Yesterday on my blog I talked about a ministry to the deaf. People go out to rural areas, find the deaf, and begin teaching them sign language so they can start to function and communicate. In the course of that process, many will respond to Jesus because these people showed love to them.
The question then arises: how do we disciple them? What’s the easiest way for them to get connected? It’s not enough to go to a hearing church and translate. So much of what goes on in a hearing church isn’t relevant to a person without hearing: the jokes, the humor, the relationships. (If you are a hearing person, imagine trying to become part of a deaf church. It wouldn’t be enough to have a translator with you telling you what is going on.)
So instead of trying to incorporate the deaf into hearing churches and instead of trying to plant deaf churches (because the deaf population is so spread out in rural areas), a better emphasis is on making disciples. Ask, “Where are the deaf already gathering together with each other?” And then ask, “What’s one thing we can add to bring Jesus into the midst of that?”
What one thing could you add to make that a more spiritual setting? How could you bring Jesus into that? In my small house church gathering, we light a candle to remind ourselves that Jesus is the light of the world. That recognition of his presence transforms a living room into a sanctuary. So if the deaf– or any other group you are trying to reach– are already gathering in social settings, how can you add one thing into that mix that starts down the path to spiritual development?
In the case of the deaf, one helpful “one more thing” has been Bible stories… via the “history cloth.” This quilt-like teaching tool shows 42 pictures representing Bible stories on the cloth. Designed by the Southern Baptist International Missions board, the history cloth was developed to reach the illiterate, but has been contextualized for the deaf as well.