The Deaf Ministry Is Part of the Big Picture

Working a puzzle has become a holiday tradition at our house. Diane, my wife, and I have two different methods. First, we complete the border and group similar colors. Then, Diane tries individual pieces into every spot along the border. She sometimes looks at the picture for help. I prefer to study the picture, then choose an interesting piece and put it in the place it should be. It may not connect to another piece at the time, but I know it is in the right place because of the picture. Both of our methods require us to use the “big picture.”

Remember the Deaf – Recently a pastor who knows sign language and I sat watching two Deaf men signing fluently. He said, “Five years ago that would not have been possible.” That pastor was responsible for one of those men learning to sign well and also for his learning the Bible. I told him, Jesus said, because “ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40). With a tear in his eye, he smiled. That pastor will have a great reward in Heaven.

Remember the Ministry – Sometimes the deaf ministry is called the sign language ministry. Interpreting is helpful. Preaching and teaching in sign language is needed. But remember, the deaf ministry is to people. Deaf people and their hearing family members can be reached through a good deaf ministry.

Remember the Many – Because Deaf Culture is very different from hearing cultures, Deaf people, interpreters, and others in the deaf ministry may forget that their ministry is only a part of the “big picture.” Several years ago one deaf church told a hearing visitor he would not be counted as in attendance because he was hearing. Thankfully, many deaf churches now provide interpreters for the hearing. Missionary Bob Van Sant (BIMI) started a deaf church, which later started a hearing ministry! It was interesting that the Deaf Church continued strong, even though the hearing ministry was weak at times.

Remember to Stay Connected – Deaf ministry leaders, as other ministry leaders, are responsible for keeping the pastor and/or pastoral staff informed of the progress and needs of the deaf ministry. One ministry should not become a “church within a church.” If everyone were in the deaf ministry, what would happen to the hearing? If no one knew sign language, who would interpret for the Deaf? If everyone were in the choir, to whom would they sing? “But now are they many members, yet but one body” (1 Corinthians 12:19). Everyone is important. All have a place.

Remember One Leader – The typical NFL (football) team has 15 assistant coaches, but there is one head coach (http://goo.gl/Dk9pU9). The board of directors of a corporation must agree on the direction, or there will be confusion. There must be one leader or leadership direction. The pastor must consider the needs of the whole ministry. Some decisions may not favor your individual ministry, but will help the overall ministry. Many times I have tried to force my puzzle piece into the wrong place, but I finally had to yield to the big picture. The deaf ministry, as every other ministry, must be willing to yield to the needs of the whole.

Remember the Individual – Recently, at the 2017 Silent Word Missions Retreat, SWM Director, Ted Camp, put a partially-worked puzzle in the center of the room. Each of the 27 SWM missions team members wrote his name on the back of one piece of the remaining puzzle pieces, and then placed his piece into the puzzle. Because each could see the “big picture,” it was easy to see where his piece fit. The puzzle was quickly worked and looked great! When done, I noticed that none of the names were visible, but were under the puzzle. The big picture was more important than any individual, but every individual was important!

Remember the Team – Diane and I have learned several lessons from working puzzles. We may work the puzzle differently, but we are on the same team. The “big picture” of the puzzle brings us to the same place. The puzzle does not move. Sometimes we even work together separately – she will work on the puzzle late at night and I will work on it in the morning. We inform each other of our plans so we do not conflict. If we find we are working on the same part of the puzzle, one of us will yield to the other. We are in unity with one goal. Together we become successful.

Are you puzzled about the deaf ministry? Learn these lessons from a puzzle! SWM can help you with your deaf ministry. Pastors or deaf ministry leaders, contact me for more information. To contact Jon click here.