The Deaf: The Most Unreached, Unengaged People Group
Maybe you know this. Maybe you don’t. Some hearing people tell me how sorry they are after learning that I am Deaf. Then I answer back by telling them how sorry I am that they’re hearing. There are advantages to being Deaf. Sometimes I wear my hearing aid, and with it I have “selective hearing.” I can turn on my hearing aid, and I can turn it off! When I sleep at night, no sound will wake me up. When I use sign language, I can say just about anything and people who don’t sign will not know what I’m saying!
Surely, there are many other advantages to being Deaf. But sadly, Deaf people do not know that they have just one tremendous disadvantage: they do not know Jesus Christ our Lord. Of an estimated 150-250 million Deaf people in the world, only 2% are followers of Jesus Christ. An alarming 98% of Deaf people are currently missing out the blessing of eternal life with Jesus. This is why Deaf people are among the largest unreached and unengaged people groups in the world! And no one ever thinks of this.
Do you ever wonder why it is that so many Deaf people do not know Jesus? Deaf people are often neglected, isolated, and abandoned, even within the Lord’s church. Deaf people experience the same thing in their families, schools, and workplaces. In other countries parents abandon their Deaf children because they don’t know what to do with them or where to get help. And one of the worst scenarios is when parents believe that when their child is Deaf, it’s a curse they need to get rid of. Many Deaf people are often looked down upon. And in many countries, Deaf people do not have equal rights, are not allowed to drive, and are unable to work.
Did you know that every 9 out of 10 Deaf children are born to hearing parents? And yet there’s a very low percentage of hearing parents with Deaf children who use sign language to communicate. Family, friends, and churches often do not learn sign language fluently enough to communicate God’s word to Deaf people. No wonder many Deaf people feel isolated and remain unchurched. We need a better way to reach the Deaf.
The Deaf community is a scattered population. Deaf people aren’t focused in one specific geographic area. They’re scattered all over the United States and the world! Therefore, ministry to this scattered Deaf population is very, very difficult.Another challenge is that spoken and written languages such as English are often a second language for Deaf people. The Deaf find it difficult to read and understand the Bible in the spoken and written form used by a majority of churches. Deaf people desire God’s word in a language they can see and understand in their native sign language.
But there are even more challenges the Deaf people face every day, and it’s our desire to overcome these challenges. Regardless of the declining Deaf churches and ministry organizations in the United States, we have been seeking the Lord for his help to better minister to the Deaf people in your local church and city. Indeed, God’s work is not done! God is on the move and he’s reviving his churches by working through many to overcome these communication, language, and geographic barriers separating Deaf people from him.Each of us have this God-given blessing of making followers who disciple others. As Jesus commanded in Matt. 28:19-20, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” God’s kingdom is multiplied, including the Deaf!
While Deaf people remain an unreached, unengaged people group, the traditional “hearing” ministry/mission approaches will not be effective in bringing the Deaf to Christ. The Deaf are uniquely gifted to evangelize and disciple their own people. A hearing congregation needs to develop a movement led by Deaf people among the Deaf in the United States and the world. Hearing people can be a catalyst and support to ensure this happens. We need both Deaf and hearing people working as a team in reaching Deaf people. How can this be done? Begin by praying faithfully, get Deaf people involved, develop training materials designed for Deaf workers and through financial gifts.
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is the story of Jesus healing a Deaf man in Mark 7:31-35. If you don’t remember this story, I suggest you pause now and read it before moving forward. What does this passage teach us? This passage teaches us all to bring Deaf people to Jesus! It doesn’t matter who these people were. What was important about this passage was what they did. They brought the Deaf man to Jesus.
So, how can we help in reaching the most unreached, unengaged Deaf people group within your community and the world!?
Communicate with Deaf people.
You might meet a Deaf person at work, or maybe your friend’s brother is Deaf. He could be your neighbor down the street, or someone you’ll see at a restaurant. And this Deaf person may not know Jesus. Remember only 2% do! Try learning sign language. Take a paper and pen and write back and forth. Use the Notes app on your iPhone and turn on a speaker to show them what you’re saying. Spend time with them and build relationships.
Connect Deaf people.
Connect Deaf people you meet with churches and ministries serving Deaf people, or even launch a new Deaf ministry in your church.
Contribute to churches and ministry organizations.
Serve Deaf people with your prayers and finances. God will use these offerings to enable those working on the frontlines of the Deaf ministries to effectively catalyze Deaf community discipleship to Jesus.
Jesus talked about the importance of “one” in Luke 15. Throughout this chapter Jesus shared three parables with the same theme of “one.” A shepherd who found his lost sheep, a woman who found her lost coin, and a father whose lost son came back home all rejoiced over one! There are millions of Deaf “ones” all over the world with one terrible disadvantage: they’re Bibleless and without Christ!
What will you do to reach them?