Can Oral Learners Be Pastors?

Do you think someone can become a pastor if they can’t read the Word of God? Is it possible for someone who learns Scripture through oral means to be qualified and equipped for vocational ministry?

According to International Orality Network, 80 percent of people do not learn through literate means. They may be illiterate, functionally illiterate, have visual impairments, prefer to learn orally, or they live in an oral culture.

With so many oral learners and cultures in the world, orality methods are crucial for reaching people with the Gospel.

Christians in oral cultures often listen to God’s Word in audio, sometimes on constant repeat or in listening groups. We hear stories of believers who are so captivated with the spoken Word of God that they have it playing all day, even as they go to sleep at night.

Scripture is so inscribed on their minds and in their hearts that oral learners sometimes know God’s Word better than believers who have access to print Bibles.

Ed Weaver with Spoken Worldwide says ministries better understand the needs of oral learners today than they did even a decade ago.

However, oral learners — especially those who can’t read — often face a glass ceiling in the ministry world. Without the ability or desire to read God’s Word, theirs is seen as a shallow faith.

“There is plenty of opportunity for growth and understanding that an oral learner can be a pastor,” Weaver says. “An oral learner can be a theologian. It’s just a matter of learning the information, learning and understanding who God is, and [having the ability] to communicate…His plan of redemption.

“They know the Scripture. They know the truth of the Word of God. I think that should be the [only] limiting factor, not the ability to read.”

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SOURCE: Mission Network News, Lyndsey Koh