Muslim Evangelism and Disciple Training Through Oral Transmission: Based on a Case Study in Fount of All Blessing Church in Kyrgyzstan
This study argues that oral transmission must be utilized to evangelize Kyrgyz Muslims and suggests directions that will contribute to the development of techniques that are appropriate for contextualization. Most Muslims have been living in oral transmission based cultures, and deftly learn and communicate through oral transmission. Therefore, Quran and Hadith, the central texts for their faith, have also been taught and learned through this technique. In contemporary culture, such techniques are carried on not only to continue religious traditions. The historical experiences of Muslims inform how preservation of history through memory can shape worldview and tie their communities.
Oral transmission holds a particular significance to Kyrgyz Muslims. The Epic of Manas is a central poem to their religious nationalistic identity, formulating their worldview and identities. As the heroes that appear in the epic are all strong believers in Islam and Shamanism, Kyrgyz consider Folk Islam, the intermix of Shamanism and Islam, to be essential to Kyrgyz Islam. In order to share the gospel with people in oral transmission cultures, we must identify myths, lyrics, and music that form national identity, and the Epic of Mana is exemplary for Kyrgyz cultural identity.
A Church in Kyrgyzstan utilizes oral transmission of the Epic of Manas as a tool to disciple people. This unique case, which is not observed in any other place in Central Asia, suggests a potential in developing an oral transmission technique that is appropriate for Kyrgyz. Contrived independently by a local Church leader, such a method has been proven to be fruitful in disciple training. When using this technique, believers who recite the Bible are experiencing how the Gospel follows wherever they go, perpetually reminding them to live by God’s will. In addition, when interacting with others, having memorized scriptures in their minds adds confidence in sharing the gospel. While reciting Bible verses through replicating the oral transmission of the Epic of Manas is an excellent contextualized approach for Kyrgyzstan, additional reinforcements can be made to optimize this method. Directly reciting verses does not fully utilize the forte of dictative narratives. Even though adding cadence allows the written text to be transmitted orally, simple recitation lacks narrative and still possesses dominantly literary qualities. The reason why the Epic of Manas holds cultural significance not solely due to the way it is transmitted; rather, it is due to the grandiosity of its narrative that is transmitted orally. The Bible has a meta-narrative that progresses from creation-corruption-redemption-restoration. Numerous stories of each person converge with this meta-narrative.
As a result, arranging Biblical stories as chronology can redress Islamic narratives that are innate in Kyrgyz people and transform their lives through accepting Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is imperative for local leaders and missionaries to contrive strategic arrangements of Biblical stories that fuse with folk tunes and meters.