A Guide to Deaf Ministry
By DeAnn Sampley
3.1 (Spring 1992) : 113-114
With nearly twenty years of involvement in deaf ministry, the author -a hearing person- writes to help others "begin communicating with thousands of loving, stimulating deaf people who live in every neighborhood and community" (p. 13). The title sounds like a call for committed long-term workers, but it is rather a resounding charge to a community of friends who will notice and love unconditionally.
In her friendly and personal writing style the author says, "My goal is to whet your appetite for American Sign Language, stimulate your awareness about deaf culture, inform you on the various methods of communication available to deaf people, and prepare you for more effective ministry to deaf people" (p. 13).
Understanding deafness and the deaf community -sections one and two, respectively- take the reader into "a unique culture that has its own traditions, interests, and tastes and -most important- its own language" (p. 9, forward by Joni Eareckson Tada). Understanding is essential to either starting or joining a deaf ministry in a local church, which is the subject of section two.
The final section focuses on communication (broadly defined), the major hurdle to effective ministry among the deaf. Here Samuel Marsh, a deaf pastor, shares his philosophy of ministry and personal desires for ministering to the deaf as he addresses the age-old missiological question of cultural groups and the need for indigenous local churches. Can a hearing church evangelize and disciple the deaf? Pastor Marsh's response is essentially "yes" it can, but only up to a point. He suggests that the hearing community make the most of every opportunity to minister to the deaf, but the deaf community needs its own spiritual leadership, both to direct the ministry and proclaim God's Word. In other words, the deaf community must receive teaching in the clearest and most effective way -through American Sign Language with no interpreter- and practice its own giftedness.
The effectiveness of hearing Christians in ministry to the deaf will be proportional to their willingness first to understand this cultural group and in this light answer the questions, "How will the 116 The Master's Seminary Journal deaf community hear without a (signing) preacher?" and "What must the church do to present every (deaf) person complete in Christ?"