OBU Adds Orality Academic Program

Already a leading institution in training for world missions and cross cultural ministries, Oklahoma Baptist University will enhance its resources this fall by becoming the first Christian university to offer orality studies in a missions context.

“Orality studies have been added to the OBU curriculum to further prepare cross-cultural ministry students for effective service on the mission field,” said Dr. Warren McWilliams, interim dean of OBU’s School of Christian Service. “Many people in mission areas do not read documents the way most Americans do, so presenting the gospel in an oral form is essential to reaching them with the good news about Jesus.”

OBU students can major or minor in orality studies, which features courses in missiology and anthropology. Key courses in the program are Chronological Bible Storying I and II, which cover communication methods with oral learners in a way that makes it part of their heritage.

“Developing this program has been lightening fast,” said Dr. Bob Dawson, OBU professor of applied ministries, who is the lead developer of the orality studies program. “It started with Dr. Avery Willis coming to OBU to speak in the spring of 2005, and he introduced the concept to all of the School of Christian Services faculty and students. Orality is a lead strategy of the Southern Baptists’ International Mission Board and many other global mission agencies.”

Several countries, including India, have been open to the oral communication of Christian mission work. Dawson said Islamic countries have found such presentations of the Bible less threatening.

“We go and tell stories of people in the Old Testament that are also known in the Islamic heritage,” said Dawson. “They know about Abraham and Moses from their heritage, and now they are learning about them in these oral presentations. It’s a very friendly way to share the Bible.”

Willis, OBU’s Herschel Hobbs scholar in residence, will teach Chronological Bible Storying this fall. The noted missionary and discipleship leader is the executive director of the International Orality Network, a partnership of major missions organizations committed to using oral strategies.

OBU’s orality studies program is endorsed by International Mission Board. Grant Lovejoy, IMB director of orality strategies, is a consultant in the program’s development.

“OBU is on the cutting edge of preparing people for mission service,” said Lovejoy. “Students who graduate with a major or minor in orality will be much more prepared in ministry, especially for parts of the world that have oral cultures.”

Dawson said many of OBU’s current missions majors are considering a change to orality studies.

“We hope the new major and minor will attract students who want to be on the cutting-edge of missionary strategy,” McWilliams said.