Tuesday, May 22, 2007

How should we teach if they cannot read?

I have spent most of my life with people who can read. However, when we were serving in South Asia, we met many national Christians who could not read. Everything they knew from the bible came from what they had been taught by others. They had no way to test what was being said by looking at the scriptures (see Acts 17:10-12). These illiterate folks, many of whom knew much of the content of the bible, were forced to depend on others for their teaching.

The situation with the South Asian Christians brings two related things to mind. First, those who are teaching (whether in South Asia or here in the USA) had better be doing a good job of it because others' spiritual knowledge may depend almost completely upon them. I am reminded of James 3:1 which says, "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment."

Second, when you hear others teach (here I am referring to teaching within a group, not to individual instruction), do you think the teachers are assuming that everyone who is listening can read? If you teach, do you assume this? Now, this can be at least somewhat remedied by people within a church knowing each other well enough to realize whether or not there are people among them who cannot read.

Why does this even matter? Because if a person cannot read, he cannot look back over the scripture that is being taught. Therefore, he might not understand nearly as well what the teacher is saying. He also cannot check to see if the teacher is correct or not. The illiterate man is certainly limited in his ability to "rest in the text" and dwell upon it.

So what should teachers do? I have a few suggestions, but I would like to hear from you also.

Here is what I think we could do to help those among us who cannot read:

1) Read the scripture passage at least twice out loud (see I Timothy 4:13).
2) Repeat the key thrusts of the text several times.
3) Keep the teaching simple (not in content, but in rhetoric).
4) Encourage those who can read to make a point of sitting with those who cannot.
5) Memorize scripture together as a church body.

These are some simple ideas that may help. What other ideas do you have? How can we help those among us who cannot read God's Word on their own?

No comments: