International (MNN) — If someone at your church interprets the pastor’s sermon for Deaf people, that’s great! But it may not be everything a Deaf person wants or needs to grow in Christ.
“There is a place for interpreted services. But if you imagine interpreted services were the only option, that would be similar to suggesting that Hispanic churches should always just be the English services interpreted into Spanish,” DOOR International’s Rob Myers says.
“Deaf people are the only disability group that have their own language.”
Language and culture go hand-in-hand. Deaf believers tell DOOR they learn best at a Deaf-led church – where all communication takes place in sign language, and a Deaf pastor leads the service.
Through its 2-by-2 program, DOOR trains and equips Deaf Christians to spread the Gospel and plant Deaf-led churches. Learn more here.
Deaf churches explained
As described here, there are typically three different types of Deaf churches: interpreted services, Deaf churches operating within a hearing church, and independent Deaf churches.
The most common approach to Deaf ministry, Myers says, is placing interpreters in front of the church to communicate the pastor’s sermon. While this approach is neither good nor bad, it can produce unintended consequences.
“Interpreters typically have a wide variety of experience; some of them are very good – I know some excellent interpreters – but some of them aren’t,” Myers observes.
“You can introduce some pretty serious errors into the theology of the Deaf community you’re trying to reach by not having the right person up there interpreting.”
Rather than use interpreters, some hearing churches allow Deaf believers to hold their own services in a separate part of the building. More about that here. The third type of Deaf churches operates independently, completely separate from any hearing community.
Worshipping God in this context provides Deaf believers with another new opportunity – leadership. “Many Deaf people have never even seen a Deaf leader before. It’s one of the reasons that we really, really push for Deaf reaching other Deaf people with the Gospel,” Myers says.
When Deaf believers see another Deaf person in leadership, he adds, “they can picture themselves someday in that position; thinking, ‘wow, if God can use that Deaf leader in this way, God could use me in that way, too.’”
Pray God will raise up the next generation of Deaf leaders. Download this month’s prayer calendar here.
Header image depicts a Deaf believers’ fellowship. (Photo courtesy of DOOR International)