For much of the past century, our missions efforts have been centered around the concept that literacy is key to a culture's ability to embrace the Gospel. This has been a reality for our Wycliffe friends who teach literacy as they translate so that the people can read the Bible in their own language. This great movement had incredible results. In many ways the global economy that we now enjoy is partially due to the efforts of missionaries.
So we have this wonderful heritage of literacy with missions work. But many in recent years have been asking a question, "Is literacy required to gain an understanding of spiritual things?" This was an innovative question to ask for sure. The result of asking that question was the Orality Movement. The basic idea is that if we have the right techniques and tools, we can communicate to pre-literate and illiterate peoples in a way that will help them understand the Gospel and grow in their faith.
Now that is the concept of Orality, but I would like to present a further innovation in visual communication. A member of our facebook group - Clyde Taber (a former staff member with the Jesus Film Project) - is helping to coordinate a new group called the Visual Story Network. This idea takes the basic concept of tools for oral learners and then looks at a specific subset of those tools - visual ones.
This is a critical area of work because pre-literate, illiterate and post-literate people all respond to visual stories. But in the missions movement, we have been slow to identify and use visual tools because we have been so text heavy. Don't read that as a criticism, it is just a reality of how missions tools developed.
So the big innovation question is this, "How can visual stories transform how we communicate the Gospel?" Whether you are trying to reach people who have never read one word or those who have given up reading in a highly visual generation, this is an important question.
If you are interested in exploring this network of innovators, check out their site. Even better, go to the Visual Story Network Forum that is being held alongside the International Orality Network Conference in Dallas September 16-18.
The goals of the event are to:
1. Gather and engage visual story “innovators and early adaptors” around the vision of a global movement
2. Develop strategy groups focused on Training and Equipping, North America and Global Opportunities. Each strategy group will focus on two achievable objectives (6-9 month time frame).
3. Provide training in the development and use of visual story for kingdom impact
4. Develop relationships with the leaders in the International Orality Network. While their focus is on the use of oral story formats, we believe there are lessons to be shared between the two communities.
5. Provide networking opportunities
6. Present current models of effective visual story