It was in September of 2004 that I returned to a conference where I had heard the previous year about this amazing idea of “orality” (and storytelling in ministry).
My impression about the men leading that conference, people whom I had come to respect and admire greatly, was “these guys are academics; but they’re awful mobilisers!”
“Clearly suicidal” was my response to the Lord’s direction in our lives! He said that year that I should, as a missionary, go back home, start a podcast (i.e. use a technology that no one had ever heard of and which had just been invented), and talk about a subject no one really knew anything about! Where were the funds going to come from?!?
However, the direction was clear, so I obeyed.
And the Lord has done amazing things. From instant interest shortly after launching the show (in May 2006 with our first show), and feedback coming in from 85 countries, I knew something was happening.
I kept meeting people, literally all over the world, who told me how the show had “changed their lives”, or was “an answer to their prayers” to help them when they “hit a wall” on the mission field, and even, rather unnervingly, I was frequently being recognised by the sound of my voice (rather than my name) as I travelled!
The response to the podcast (and the web site I put up as an afterthought to point people to the shows) was phenomenal and staggering to me. I used to constantly sit down and say, “What is the draw? I wouldn’t even listen to me!” But the praise, appreciation, and thankfulness kept flowing. As did the learning curve and skills.
On one fun occasion, I remember going into a restaurant in Thailand where I was met by a chorus of three Singaporean children shouting “story4all!” as I opened my mouth to greet the family sitting there. And they did this before they heard my name and they had never seen me before! Those kids were afflicted, by their Dad (an avid follower), with having to listen to me on story4all podcast every week on their way to school! And the kids actually liked the show too! Unbelievable!
From early days, with Yvette Wilkinson as my co-host, we began to hear of remarkable impact around the world. Like the man who gave up his pastorate in America to eventually go onto the mission field, having discovered the power of storytelling among non-readers and the semi-literate!
Then there was the young woman who, together with her husband, was kicked out of China because of the show! Rather than being unhappy about it, she said that they had “hit a wall” and they were seeing no fruit on the mission field until they heard about story4all. They learned about storytelling and started to put into practice the principles I was sharing in their ministry. They saw so much fruit that the authorities took notice and kicked them out! They are now happily relocated among another unreached people group in another “closed” land and continuing to tell the Story.
It has been a remarkable journey and also rather humbling. So many times I was at the point of giving up, feeling like I was talking to the airwaves, and then the Lord would allow me to meet someone “gushing” about the show or an incredible email would come in from a listener somewhere.
But … now it’s time for a change!
In my new role with Simply the Story, and our imminent departure from the United Kingdom to a life of “no fixed abode”, it is clear (from this summer’s busy time ‘on the road’) that I will be unable to continue this ministry of recording and posting podcasts in our next season of frequent travel with no home and no office (except a mobile one!).
For some time now, the once acclaimed web site, has been showing its age and it is out of date, needing a revamp, and I have just been unable to get to that task for four years!
Also, the podcasts have been affected by changing technologies and unavoidable and substantial upgrades are necessary if we are to continue podcasting on the road.
My wife and I have realised that it is time to lay down the vision we began when we came to live in the UK in 2005. It has served its purpose and raised a banner for making disciples of oral learners in the Church, and others have picked up the baton to run the race from here. The call for us is now to train “the mobilised”!
In 2006 if you typed “making disciples” and “oral learners” into iTunes or Google you only got one result: story4all podcast. Now, we don’t even appear on the front page! And that is a good thing and shows success in our commission.
We have done what we were called to do: to inform, mobilise and resource the Body of Christ to make disciples of oral learners. That task is now happening and many amazing organisations and people are out there with all sorts of creative resources and beautiful web pages (and great podcasts!).
My wife and I have a new role and a new road to walk. We need to focus as we continue to tell the greatest Story ever told and to do it globally. No longer telling it over the airwaves, but going with our feet!
And so, today, I will record one last time … “Remember! Bible storytelling is truth that sticks. This story is for all; let’s story it all!