Before I begin this, I need to make known the topics that I share about Deaf Ministry issues such as music, preaching, worship, events, fellowship, and anything related to what I will share about it is in the opinion and sharing of my thoughts only, it is not the opinion of the church that I work for nor the opinion of the people that worship along with me. I speak for myself only and welcome all those who would like to question my thoughts or my opinions on these issues.
I know that in the last topic was about Music and Visual Aids. Over the next few posts, along with Stephen, we will try to cover alot of ground on the different kinds of needs that a Deaf worship experiences.
In this post, welcome to Deaf Ministry 201: Why Deaf Worship has to be different?
In my early church years, I grew up in church in a “mainstreamed hearing service-reading the pastor’s lips while he’s preaching-following the words in the hymnal books for music-sitting with all the family-laughing last when the congregation hears a funny joke” You get the idea? I benefited little from the worship experience. Why because I strongly could not catch everything the preacher was saying….I was able to follow the music well as I had hearing aids and able to watch people’s lips for cues of when to start singing the next line or the next word.
In the 1980s and early 1990s…my church didn’t have no visual aids and no help for deaf. Keep in mind that I had not learned sign language until years later so I depended the majority of my understanding on lip-reading.
Lets fast forward to 2000, when I first was exposed to Valley View Church where I was introduced to the idea of visual aids, powerpoint slides, videos in church, etc. I was in awe of how much much I was understanding and how much more I was benefiting from the worship experience. And I knew right then, this is what all deaf churches or deaf ministries NEEDED in order to reach the lost Deaf in our communities.
A pastor in Maryland that I recently spoke with said something that pretty much knocked some of my brain cells out and got me collecting them back up to rethink my strategy…in 1 Corinthians 10:23 it states “Everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial” now I know that verse was talking along the lines of other things…but what this pastor was trying to indicate was that…visual aids are permitted only if we feel if it is beneficial to our worship experience.
In our preaching…it is beneficial. In our worship music…it is beneficial. In our sunday school classes…it is beneficial. In all that we do…any type of visual is beneficial…WHY? because most percentage of Deaf in today’s churches rely heavily on visuals.
I cannot imagine preaching or doing worship without the help of visual aids. I cannot see how the deaf churches back in the 70s and 80s did it. But in the time that the generations have changed, we need to be changing with them. In other words, “old wineskins” need to be be out…and we need new taste. This is exactly what I am talking about.
In 2003, the deaf church in my hometown, Louisville Baptist Deaf Church…if I am not mistaken, never really used any visual aids until they saw how much of an impact it made at their Deaf Cafe events towards the deaf that were coming and had no church home. Now, the church is using it more for their preaching and for their worship. Overall, it helps!
Deaf worship varies, yes. I still cherish the ASL songs that have NO music. I envy those who can perform expressive music without sounds. (I have tried and have not really gotten into it) There is a deaf volunteer who sings for Louisville Baptist Deaf Church, Milton Walters…oh my gosh! He by far, blows my heart away with his expressive ASL music. That is cherished everywhere I go because it helps me in my worship as to feed me. But when I get up there to express music in ASL music WITH sound, I am sure there are quite a few who are blown away as well. It is all Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit has no limits to how we should express ourselves in worship. Again, I close this with the saying….”If God is in it, who are we to be against it?”