removing barriers to education. In rural Tanzania, there is one trained pastor for every 16 churches. The pastor only visits each church three times a year. The rest of the year, the church is served by lay leaders with little or no training in the Bible. They will often use the same few messages on a rotating basis. Like the Essenes and the Pharisees, there are many barriers for these rural evangelists to be trained in Gods Word. If these lay leaders were able to afford training in the Bible, it would mean leaving home, family, crops, income, and influence to attend training at a school in a city with a training that is completely removed from the experiences of daily life. In February, of 2009, a biblical oral training program was begun in Uganda called the Ambassador Institute. The training was modeled in part after the parable and question style that Jesus used. The curriculum consists of six fourteen week terms with one biblical narrative studied each week. The first three terms covered an overview of the Bible. The second three terms covered the pillars of doctrine, character and ministry life. After two years of study, in

Ibid, 83

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January 2011, twenty students completed the entire course. From that group, eight of the graduates became teachers and started seven new classes. The original teacher mentored the eight new teachers so that they could teach the lessons well. The second set of classes completed their studies in January, 2013. Out of that class, twenty five signed up to be teachers and twenty two classes were started. There is an expectation that the next graduating class could be over two hundred and fifty. After the first graduation, Musasazi Wilson, chairman of the students, began to teach three classes, one time he walked three hours to reach the class because his bicycle had broken down. When asked, Why do you give your time and energy to train others? He said, When you have tasted something that is sweet like honey, you want to share it with others. An oral approach such as Jesus used in the parables can make disciples, but it can also make disciples who in turn make other disciples. It is a training that is deep enough to give the profound truths of God yet it is simple and accessible enough for anyone who is willing to walk with Jesus through His Word. It will transform the character of the student so that when he is fully trained, he will be like his teacher.

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SECTION 2 AN EFFECTIVE TOOL TO TEACH THE PEOPLE

The Purpose of the Parable The purpose of the parable can be seen in both the characteristics of the parables and the manner in which Jesus used them. They were brief stories, sometimes as small as an object lesson. They were simple and repetitive, easy to remember and easy to recite again to others. They were made up of objects, examples and experiences from the crowds normal daily life. They often contained major and minor points; they often connected to the Old Testament and the Kingdom of God. They were engaging for listeners at multiple levels and the people were shocked, surprised, and challenged. They were appealing and relevant.6 Warren Wiersbe describes the parables as both mirrors and windows. As mirrors, they help us see ourselves. They reveal our lives as they really are. As windows, they help us see life and God. You may not have an easy time identifying with some truth in Romans 7 or Ephesians 2, but you probably have little difficulty seeing yourself in one of the parables.7 That describes the beauty and the power of the parable. It can be easily understood, easily identified with and yet pointed and revealing. The words for knowing, learning, and inquiring are all found in combinations with parabola. They indicated the close relationship of the word to Gods work by revealing Himself, suggesting that Christ came to be our wisdom.8 In the parable, the listener becomes part of the story. They see themselves as the characters in the narrative not only observers of a text. When
J. O. Terry, Basic Bible Storying: Preparing and Presenting Bible Stories for Evangelism, Discipleship, Training, and Ministry (Fort Worth, TX: Church Starting Network, 2009), Inside Front Cover.
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Warren Wiersbe, Meet Yourself in the Parables (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1979), 14. Martin H. Scharlemann, Proclaiming the Parables, (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1963),

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we hear a parable, we nod in agreement because the story is true to life and readily understood. Although the application of the parable may be heard, it is not always grasped. The truth remains hidden until our eyes are opened and we see clearly.9 Ultimately the purpose of the parable is to teach the people. To do so, they must show us an image of ourselves and a vision of what is beyond. They must engage the listener, connect them to what they know and unveil the mysteries of what they do not understand. It is that mystery that leads the listener to a paradox.

The Paradox of the Parable Jesus describes an interesting paradox when the disciples came and asked Him, Why do you speak to them in parables? Jesus answered by quoting Isaiah 6:9-10. And he answered them, To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. (Matthew 13:10-15)

Simon J. Kistemaker, The Parables: Understanding the Stories Jesus Told, New paperback ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2002), 9.

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This text of Isaiah 6:9-10 is quoted five times in the New Testament.10 It was significant enough that all of the gospel writers included it and Luke recorded it in Acts as well. This prophecy refers to the spiritual deterioration of the people of Israel. They would hear Gods Word but not understand it and they would see Gods power at work, but not perceive what He was doing. Their dull hearts would make them spiritually blind and deaf, and the result would be judgment.11 It may seem unusual that Jesus would intentionally use parables to talk to the people and yet state that the result would be condemnation, but the effect of the parables was two-fold. For those that were seeking God this caused them to look further and listen more carefully. For those who had not responded in faith, what they heard caused them to become hard. By using the parables, Jesus was stirring the interest and curiosity of those whose spiritual senses had grown dull. The Jewish people and specifically the religious leaders had become deadened in their spiritual perceptions.12 By telling stories with hidden meanings, He was arousing their interest and giving them an opportunity to respond to the Gods Word. Some of the parables were so pointed and clear that even with their hardened senses they understood that Jesus was talking about them. When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus' parables, they knew he was talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet. (Matthew 21:45-46) Jesus made a distinction between the crowd and the disciples. The crowd had heard but had not yet responded to the kingdom but the disciples had shown an interest, receptivity, to the Kingdom of God and they committed themselves to following Him on His terms. In response,

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Matthew 13:14-15; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; John 12:39-40; Acts 28:26-27. Wiersbe, 10-11. Ibid, 11.

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Jesus reveals more and a deeper understanding of the truth to His disciples. They were granted the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom. (Matthew 13:11, NIV) The parables clarify and expand upon the knowledge that they already have. They can understand more because they believed and accepted the message of the kingdom. The crowd on the other hand, could not understand more since they did not accept the initial message. In fact the parables even hid further revelation of the kingdom from them.13 The same message that awakens one will harden another. These parables both revealed and concealed. The careless and indifferent, those with no spiritual hunger for truth and salvation, would not understand His teaching. It is not that His Word would harden their hearts so much as their hearts were hardened against His Word.14 The visible application of this principle can be seen when the same story from Gods Word is shared with two different groups of people. The response of one group is energetic, enthusiastic and engaged. The same message shared with another group has no interaction, interest or involvement. In Uganda, there were five people who were part of the original teachers to be trained. They met for two years with the missionary, but when it came time for them to teach others and there were no salaries for the teachers, they abandoned the work. In contrast, the next group of 20 students received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day. (Acts 17:11, NIV) Eight of them became teachers without receiving salaries. The words of Mark 4:11, 12 need to be understood in the broader context in which the writer places them. In the preceding chapter, Mark relates that Jesus encountered blatant unbelief
Knox Chamblin, Commentary On Matthew, IIIM Magazine Online 1, no. 24 (August 9 to August 15, 1999): 1, accessed November 21, 2013, http://thirdmill.org/articles/kno_chamblin/NT.Chamblin.Matt.13.1-23.html.
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Wiersbe, 11.

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and direct opposition. The contrast Jesus presents, therefore, is one between believers and unbelievers.15

Potential of the Parable The potential of the parable is in the fact that it is the Word of God. Hebrews 4:12 says that it is living and active sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Jesus cut right to the core of peoples heart. He exposed their motives and he revealed their hidden agendas. The word parable belongs to the language of revelation. Like grace and faith it belongs to the lexicon of good news; it is descriptive of Gods activity rather than being either prescriptive or predictive.16 Jesus used the parables to describe the kingdom of God. The indescribable was put into words that a common man would understand. In Matthew 13, Jesus paints a picture of the kingdom of God. He describes the heart conditions of those hearing the message. He portrays the small seed of faith that grows into a large tree and the bread dough that rises in the pan. He entices the curious to dig for the treasure and seek for the jewel. Finally, he cautions those listening regarding the fact that the judgment is just as real as the anticipated kingdom. In just a few short word pictures, Jesus drew in the listener and illustrated a spiritual realm that they couldnt even imagine. In the same way, Jesus also used the parables to expose the hearts of men. The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats leaves every person standing guilty before the king when he says,

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Kistemaker, 13. Scharlemann, 14.

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Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me. (Matthew 25:45, NIV) In the same way, the Good Samaritan puts every hearer to shame, the Prodigal Son and the elder son uncover real attitudes of the heart and the Workers in the Vineyard highlight the inborn selfish greedy nature of man. It is not possible to hear these stories without realizing that they were written for today as much as they were written for those at the time of Christ. Thankfully, the parables also proclaim the love of a Father that lavishes His love on the humble and repentant one. In the Parable of the Prodigal, the actions of the Father would have been scandalous to the culture. How could the father take back the son? Why would he wait for one that had shown such disrespect? Who would ever run to him, cloth him, give him a family ring and slaughter the fattened calf for such a contemptible person? Not only in that parable, but what about the parable of the lost sheep? Who would leave 99 safe sheep, wander out in the wilderness to find the one? Gods love shines so boldly from the parables, that we can scarcely comprehend such outrageous grace. The parables have the potential to teach people the Word of God. They can uncover the mysteries of doctrine and cut to the heart of man because it is God who is working in and through His Word. This makes it a unique tool for instructing people in the Word of God because Gods Word is used to teach itself. That makes it a useful tool to bridge cultures as well.

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SECTION 3 - AN ESTABLISHED TOOL TO CONNECT CULTURES

The first challenge that mission organizations face when working with new people is bridging the culture gap. Cultures vary and the forms that are used to communicate to them must adjust to the variety of people. Teaching styles also need to change based on students learning styles. Jesus bridged the cultural gap in a way that connected with the culture and addressed individual students needs. The parables locked in the lesson and left an eternal impact. There was an oral tradition that was in use at the time of Jesus, but the way that He taught was unique from the previous styles.

A Rabbinic Tradition The oral tradition of passing down scriptures goes back to the beginning of Genesis. The entire early history of the Bible was passed on orally until Moses recorded the first scripture. Even after that, the priests were the only ones with access to the written word. The oral tradition was carried on through biblical history up to the time of Jesus and was a part of the synagogue as well as the education system at the time of Jesus. In the synagogues, the Scriptures were read in Hebrew and then translated into Aramaic, for the majority of the people could not read nor correctly understand the Hebrew. The reader held the Hebrew scroll but the translator was not allowed to have any written Aramaic notes of any kind. He was required to give an oral paraphrase that correctly expressed the meaning of the text.17 The only scripture that people knew was the one that they heard on the Sabbath. The

Herbert V. Klem, Oral Communication of the Scripture: Insights from African Oral Art (Pasadena, CA: W. Carey Library Publishers, 1981), 63.

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Jewish rabbis would also use parables and they are included in the Old Testament text, Jesus, however, was certainly the greatest exponent of parabolic teaching.18 At the time of Jesus there were three levels of school that used an oral emphasis to train people. In the first level, the Mikra, boys started learning to recite the scriptures in a melodious pattern at age 5. An approved teacher who had virtually memorized the text taught the children the scriptures line by line until the children could chant the verses by heart with the correct pronunciation. Some schools required the reading of the entire Hebrew Bible before graduating from Mikra, while others only required the successful chanting of the Pentateuch.19 The second level of school, called the Mishnah, was for boys of about 10 years of age who had completed the Mikra. This was for the study of the oral traditions, the Halakah. These were the rules of the Pharisees and rabbis. They indicated what interpretations of the Law were acceptable. These were transmitted orally for 600 years before they were written down.20 The third level of school was the cultural equivalent of the Ph.D. This was the study of the Talmud or the application of the laws in certain situations. This also was completely oral and was passed on from a rabbi to his disciples. Out of 1000 students that began the Mikra only one would complete the training at the Talmud level.21 An oral tradition was the norm of the culture, however, the training that Jesus used did not follow the oral traditions used in the synagogues nor did He model the method of education used to train students in the three levels of the Hebrew education system. Jesus knew the scriptures and was able to recite them. He knew the rules of the Pharisees but He did not teach
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Wiersbe, 10. Klem, 64. Ibid, 65. Ibid, 65.

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them. He knew the application of the scriptures but He did not teach the traditions of men. Jesus used the parable as His oral tool of choice, and it was the parables that made his style unique from the other education models. The people remarked about Jesus that, he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. (Matthew 7:29, ESV)

The Challenge for Jesus Jesus faced some enormous cultural barriers as he taught radical new concepts. The church was to be built on living relationship with their Heavenly Father rather than on the religion and ritual that they had learned from the rabbinic tradition. The parable of the Prodigal Son shows a father that longs for his lost children. (Luke 15:11-32) The parable of the Lost Sheep exemplifies the shepherd who will leave the ninety-nine to look for the one that was lost. (Matthew 18:12-14) The parable of the Wedding Banquet describes a father who wants to invite people to his celebration. (Matthew 22:2-14) Each of these would have astonished His listeners and caused them to reconsider their understanding of the Lord. Along with the new picture of God was a new revelation of how Jesus saw the various levels of society. Instead of some being viewed as more important because of their prominence or position, Jesus uses a child as the example for His disciples. (Matthew 18:1-5) Jesus put Lazarus at Abrahams bosom rather than the rich man (Luke 16:19-31) and the tax collector went home forgiven rather than the Pharisee. (Luke 18:9-14) How could they comprehend this complete reversal of societal norms? Jesus continued his cultural transformation by describing the kingdom of heaven, a new set of priorities, the extreme nature of love toward ones neighbor, the treatment of enemies, the cost of being a disciple, the strength of small faith, the investment of our time and talents, and

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His own return. Extreme Makeover is a TV show that illustrates a picture of the destruction and rebuilding of peoples understanding regarding everything they thought they knew about God. Jesus also needed to empower His disciples with the ability to pass on what they had received. Instead of the previous leadership taking on the role of communicating the Word of God or reaching out to others, Jesus needed to empower fisherman, tax collectors and common people with that life-changing message. They needed to take on the responsibility of the Good Shepherd looking after his sheep. They were to be the workers in the vineyard that were each given a days wage and yet they would be the ones working so as to hear the master say, Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your masters happiness! (Matthew 25:21) It is helpful to consider the challenge that Jesus faced in communicating these radical new concepts to the people. The kingdom that Jesus needed to reveal to His disciples was profoundly different from anything they had ever conceived of. The challenge that Jesus faced in trying to pass on information to His followers was far beyond just a language or a cultural barrier and the nature of the topic was a matter of eternal consequences. This point is relevant to us as well. If, like Jesus, plan on speaking the word to them as much as they could understand, (Mark 4:33), then we must know how people are best able to hear our message. The stakes are too high for us to misunderstand our audiences capacities and preferences with respect to orality and literacy.22 The parables show that Jesus was fully acquainted with human life in its multiple ways and means. He was knowledgeable in farming, sowing seed, detecting weeds, and reaping a harvest. He was at home in the vineyard, knew the times of reaping fruit from vine and fig tree, and was aware of the wages paid for a days work. Not only was he familiar with the workaday world of the farmer, the fisherman, the builder, and the merchant, but he moved with equal ease among the
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Grant Lovejoy, The Extent of Orality: 2012 Update, Orality Journal 1, no. 1 (2012): 16-18.

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managers of estates, the ministers of finance at a royal court, the judge in a court of law, the Pharisees, and the tax collectors. He understood Lazaruss poverty, yet he was invited to dine with the rich.23 Jesus was able to flow between these various strata of society and relate to each as if there was no social barrier between them. The parables made the connection between them possible because they relate to people on a personal level. The human condition shows that inside there is much in common regardless of how society may view the layers. The challenge of reaching people where they are at is the heart of missions and the modern orality movement is making an impact on the methods that are being used to cross cultures.

A Model for Missions Grant Lovejoy points out that, Entire mission strategies have been built on the conviction that oral communicators should be strongly encouraged to learn to read. This happened despite the fact that the early Church grew up, in fact thrived, in an environment dominated by orality.24 This idea stands in sharp contrast to the model that Jesus gave. Modern mission strategies need to consider the use of oral training styles as a bridge from one culture to the next. In the past 10 years there has been a resurgence of oral training in the mission communities. Many organizations have moved from a purely written curriculum to an oral form of training that is often more familiar to the indigenous people and allow ministries the ability to communicate quickly without the long translation process. In the previous examples, Jesus used the parables to describe God, restructure their view of society, teach new concepts, and empower the disciples. Jesus was able to use the parables in

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Kistemaker, 12-13. Lovejoy, 13.

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a variety of settings with easy. It fit into topics about the second coming, to family life, from the business world to the religious. J.O. Terry points out the flexibility or versatility of oral instruction is key for missions. He points out that it is being used with all levels of reading competency. From the inner city immigrant, the deaf, childrens groups, divorce recovery groups to coffee houses. The history of storytelling in several cultures makes it a choice as a missions or ministry method.25 In 2001, fifteen mission organizations came together for an orality consultation. The Oral Bible Network was formed out of that event with sponsor groups including Campus Crusade, Wycliffe, Scripture in Use and the International Mission Board. The mission was to effectively serve oral preferenced communicators in the context of who they were. Their initial partnership became the International Orality Network (ION) in 2005. Since that time, the number of mission organizations associated with ION has grown to include 17 sponsoring organizations and over 400 organizations that have attended their annual conference.26 In 2005, ION and the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (LCWE) jointly published the book Making Disciples of Oral Learners. The network started to broaden by seeing global initiatives started in India (2006) and in cooperation with MANI (Movement of African National Initiatives) in Africa (2008), as well as starting to network and serve through Ethne to Ethne (2006), Finishing the Task (2006), Transform World (2006), Impact Indonesia (2008), and Call2All (2008).27

25

Terry, 12.

How We Began, International Orality Network, October 29, 2013, accessed October 29, 2013, http://www.orality.net/how_we_began.
27

26

Ibid.

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The missions community has taken oral communication to the world because it is a powerful tool to bridge cultures.

A Cultural Bridge Culture is what gives us identity and makes us unique, but culture also separates us from other. Culture is what defines our group of people that have similar education levels, beliefs, customs, language and communication methods. Culture connects us, gives us a sense of belonging, familiarity and peace.28 Yet culture makes it difficult for one people to understand another. Finding a bridge to communicate across these barriers is the goal and the challenge of missions. Culture becomes the key to unlocking the hearts of people all over the world. Studying it illuminates strategies ordained by God to reach people in their own setting.29 The power of the parable and oral communication is fact that it can be the key to unlock the hearts of people around the world. God has created each culture in a unique way and we must study it to make the gospel as relevant to that culture as we can. We should address issues important to them, do so in familiar ways, and use every contextual example we can find to make the truth of the kingdom vital and real.30 That is what Jesus did! He bridged the culture gap from God to man. He described the indescribable heaven with common every day terms. He gave a picture of God the Father and showed both the harsh judgment as well as the unending love. Jesus made it possible to understand enough of the kingdom of God so that it would be sought after like a precious jewel.

28

Durwood Snead, Culture, Orality Journal 2, no. 2 (2013): 42-43. Ibid, 43. Ibid, 45.

29

30

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SECTION 4 AN ENLIGHTENING LITURARY LINK The Living Message A young boy was marveling at a butterfly that he saw floating in the air, going from flower to flower. It moved effortlessly and had a beauty that was captivating. The brilliant colors of the wings were stunning; the fluid motion of its flight was magnificent. He longed to keep it and show it to his friends, so he caught it and took it apart. He took off the wings and put them in one pile, the legs in another pile, the antenna and the body in another pile so that he could show his friends; but in doing so, he killed the butterfly. That story illustrates what we can do to the living, breathing narratives of the Bible. We dissect them into several parts in order to show our friends. A sermon on a parable is given a title, three points, sub points and a concluding application, but the living Word is killed. Where is the encounter with the story and all of its emotion, awe, and wonder? Where is the anticipation of the wedding, the buried treasure, the friend knocking on the door in the middle of the night, and the man lying half dead on the side of the road? Where is the longing father as he waits for his son and the tenants killing the son of the landowner? A parable communicates more than just information it is an experience with God. Jesus left lasting memories in the minds of the disciples and the ministry that has multiplied throughout the world is evidence of its effectiveness. Scholars have studied the parables of Jesus and come to various conclusions regarding how they should be understood and interpreted, but The beauty of the parable is its inherent life apart from dissection, categorization, or systemization. It is important to consider a detailed analysis of these teachings but it is also important to step back and look at the parables, simple as they are.

25

Martin Scharlemann says, The parables describe the kingdom of God in action. They do not deal with abstract truths. They are descriptive, telling us of something that happens when God is busy reestablishing Himself as King among and over men.31 Simon Kistemaker describes, Jesus drew verbal pictures of the world around him by telling parables. By teaching in parables he depicted what was happening in real life.32 The Dynamic Meaning Gilles Gravelle published an article in Orality Journal and pulled information from a study done by Benjamin Bergen on how the brain understands meaning. In it he highlights the fact that the process of communicating is more than deciphering a group of symbols into words, it is more than transferring those words into sounds that make up a language. Communication happens when meaning gets transferred from one person to another. This study addresses the questions of where meaning resides and how is it communicated. Studies using MRI imaging suggest that meaning is made in our minds through simulation. Simulation involves seeing. Our visual system sees non-present things in the minds eye in the same way it sees present things in the world. So this means that thinking is performing. When you are seeing it in the minds eye, you are performing it in your mind, too. When you hear language about things, like the action of running, you use the same brain pathways to visualize it as if you were actually doing it. Its not just vague perception. You construct very detailed meaning. You hear a sound in your mind. You see an action happening. You imagine a result.33

In a parable or an oral story, meaning is transfered directly from the one sharing to the one receiving. Instead of deciphering and processing information, the mind can go directly to the meaning because it is simulating the information that the person sharing is conveying. If we use
31

Scharlemann, 13. Kistemaker, 9.

32

Gilles Gravelle, More Than Words: Linguistics, Language and Meaning, Orality Journal 2, no. 2 (2013): 49-50.

33

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our brain systems for perception and action to understand, then the processes of meaning are dynamic and constructive. Its not about activating the right symbol; its about dynamically constructing the right experience. 34 The mental visualization is the meaning. Both oral processors and print media processors mentally simulate the things that they hear or read, according to Benjamin Bergen.35 Gravelle summarizes these thoughts with an application point, Oral processing of a text could greatly aid in producing similar experiences in the mind of the receiving language speakers so that what they simulate matches, more or less, what is simulated in the mind of the source language oral or written text.36 This means that Jesus use of parables had a benefit beyond the goal of relating to people or sharing stories that would be easy to remember. It means that the parables gave the people the chance to experience the events Jesus was telling them. The people were able to hear the information, but they were also able to enter into the story, to see the events unfold, to feel the emotion and respond as the people in the parable would respond. Oral processing is an active dynamic process. The relevance of using orality goes beyond the use of the parables. The Bible contains more narrative literature than any other literary type; over 40 percent of the Old Testament is narrative.37 That means that the parable model of instruction was not a new idea when Jesus

Benjamin K. Bergen, Louder Than Words: The New Science of How the Mind Makes Meaning. (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2012), 16.
35

34

Gravelle, 52. Gravelle, 52.

36

Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stewart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1993), 78.

37

27

began His ministry. The whole narrative content of the Bible highlights the value of the story. It reaches people that other methods of communication cannot.

The Oral Learners In addition to the topic of how people understand meaning, people fall on a spectrum of their ability to receive information from a written source versus an oral source. What sets orality apart is reliance on spoken language. To the extent that people rely on spoken communication instead of written communication, they are characterized by orality.38 People are sometimes described as literate and illiterate. These terms do not fully describe peoples ability learn from written text because within the literate population is a large percent that prefer to learn orally. They may be capable readers but reading is not how their mind processes information or they may be able to read but yet not be able to repeat what they had just studied. Grant Lovejoy defines the terms primary orality and secondary orality to distinguish the difference between peoples preference to use oral communications. Primary orality exists in communities that have no written language and little or no acquaintance with reading and writing. Secondary orality depends on electronic media and the literate people who operate it.39 The world where there is no written language or there is no acquaintance with reading and writing continues to get smaller as travel, computers, and schools have become the norm even in remote places. However, the population that falls under the secondary orality category is growing. The number of people that receive the bulk of their information from written sources is on the decline and the various forms of digital media continue to increase.

38

Lovejoy, 12. Lovejoy, 14.

39

28

The National Assessment of Adult Literacy measures peoples ability to read on four levels: proficient, intermediate, basic and below basic. Based on results from the NAAL Survey done in 1992 and 2003, only 13% of those surveyed were proficient at reading, which means that 87% read at various levels of difficulty. It also stated that 14% of the people were below the basic level of literacy. 40 This means that, even in the United States, there is a great need to address oral learners and the understanding of secondary orality better defines the fact that people receive information from a variety of sources. The audience for oral communication is beyond the illiterate. Parables and oral communications can bridge gaps that written communication cannot. J.O. Terry describes that oral interaction is literally for all people. It must not be assumed that the Bible Storying is only for non-literates and other oral learners. Stories speak to every level of literacy, education and sophistication. The desire is not to deny anyone an opportunity to know Jesus because of his/her lack of literacy, their oral learning preferences, lack of Scripture in their spoken language or simply a lack of understanding that Gods Word is relevant whatever their spiritual disposition.41 Parables are living breathing stories of Gods action in peoples lives. They are a bridge to communicate meaning and they communicate to all of the various levels of society including those that require or prefer oral communication. Musasizi Wilson is one who come from that background and can speak to its effectiveness.

The Personal Testimonies Musasizi Wilson is the leader of the Ambassador Institute in Uganda. He was a third generation witch doctor, following after his father and grandfather. In 1989, Wilson became a
Kutner,M.,Greenberg,E.,Jin,Y.,Boyle,B.,Hsu,Y.,and Dunleavy,E.(2007). Literacy in Everyday Life: Results From the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NCES 2007480). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, 12.
41

40

Terry, ix.

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Christian and a short time later was asked to be the pastor of a church. Education is an expensive luxury rather than the norm of society in rural Uganda. If he had been able to attend seminary, the western style of classroom with its books and lectures would have been an impossible barrier for him overcome. It would have taken him away from his family, farm, income and influence. It would have been a completely foreign transition. In 2009, at the age of 49, Wilson enrolled in the Ambassador Institute to study Gods Word using an oral training method. Two years later, Wilson graduated and was elected to be the chairman of the teachers. At his graduation ceremony he said, We want to thank you for bringing this oral training to us because we know that now we are receiving the true Word of God. Another example comes from Joseph Handley who attended a training event for pastors in Cambodia. At the end of the training he noted, While these pastors could read and write, the literary and lecture approach was not an effective learning environment for them. They preferred interaction and small group time to discuss and learn together. They were not as enamored as I had been by the volume of written materials and the words on the white board.42

ADD

Joseph W. Handley, Jr., Leader Development and Orality: A Lab on Leadership Formation in the Church of Asia, Orality Journal 2, no. 2 (2013): 77.

42

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SECTION 5 AN EXCITING TOOL TO TRANSFORM LIVES An Amazing Tool The gospels own record describes an exciting response from the recipients of Jesus and His teaching. Matthew 7:35, The crowds were amazed at his teaching. Matthew 31:54 they were amazed. Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? they asked. Luke 4:22, All spoke well of Him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from His lips. Luke 4:32 They were amazed at His teaching, because his message had authority.

Jesus was connecting with His hearers. Their response reveals that the he was getting their attention. It would make sense for them to be amazed at the miracles. We would expect their astonishment when the blind see, the lame walk and the dead are raised to life, but repeatedly, the crowd is amazed at His teaching. Their description includes wisdom, gracious words, and authority; meaning that they were not just impressed with a polished orator. They could see that what Jesus knew was right and good. His words reflected an insightful application, a compelling inviting tone in contrast to that of the Pharisees. Even the parables carried with them the authority. The images, objects and settings from these stories made Gods Word come alive. These down to earth illustrations communicated deep spiritual truths, and the people responded. The crowd represented the full range of people; children, farmers, fisherman, widows, soldiers, Pharisees, rich and poor together. The parables included the same characters. Jesus spoke to a diverse audience and his parables reflected the same diversity yet all of them were able to understand Him. It is of fundamental importance to remember that the parables of Jesus were spoken to ordinary folk. They were related to be understood by even the most simple person.43
43

Scharlemann, 30.

31

A Sharp Tool When does a person realize that they have been cut if the knife is very sharp? Usually, blood is the first indication. When King David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and had killed her husband Uriah, the prophet Nathan told David a parable. There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had very many flocks and herds, 3 but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. 4 Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man's lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him. 5 Then David's anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, 6 and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. (1 Samuel 12:1-6, NIV) Davids response was immediate and he pronounced judgment before he recognized that the parable was referring to him. The peoples response to the parables of Jesus indicates that they were also effective in getting the message across. That response can be seen in the crowds, the disciples, the Pharisees and individuals. One response from the crowds was to follow Him. Everywhere he went there were crowds; by the Sea of Galilee, in desolate places, in Jerusalem, and as He walked along. Even to the point that Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. (Mark 1:45, NIV) That type of response would seem to indicate that they were accepting and excited about Jesus and His message, however there was another response by the crowds. In John 6, Jesus confronted the crowds that had been following him regarding their true motive. When He had described that they would need to eat His body and drink His blood, the disciples found that to be a hard teaching. John 6:66 says, From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

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The disciples responded to the parables by listening carefully and asking for clarification or explanation such as in the Parable of the Sower, where the disciples wanted to understand the meaning of the seed. Mark 4:34 says, when He was alone with His own disciples, he explained everything. Their desire for understanding shows that the Word was at work inside. They wanted, needed to know more and they were unwilling to leave the story until they understood. Jesus told parables to individuals, such as Simon the Pharisee, who had Jesus to his house for supper. Simon did not provide water to wash Jesus feet, but the woman washed his feet with her tears. Jesus told Simon, Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more? (Matthew 7:41-42, NIV) In response to Jesus application, Simon could say nothing in response. In the same way, Jesus addressed an expert in the law and a man looking for his share of the inheritance. In each example, the individuals were silent and the message was clear. The Pharisees also were affected by the parables but with a different response. Matthew 15:12 says, Then the disciples came to Him and asked, Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this? When Jesus spoke parables to the Pharisees they knew that the parables referred to them and repeatedly they plotted to kill Jesus or to trap Him in His words. In Matthew 21, Jesus tells the parable about the landowner who rented out his vineyard to his servants; the servants abuse and kill the servants and the son. In verse 45-46 it says, When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus parables, they knew that he was talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet. (Matthew 21:45-46, NIV)

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The parables were sharp, they cut straight to the point, and they revealed the hearts of the listeners. The response of the Pharisees confirm that Isaiah 6:9-10 is correct. The disciples listened and wanted more, the crowds were amazed but the Pharisees were further hardened in their anger and unbelief. They could hear but they could not understand, their hearts, had grown dull and their ears could barely hear. (Isaiah 6:10, NIV)

Changed Lives There were many that who followed Jesus that were transformed from their encounter with Jesus; Zacchaeus, the woman at the well, the man born blind, Mary, etc.. The Bible does not directly connect the telling of parables to the changes in their lives except for the fact that it was the way that he communicated to the people. On the other hand, the mission community is full of testimonies of people coming to know Christ, growing in him and living for him because of the work of parables and the Biblical narratives. ADD

34

CONCLUSION

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APPENDIXES

The back matter consists of appendixes, glossary (if not placed in the front matter), and bibliography list. Leave two blank lines after the title APPENDIXES and append the document or illustration here.

36

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bergen, Benjamin K. Louder Than Words: The New Science of How the Mind Makes Meaning. New York, NY: Basic Books, 2012. Chamblin, Knox. Commentary On Matthew. IIIM Magazine Online 1, no. 24 (August 9 to August 15, 1999): 1. Accessed November 21, 2013. http://thirdmill.org/articles/kno_chamblin/NT.Chamblin.Matt.13.1-23.html. Fee, Gordon D., and Douglas Stewart. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1993. Gravelle, Gilles. More Than Words: Linguistics, Language and Meaning, Orality Journal 2, no. 2 (2013): 49-50. Handley, Joseph W. Jr., Leader Development and Orality: A Lab on Leadership Formation in the Church of Asia, Orality Journal 2, no. 2 (2013): 77. Help Give JESUS to Everyone, Everywhere. The Jesus Film Project. November 4th, 2013. Accessed November 26, 2013. http://www.jesusfilm.org/. How We Began. International Orality Network. October 29, 2013. Accessed October 29, 2013. http://www.orality.net/how_we_began. Hull, Bill. The Complete Book of Discipleship: On Being and Making Followers of Christ. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2006. Jr., Avery T. Willis, and Mark Snowden. Truth That Sticks: How to Communicate Velcro Truth in a Teflon World. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2010. Kistemaker, Simon J. The Parables: Understanding the Stories Jesus Told. New paperback ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2002. Klem, Herbert V. Oral Communication of the Scripture: Insights from African Oral Art. Pasadena, CA: W. Carey Library Publishers, 1981. Kutner,M.,Greenberg,E.,Jin,Y.,Boyle,B.,Hsu,Y.,and Dunleavy,E.(2007). Literacy in Everyday Life: Results From the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NCES 2007480). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Lovejoy, Grant. The Extent of Orality: 2012 Update. Orality Journal 1, no. 1 (2012): 12-17. McQuilkin, Robert C. Studying Our Lords Parables. Columbia, SC: Columbia Bible College, 1933.
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Scharlemann, Martin H. Proclaiming the Parables. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1963. Snead, Durwood. Culture. Orality Journal 2, no. 2 (2013): 42-43. Terry, J. O. Basic Bible Storying: Preparing and Presenting Bible Stories for Evangelism, Discipleship, Training, and Ministry. Fort Worth, TX: Church Starting Network, 2009. Wiersbe, Warren. Meet Yourself in the Parables. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1979.

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