Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Introducing Deaf Ministry - Preliminary Remarks

Over the past two years, I have been blessed to be the associate pastor of Louisville Baptist Deaf Church. I have been involved in this church for a total of 6 years, one under watchcare and three as a full member before becoming associate pastor. I cut my teeth on Deaf ministry here, under the tutelage and mentorship of Rev. Timothy Bender. Pastor Tim continues to mentor me, and I have done nothing but learn under his loving and gracious pastorate. During my time at LBDC, I have come to have a growing expansion of my world, in both the hearing world and Deaf world. I have been introduced to many "important" people in the world of hearing and Deaf ministry, and have been privileged to interact with many others through the medium of the internet. In a recent casual discussion with a friend, he mentioned a certain pastor with a widely-read blog, and how he had been blessed to have on-going correspondence with him. Later, I realized that I seem to have been placed in such a position that I have no other option but to make people aware about Deaf ministry. I feared, at first, that such thinking was ludicrous. Indeed, as I met certain individuals, it seemed to me that such thoughts meant I was "getting too big for my britches." I've always been one to keep my head down and my eye on the ball. Denominational involvement with the Southern Baptist Convention (hereafter "the hearing convention") has never been high on my list of priorities, and what I had been envisioning called for a heavy amount of elbow-rubbing with many of these people and many more I have never met. I felt that it would be enough for me to focus on my church and the Deaf associations we belong to (The Southern Baptist Conference of the Deaf and Kentucky Baptist Conference of the Deaf, hereafter SBCD and KBCD). Then I had a serious discussion with another friend, who basically started smacking me upside the head! My friend upbraided me like I have not upbraided in some time. Instead of asking whether or not I belonged in such circles of influence, the question I should have been asking was, "What opportunities has Providence placed at my disposal by which I may advance the cause of Christ? If I speak up, will God be pleased to use me?" Furthermore, my friend chided me for being defeatist and negative, and for not trusting that the Lord knew what He was doing by placing me in such circumstances. Now that I have been properly humbled, and have had a week and a half to think and pray over this, I come to you with a new series, long promised but long in the coming. Over the next month or so I am going to write a series of posts, at least once weekly, describing for you what Deaf ministry is all about. And I am putting all of you on notice. I will not be ignored. I will shout it from the rooftops, sign it in the hallways of the church and seminary, call upon the Lord's name to make His way straight that His silent people may come to Him. And I believe many of you are standing in that way. It is my intention to bring you, those in a position to do something about this in your own churches, and perhaps even within our denomination, a first-person perspective of ministry to the largest unreached people group in America and the world. I will not claim "expert" status, but I will rest heavily on the experiences and writings of those who have gone before me in Deaf ministry, and how those experiences have shaped my approach to Deaf ministry. I will welcome you into my world, the world of a believer with a unique perspective on both hearing and Deaf worlds. I will welcome you into the world of Deaf ministry. It is time for our hearing brothers and sisters in the SBC to understand just what they have overlooked. It is time for our Deaf brothers and sisters to partner with them in the Great Commission. This is my vision. This is my goal. I long for the day when the hearing and deaf conventions join forces to effect the greatest outpouring of God's grace on the Deaf that the world has ever seen. It is my fervent belief that this is what God desires. Deaf ministry has been ignored and overlooked for many years. In the next post, I will present you some sobering statistics that will show just how overlooked we are. My mother-in-law calls deafness "The Hidden Handicap." Once you have seen the stark reality of Deaf ministry in my next post, I pray you will be as brokenhearted as I at the horror of the vast unreached "silent sinners."

3 Comments:

Blogger G. F. McDowell said...

The key difficulty I have in reaching out with the gospel to someone with a debilitating handicap is often is in answering his objection that God is not good. On the other hand, my interactions with blind, deaf, paraplegic, and other handicapped brothers and sisters in Christ have been sweet and humbling. To a man they have had sweet, broken hearts that are a joy to all around them. I've had some time to think about this issue a little, and I figure that if surveyed, most people would rather be deaf than, say, blind, however, I believe that total deafness can be terribly socially isolating in a way blindness will never be. Isolation and alienation are at the very heart of what it means to be lost. I will look forward to your informed insights into deaf ministry.

8/17/2006 01:21:00 AM  
Blogger Shane Morgan said...

Stephen,

I am almost in tears under the power of your post. It is obvious that you prayed through this issue WELL. My heart is already broken for these "silent sinners" as you call them. Please let me know what I can do to help. I would even be willing to post blogs on my site if you think it would help.

Brothers in Arms,
SM

8/17/2006 07:56:00 AM  
Blogger The Archer of the Forest said...

Unfortunately, churches are notoriously bad at having ministries to any group of people who have any sort of handicap. There are a few for the blind, but the deaf, those with mental disabilities, or even people in wheelchairs largely get the shaft from the mainstream churches. If you can create a model for ministry, I am sure there are numerous places who would be interesting in implementing such a plan.

8/17/2006 11:24:00 PM  

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