by A. Scott Moreau and Mike O’Rear
No doubt many EMQ readers learned their missiology the academic, propositional way—from books and lectures. It’s only natural for us to teach the way we have been taught, but as the Turkish proverb says, “You can proclaim the truth also in a friendly way.”
No doubt many EMQ readers learned their missiology the academic, propositional way—from books and lectures. It’s only natural for us to teach the way we have been taught, but as the Turkish proverb says, “You can proclaim the truth also in a friendly way.” Increasingly missionaries are discovering the incredible value of story, both the oral telling of biblical narratives and the use of indigenous myths, fables and proverbs as bridges to biblical truth.
This issue of Missions on the Web highlights resources to help you effectively tell the old, old story in fresh, new ways. We focus primarily on biblical storytelling, pointing to additional Web resources on storytelling in general and to directories of stories and proverbs from various cultures. As always, our MisLinks site includes links to the websites mentioned here and others.
“Come and I’ll tell you something,” tickles the ear (African Proverb).
Chronological Bible storytelling is gaining widespread popularity today. The wonderful examples of New Tribes Mission and others established the value of providing a strong Old Testament foundation for communicating the gospel.1 Chronological Bible storying focuses on telling the biblical story as a story rather than teaching about the story.
The Chronological Bible Storying website is a goldmine, a resource for those seeking to communicate the gospel clearly and faithfully, especially in a cross-cultural missions setting. This site is hosted by the International Mission Board (SBC) and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Ft. Worth, Tex.). It provides online the full text of excellent educational materials on orality, literacy and the development of Bible storying, such as “An Introduction to the Oral Communication of the Bible,” “An Introduction to Chronological Bible Storying,” “Constructing a Worldview Profile,” and “A Bible Storying Manual for Short Term Mission Volunteers.” Other offerings on the site include a fascinating Orality Assessment Tool, ten years of the quarterly Chronological Bible Storying Newsletter, and thirty-three different PowerPoint presentations focused on teaching others to develop their own chronological Bible storying skills.
Strategy Network provides a selection of some two dozen articles on orality and links to additional resources on chronological Bible storying, including storying scripts for radio.
Following Jesus is a seven-module audio CD-ROM set designed to train missionaries in the development of chronological Bible storying. It was developed via a partnership between the International Mission Board and Progressive Vision.
Scriptures In Use mentors church planters “to develop a grassroots church planting ministry through simple Bible story-telling and other traditional oral communication media” through their Communication Bridges to Oral Cultures training course.
The Network of Biblical Storytellers is a 26-year-old international, ecumenical organization dedicated to “communicating the sacred stories of the biblical tradition.” They host an annual Festival Gathering, this year’s to be held outside Houston, Tex., August 4-7, on the theme “Sister Act: Stories of Women in the Faith.” Their website offers a select bibliography and an online bookstore with a wide variety of resources for biblical storytellers—books, audio cassettes and video tapes. They also publish the Journal of Biblical Storytelling, available free to members. The Network’s executive director, Dennis Dewey, a biblical storyteller and Presbyterian Church (USA) minister, provides access to additional resources through his own website.
The Telling Place, a partnership between the Bible Society (UK) and North-umbria Community, promotes biblical storytelling and assists Christian storytellers. They publish a newsletter (downloadable back issues in pdf format) and offer a variety of relevant workshops.
Bible storying is available online in a variety of video and audio versions. Listen or watch the God’s Story video, an excellent example of chronological Bible storying, available in audio and video formats in seventy-eight languages.
View the recent Mars Hill Productions video, The HOPE, a superb chronological Bible storying film. Order The Bible’s Greatest Stories (both an OT and a NT version), biblical storying videos on CD-ROM available for only the cost of shipping and handling.
Watch or listen to the Jesus film online in any of sixty languages. Search the Hosanna/Faith Comes by Hearing website for both dramatized and non-dramatized readings of scripture, currently with New Testament recordings in more than ninety languages.
Some good books are available on biblical storytelling, including:
• Reconnecting God’s Story to Ministry: Cross-cultural Storytelling at Home and Abroad by Tom Steffen (chapter eight appeared in the March-April 1997 issue of Mission Frontiers available online.
• The newly expanded Storyteller’s Bible Study by Bill Perry; and The Storyteller’s Companion to the Bible, a multi-volume series by Dennis Smith. Check your favorite bookseller’s website for details and other books. Search more broadly on this topic and try entering the words “biblical storytelling” (without the quotes) in the search engine at Amazon.com: more than four thousand books contain both the words “biblical” and “storytelling” somewhere in their online description.
And finally, don’t overlook the Storying Scarf, a beautiful, twenty-four-by-forty-eight-inch, cotton scarf comprising twenty-one pictures, designed to be used in conjunction with a series of twenty-one chronological Bible stories. The detailed story outlines are provided free on the website and the scarf is available for a minimal donation.
OTHER STORYTELLING RESOURCES
Beyond a focus on exclusively biblical content, a wide array of internet resources can be found to help you further develop your storytelling skills. We’ll briefly cover some of the more significant ones.
Tim Sheppard’s Storytelling Resources site links to a wealth of information, including a comprehensive “Storytelling FAQ” section, an annotated booklist with more than seventy titles, and links to “the biggest collection of storytelling resources on the web,” annotated and categorized for easy reference.
The International Storytelling Center hosts an annual National Storytelling Festival (“the world’s premier story-telling event”) and publishes a free e-mail newsletter. The related National Storytelling Network, a membership organization, provides the extensive Storynet website and publishes Storytelling Magazine.
The UK-based Society for Story-telling encourages networking and provides valuable resources for storytellers.
Story-Lovers SOS (Searching Out Stories) provides an extensive gateway of links to help you find online stories from many countries.
The Storytelling Ring is a web ring of more than 150 sites featuring storytelling resources, organizations, events and the tellers themselves.
At Eldrbarry’s Storytelling Pages you’ll find links to great stories, including biblical stories. The site is developed by Barry McWilliams, a teaching elder in his local church with a passion for missions and a knack for weaving biblical messages into secular stories.
Aaron Shepard’s Storytelling Page is an attractive and beneficial site for storytellers. Chris King’s site, Storytelling Power, has helpful articles and annotated links to online resources to help you enhance your storytelling power.
STORYTELL is the leading e-mail discussion group on the subject. Run by the School of Library and Information Studies at Texas Woman’s University (Denton), it has more than six hundred subscribers from a dozen countries and welcomes both professionals and beginners. Storytellers is another popular, but somewhat smaller e-mail discussion group.
East Tennessee State University (Johnson City) offers, yes, a master’s degree in storytelling. For beginners, the James Madison University site provides a helpful little book online, Handbook for Storytellers.
Center for Digital Storytelling assists in the development of storytelling via various digital media. You can download a pdf version of their forty-three-page Digital Storytelling Cookbook, the manual used in their workshops.
Need help telling the story of your own missions work? Check out the
Toolbox for Video Storytelling, an informative book and CD-ROM combination ($39.00) to mentor you in the development of your own quality video. The book’s detailed table of contents and a four-page Quick Start Guide are available free online.
And finally, mission leaders might find storytelling helpful in their organizational leadership roles. Check out these author/consultant websites: Stephen Denning’s The Springboard2, Doug Lipman’s Story Dynamics and an article by Annette Simmons “The Six Stories You Need to Know How to Tell”.3 But that’s another story.
MYTH AND FOLKLORE
A fable is a bridge that leads to truth (Arabian Proverb).
We don’t have room here to cover adequately the broader world of traditional stories and how they can serve as bridges for the communication of the gospel around the world, but we briefly mention some key resources and leading websites. Links to these sites also appear on the MisLinks contextualization page. First we cover sites that deal with myth in general (or which are universal in scope) and then turn to sites that focus on stories from specific geographic regions.
The insightful Christianity Today article “Myth Matters”, by Louis Markos, highlights the model and methods C.S. Lewis provided for sharing the gospel with today’s world.
Web directories such as Google’s Directory of Myths and Folktales and Looksmart’s Folklore & Mythology Directory offer hundreds of links, grouped by sub-categories. Also see the Directories and Reference Sources sections of the Mythology and Folklore page hosted by the University System of Georgia.
Mything Links is an annotated and illustrated collection of worldwide links to mythologies, fairy tales and folklore, sacred arts and traditions. Folk and Fairy Tales is a large collection of links maintained by a retired professor of Germanic languages from the University of Pittsburgh.
The full text of the three-volume classic reference work, Bulfinch’s Mythology, is available online.
Electronic Folklore Journals has links to academic journals on folklore, maintained by University of Pennsylvania.
To find online resources for specific regions of the world, try these websites:
• Oceania—the full text of Oceanic Mythology by Roland B. Dixon (www.sacred-texts.com/pac/om/index.htm) and the full text of Polynesian Mythology by George Grey.
• North America—The American Folklore Society.
PROVERBS AND SAYINGS
Truth does not need many words (Russian Proverb).
Sometimes the one-liner can carry as much weight as a whole story, and traditional sayings and proverbs can often open the door for biblical truth. As might be expected, the internet is a great international source for sound bytes of wisdom.
The Creative Proverbs search engine lets you search over 12,000 proverbs from 300 countries and cultures by keyword. “This is possibly the largest (and certainly the most creative) internet resource for proverbs.”
One Liners and Proverbs has thousands of popular sayings, with an emphasis on popular Christian sayings. Browse their main collection under “Oneliners A-Z,”or use their search engine. (Their “Computer Tags” section will bring chuckles to anyone who finds their computer experience occasionally leaves them speechless!)
World of Quotes and Famous Quotations Network provide hundreds of traditional proverbs from dozens of cultures, organized by culture. The Wise Old Sayings (www.wiseoldsayings.com/wosdirectory.htm) site includes a search engine—a valuable tool in looking for a particular proverb.
Also, check out De Proverbio, the home page of the world’s first refereed electronic journal of international proverb studies and an electronic publisher of international proverb studies and collections.
You can find regional or cultural collections of proverbs on the Web by going to a search engine such as Google.com and search for “afghan proverbs,” “romanian proverbs,” “african proverbs,” “nigerian proverbs,” etc. Here are only a few examples:
• Russian Proverbs and Sayings is a listing of eighty-two sayings from A Book of English and Russian Proverbs and Sayings by M. Dubrovin.
• The African Proverbs, Sayings and Stories site mentioned above gives access to a wealth of traditional proverbs.
• Read an article on Jamaican Proverbs.
• Closer to home, The ABCs of American Culture web page deals with American proverbs and sayings.
As always, we welcome your suggestions for additional sites to be added to MisLinks; you can use the “Contact Us” link on the bottom of the MisLinks home page. And there you have it.
1. Chronological Bible teaching was popularized by New Tribes Mission. Trevor Mcllwain developed the nine-volume series Building on Firm Foundations starting in 1965 (over 19,000 copies have been sold) and, more recently, Nancy Everson adapted his materials to create Firm Foundations: Creation to Christ. Chronological Bible teaching resources related to the Firm Foundations courses are available from their online bookstore.
2. Centered around his book The Springboard: How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations.
3. From her book The Story Factor: Inspiration, Influence, and Persuasion through Storytelling.
Scott Moreau is editor of EMQ and chair of Missions and Intercultural Studies at Wheaton College Graduate School (Wheaton, Ill.). His e-mail address is A.S.Moreau@wheaton.edu, and the Wheaton Missions Department Web address is www.wheaton.edu/missions
Mike O’Rear Is the president of Global Mapping International (Colorado Springs, Colo.), which is dedicated to providing access to information for church and mission leaders, especially in the Two-thirds world. He also serves as Lausanne senior associate for information technology. His e-mail address is email@example.com<>, and the GMI Web address is www.gmi.org/
EMQ, Vol. 40, No. 2, pp. 236-242. Copyright © 2004 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.