Connecting Hearts to the Gospel

What is Your Heart Language?

Language. It’s what connects humans to one another, allowing communication, and therefore connection, to take shape.

Heart language is an even deeper level of communication that goes beyond words. It’s more than just the technical aspect of language. It encompasses emotion, body language, and cultural understanding. It’s the language of familiarity—of authenticity.

To Bridge the Gospel Gap

Now imagine if no one knew your heart language. Instead, you were expected to adapt to their way of communicating because others would not take the time to learn the way you best communicate. Imagine not having important details easily accessible to you in a way you understand and always being the last to learn urgent news. Imagine not even having the most valuable of all books—the Word of God—available in your own language. That’s exactly what the Deaf community, both here in Middle Tennessee and around the world, experiences on a daily basis.

Many people think American Sign Language (ASL) is simply a “translation” of the English language. Others think that sign language is universal and therefore easily understood anywhere in the world. It’s not. ASL is unique and beautiful, just like other sign languages used by people all over the globe. And it’s more than just the use of hands to communicate. Sign language involves facial expressions, body language, and so much more. It’s truly a heart language.

Culture & Connection

If you enter The Brentwood Baptist Deaf Church on a Sunday morning, Wednesday night, or come by the Deaf Church in the summer when Camp SummerSign is taking place, you’ll see adults, teenagers, and children connecting through a common language, learning about Christ and His love, and encouraging one another. And it’s this remarkable community that is beginning to make a difference in the Deaf communities of Middle Tennessee and the whole world.

According to the International Mission Board (IMB), there are 36 million culturally Deaf people worldwide. By 2050, that number will increase to 49 million. There are 212 people groups, and all of them are “unreached” with the gospel (less than 2% are evangelical). There are over 200 different sign languages used around the world, but none of them have the Bible available in their heart language.

More than Just Geography

The Brentwood Baptist Deaf Church and the IMB hope to change these numbers. The annual Brentwood Baptist Hope for the World Missions Offering also helps support these initiatives. Efforts are being made to equip, train, and send pastors, missionaries, and church planters around the world to the Deaf Affinity, one of nine IMB Affinity Groups around the world. An affinity group is a group of people who share a common culture, origin, and identity. It refers to more than just a geographic location. The Deaf Affinity is made up of people all over the world in every country. These people need the gospel and efforts are being made to take the Good News to them in their heart language. Currently, 41 Deaf affinity personnel are working among Deaf people through the IMB.

Training and Equipping

One of the ways the Deaf Church is making progress in this effort is through The Deaf Theological Center. When this unique educational center opened at the Brentwood campus in 2014, six students earned 15 seminary credit hours in courses like Old and New Testament, Hermeneutics, Theology, and more. These first graduates are now serving around the world, equipped to share the gospel in with the Deaf in other countries. The Deaf Theological Center is a partnership among the Deaf Church, the IMB, Union University, and the Southern Baptist Conference of the Deaf. It is significant because it prepares the Deaf to become missionaries, church planters, pastors, and more. This means that more Deaf churches will be available around the country and around the world as students graduate and are sent out to fulfill God’s calling on their lives. In 2015, 11 students began working toward completing their degrees through the Deaf Theological Training Center.

An Immersion Experience

In addition to this training opportunity, the Deaf Church also makes a significant difference in the lives of children, teenagers, and their families through Camp SummerSign. For 8 weeks every summer, Deaf children and teenagers, as well as hearing children and teenagers who have Deaf siblings or parents, spend their days learning valuable skills like ASL, problem solving, teamwork, decision-making, and so much more. Participants are also involved in fun field trips including laser tag, volleyball, creating and producing movies, horseback riding, and visiting the Deaf Library in Nashville. Camp SummerSign has been life changing for many. The love and support of the staff makes a significant difference in the life of each person who comes through the door.

The Deaf Church recently celebrated 20 years of ministry. Lives are being changed, and this amazing church is right in the middle of it, working to advance the gospel in the Deaf community in the U.S. and around the world. Great days are ahead, and more people will be reached through the faithfulness of those who are passionate about connecting the gospel to the hearts of the Deaf.