(Part 1) Proactivity vs. Reactivity in the Deaf Church: Learning to Thrive in the Decline
I was sitting in my office some time ago, and my videophone rang. Those bright lights on the phone alarm shook me awake from my “focus – slumber.” I recognized the name and was excited to see my pastor-friend call me. We’ve not been together for some time.
After our initial pleasantries, we became serious.
“I want to talk with you about the slow death of my church,” he said.
What’s going on?” I replied.
He sighed and began to tell me how the pandemic has changed the entire perspective of his church, not just the regular attenders but also the board members. The pastor felt that the church body was reacting as if they were having a Deaf diaspora – a spreading out. This diaspora caused the body to no longer relate to one another through love and camaraderie (John 13:30 – 35).
While there were some positives that were brought to light, he was highlighting all of the “dis”eases which indicated that his church was indeed dying. He wanted to know how to end it. Through our conversation, I noticed that he was more distressed with what he saw wrong, instead of focusing on what the church body could do.
As a pastor, he felt alone, overwhelmed, unsupported, encumbered, and helpless. Through his vulnerability, he broke down and cried.
After he regained his composure, I let him tell me more. While he talked, I prayed.
The church also became Un-concerned,
Un-willing to work together,
Un-able to think beyond themselves.
I noticed that He was describing all the composites and symptoms of a dying church body.
Composites and symptoms of the church are things like: DIS-unity, Dis-jointing, DIS-satisfaction, DIS-array, Dis-trust, DIS-connect, DIS-loyalty, DIS-respect, DIS-sention.
He began to explain the attitude of the church as one that was IN-censed, IN-troverted, IN-sistent, displaying nothing but IN-ward thinking. The church also became Un-concerned, Un-loving, Un-motivated, Un-willing to work together, Un-able to think beyond themselves.
Finally, he said, because of all of these diseases, he felt un-able to do anything. He felt immobilized to pastor. He was frozen, because he thought he was the only one that could make a difference. That everything rested on his shoulders.
He went on to say that when the church members called him, it usually resembled something like:
Pastor, when are you … why don’t you … I don’t have … my wife and I are … I don’t like ….can we ….can you …. when will you … will you …you need to …. you should ….you’re not ….I don’t feel like you are ….
After 30 minutes of this, I interjected, “Will you join me in prayer?” His face was still. He didn’t respond. So, I prayed with him. I didn’t pray for him – he had enough burdens. I didn’t pray for the people who were burdening him. I simply prayed with him.
After prayer, he looked at me, breathed a sigh of release, and said a hearty “thanks!”
As a result, we agreed that we would meet again. I asked him to think about three things:
- Who called him to the ministry?
- Why did he accept the call to the ministry?
- What were his dreams, goals, and expectations of the ministry?
Catch Part 2 here