12 Reasons to read DEAFCHURCH 21

What others are saying about DEAFCHURCH 21: Vision for a New Generation

Old wooden door with red blooming roses
Red blooming roses and old wooden door in summer, Italy, Europe

Jesus used “sign” language to reach people who were deaf to the gospel. He changed water to wine, fed the multitudes, and raised the dead to life. In DEAFCHURCH 21, Drs. Ayres and McClain explore the meaning of “signing” the gospel in the secular age. We hear first from those whose passion is to love the Deaf community with the good news of Jesus Christ. We are given a seat at the table for a lively discussion on the issues facing an effective and faithful ministry to the Deaf world. The authors face the challenges with honesty and hope, and develop a dynamic theology of ministry that takes the example of Jesus and the early church seriously. When Jesus said, “Whoever has ears, let them hear,” he wasn’t talking about sound waves; he was talking about the gospel. DEAFCHURCH 21 is a clarion call to wisdom and to action.

Dr. Doug Webster
Professor, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University


Have you ever been pulled into a social media conversational thread because…well, you couldn’t resist? That’s the sense I had as I began reading DEAFCHURCH 21. The authenticity of the dialogue reminded me of how attracted I am to people who ‘keep it real’ – and how certain I am that faithful pointing to Jesus Christ in a world gone wacky may have more to do with our posture than our proclamations. Deaf believers are legitimately a distinct culture. This book’s discussion is a gift from marginalized brothers and sisters in Christ that can encourage us all.

Dr. Dave Rahn
Sr. Ministry Advisor, Youth For Christ USA


DEAFCHURCH 21: Vision for a New Generation explores both the Missio and Communio components of ministry with, for and by persons who are Deaf. Embracing the contemporary challenges of our intensely secularized society, the authors have provided a resource for current and future pastoral workers in Deaf ministry to explore and reflect on how to best support Deaf persons through their spiritual faith journeys, both in our own faith traditions and collaboratively from an interfaith perspective. A “must read” for those called to leadership in the Deaf Church. An inspiring invitation to encounter and accompany!

Mary O’Meara, Executive Director
Department of Special Needs Ministry, Archdiocese of Washington, DC


Drs. Ayres and McClain have written a must-read primer for anyone considering the Deaf Ministry. As a Deaf educator who teaches ASL and Deaf Culture at the University level and has been part of the Deaf ministries in different denominations, I agree that ‘the sacred assembly across the ages has been one of helping to recognize, and even helping to usher in, the Kingdom of God.’ And see this quote as a metaphor of how it’s necessary for Deaf ministry to come together to partake in a spiritual quest to find God. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to educate themselves on Deaf ministry priorities and challenges.

Stephen J. Hardy, II,
ASL Lecturer at the University of Florida


The most successful Deaf Churches/Ministries, for decades, have been generational churches, often not affecting the generation prior nor just after their own. Historically, as congregational members age and die—so does the work. DEAFCHURCH 21: Vision for a New Generation both academically and spiritually recognizes, addresses, and challenges these well-worn trends. The text is a clarion call for young Deaf men and women who are born again and led by the Spirit to respond to the Spirit’s wooing to reach beyond generational margins into the Deaf Community with the purity of Christ’s message of hope and healing. This is definitely a good read for all and worthy of use in academic settings.

Dr. JoAnn L. Smith,
Director, University of Valley Forge Deaf Ministry Program


Much like a trip to my local optometrist, DEAFCHURCH 21 thoughtfully and boldly adjusted the lens of my soul to see with clarity the issues and opportunities that face the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities across our country. I felt a deepening conviction, even as the power of the transformational message of Christ was amplified. This is a call to action: One that the church of Jesus Christ must honor. While the lens of my soul is now calibrated to see the problem in a fresh way, so is the clarity of hope that comes when followers of Jesus live into their calling.

Dan Wolgemuth
President/CEO, Youth For Christ USA


Grounded in strong scriptural understanding and sound theological doctrine (both provide a firm foundation for ministry) and infused with real-life examples directly from online and face-to-face focus groups, DEAFCHURCH 21: Vision for a New Generation presents a blueprint for successful Deaf ministry. Ayres and McClain tell this story as only people experienced in cultural understanding and grounded in authentic faith can tell.

Ben A. Sharpton
novelist, educator, minister


Having been part of a variety of Deaf ministries and churches for roughly 30 years, I have witnessed the birth of some, joined some in the middle of their growth, and sadly, seen others end. This book resonated with my experiences of what works and what doesn’t. What Bob and Rick present here comes from sound wisdom and the Holy Spirit’s guidance. The authors have reflected well our Lord’s desire for Deaf people of all backgrounds to come and know Him. This book is an excellent tool to spur deep reflection if you desire to form a Deaf Church in this century.

Harry Wood
Teacher, Trainer, Youth Leader


Unlike historic efforts in this area, the authors draw on Deaf voices, as well as experienced Deaf and hearing church leaders, to identify historic failures of such ministries. Courageously, the authors address historic issues of oppression, empowerment, and the need to embrace the marginalized. Their challenge is rooted firmly in Biblical truths for achieving God’s vision for Deaf Ekklesia. This text is an inspired “Vision for a new Generation”—must reading for anyone currently involved in Deaf ministry or thinking of setting up an outreach to members of the Deaf community.

Dr. Jan Humphrey
Educator, Ministry Leader, Certified Interpreter-Canada & US
Author of So You Want to Be an Interpreter


If you are looking for a prescriptive model for what a Deaf church should look like, you won’t find it here. What you will find are thought provoking discussions to stimulate further thought about the unique challenges and opportunities of Deaf churches. One sentence in the book sums it up: ‘The calling for the Deaf church is twofold: renewal of a faithful, biblical understanding of what it means to be the church in general and a specific commitment of the distinctiveness of a linguistic and cultural ministry to the Deaf community.’

Terri Chapman, Director
SIL International Global Sign Languages Team


Whether you are in the ministry, an educator working with the Deaf, or are a Church historian, DEAFCHURCH 21 offers readers a unique perspective on the historical contributions of the Church that have almost been forgotten. The book superbly succeeds in highlighting the Church’s role in shaping today’s Deaf culture, their understanding of spirituality, and identity within society. By means of social media, the authors capture the current challenges Deaf individuals in the Deaf Church community face on a daily basis. Furthermore, the book’s structure allows for further thought and discussion at the end of each section and serves well as a course textbook.

Sharon M. DiFino, PhD, CCC-SLP
Clinical Assistant Professor, Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, UF


Students have touted Deaf Diaspora: The Third Wave of Deaf Ministry as one of the most influential books of their college studies. It is therefore thrilling to anticipate the effect this book will have on those in current and future ministry with Deaf people. It is a thorough and essential call to all who are involved with Deaf outreach, to keep the gospel of Christ central. The principles and values apply to both Deaf and Hearing Christians, and the collaborative effort to create a framework for application is a glorious glimpse of the Church carrying out Christ’s mission.

Alta Johnson, Adjunct Professor,
ASL and Deaf Culture, Moody Bible Institute




God’s Gator Wink

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If God had ever said to me, “Bob, I can either give you a million dollars or let you be part of the instructional staff at the University of Florida, you choose.” … I would have replied, “Who needs that much money? Go Gators!”

As someone who grew up in Gainesville, earned my undergraduate degree in education at UF, and walked around the campus of UF with Kathy on our first date, I never dared dream that one day, I would sport a UF nametag and have at least some influence on the education of 240 students who refer to me as “Dr. Ayres”.

You can recognize me on campus as the old guy with a backpack, riding an orange, electric bicycle and with a somewhat giddy smile of amazement on his face.

In my head, I’m saying to God: Lord, I just cannot believe you opened this door for me to be on this campus! I get to instruct some of the smartest, most motivated young people on the planet.  Certainly, I can now die a happy man (though hopefully not anytime soon). Riding a bicycle through masses of cars, bikes, scooters, skateboards and anything with at least one wheel—the most daunting, are the drivers with one hand on the steering wheel and the other holding a smartphone—these things often bring me much closer to Jesus than I anticipated.

Yet God’s favorite word seems to be, “Surprise!”

Now, for the reality check: it is only fifteen hours a week, provides occasional opportunities to teach, and is not a permanent position. I have other things God is calling me to do so I may or may not apply for a full-time position. Yet this experience is the fulfillment a young boy’s dream and satisfaction for an old man’s ego to bear the title: Adjunct Lecturer – University of Florida.

My parents have passed away, but they would be so proud. Both were career educators (graduates of UF) and Dad taught at the college level for a couple of decades. He loved going to graduations (which I certainly do not) and he was always advising undergrad students to major in math. Dad would often remark, “You can succeed in any profession, if you major in math.” Mom was our greatest encourager and believed that her kids could anything with enough time and effort.

Isn’t it funny, that at 63 years old, even with both parents gone, I still want to make them proud. By the way, I didn’t major in math… which may explain why an offer of a million dollars from God wouldn’t hold that much sway for me.

The point of this blog (besides sharing my exuberance) is to pay attention to the blessings of today. Never have so many, had so much, for so long. Pause from stressful distractions in life to pause, breathe, look into the eyes of your loved ones (both two and four-legged ones), pick up a good book, or just ponder the gifts in your life. They embrace us.

In fact, I bet you could name half a dozen really cool things in your life right now! For one, you are God’s precious creation and he is good, all the time. One of my colleagues says that God “winks” at us sometimes to remind us of all the good things in life.

Join me in taking a moment and notice something good in your life. Look around. They are right there; somewhere in your heart, mind, or line-of-sight.

As God winked and said, “Surprise!”

I responded, “Go Gators!”



Lots to do today

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O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.

You know when I sit down or stand up.

You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!

Psalms 139:1-6

In the frantic nature of our current day society, we can become easily overwhelmed with a sense of go, Go, GO! Far too often, we fall into the trap of thinking “more is better” in our busy schedules, as though the world depends on us. Sometimes busyness masks control issues which are expressions of deeper trust issues. When we pause, and slow down enough to recognize that God is already working—inside us, through us, and around us—we can more intentionally and calmly reflect this loving and all-powerful God in our thoughts, words, and deeds.

Is life intended to be a race towards some human-conceived goals? Or should we spend more time strolling in the park, holding the hand of our heavenly Father, in a deep, child-like desire to please him? The scripture shows God is most focused on the state of our hearts. He simply calls us to be faithful and pay attention to what is around us.

We serve a God who is often revealed in silence. The prophet Elijah heard God in the “sound of a whisper” following the flurry of strong wind that shatters rocks, rattling earthquake, and scorching fire. Psalm 46:10 reminds us to “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” John 15 takes us deeply into the importance of a life of abiding. Jesus often withdrew to the solitude of the desert for undistracted prayer. Regular prayer is not about “trying harder” but creating space by clearing our minds. God initiates. We respond.

God can transform our busy, broken lives into new and beautiful creations. Success is not necessarily a by-product of faithfulness. God exists in our failures, too. His primary call is for caring relationships, regardless of what the day brings.

So today as you start your day with more on your “To Do” list than can possibly be accomplished, pause and remember God’s presence. We cannot work our way into his favor; we are fully accepted by his grace. We cannot be good enough to earn his love; he already loves us. We can try to push him away from our thoughts, but he already knows them… and his grace is sufficient.

Let’s choose to respond, by recognizing our need, and his provision provided through the cross. Now is the time to enjoy a relationship with the Creator who knows our deepest, most painful secrets, yet passionately loves us so completely. “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!” Yes, lots to do today! What a gift.


Lord, you have examined my heart. You know my thoughts. You know everything I am going to pray before I pray it. Yet you wait expectantly for me as a parent waits for a distracted child to notice a gentle smile. Help me do no less, nor any more, than you want me to today. AMEN

Excerpt from:

City of Pah! Devos for Those in the World of Deaf/HH Teens (A&M Books, not yet released) by Bob Ayres with contributions from friends & colleagues

How to Become like your Enemy

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How to Become like your Enemy

It is really quite simple. Follow the type of advice that C.S. Lewis’ literary demon “Screwtape” might have given to his nephew “Wormwood”, a junior tempter in training. Be sure to read to the end of this blog to see the satirical nature of these suggestions.



Be impulsive. Jump quickly into an argument. Practice sound bites that sting your opponent. The more quickly you attack a view that you disagree with, the better! This prevents you from choosing your words carefully, which might make you look weak or uncertain. Even more importantly, reacting keeps you from considering any important points that might soften your already hard-and-fast opinions.


Stay away from people or information with a different perspective from your own. Only hang around those who will support your point-of-view. “Group-thought” has served the escalation of violence around the world for millennium. Who knows? If you make the mistake of getting outside your circle of influence, you might actually start liking people from the other side. This would undermine your whole intention.


Never miss an opportunity to expect the worse in the other person. Without a doubt, they are doing the same with their opinion of you. Gossip widely and even exaggerate what they are doing that could harm you or others. Speak boldly in black-and-white terms using words like “always”, “never”, and “disgusting.” If you really want to become like your enemy, stoke the fires of personal insult and injury.


If you have done the first three steps, you are well on your way to devaluing the person altogether which definitely brings you more in line with your enemy. Start by comparing the strengths of your position (even your personal strengths) against the weakness of the others’ position (and humanity). Once you begin to feel like they do not hurt, or feel, or experience life like you do, then you are almost there.


Congratulations! You’ve arrived at a place where you completely devalue who you see as your “enemy” and don’t really care if they live or die. You have become like your enemy! Now—unless they are taking a different approach—you have both arrived at the same place; a place where hate rules. The irony is, now that you are so much alike, you should be best friends. I gues this may be why the extremes of society, whether far-left or far-right, seem to have so much in common.


On the other hand…

President Lincoln is quoted as saying after a heated debate following the Civil War about crushing the southern states: “Do I not destroy my enemy, when I make him my friend?”

As followers of Jesus, there is still an even better way. We can pause… pray… and turn to scripture to remind us of who we are, and whose we are: we are ambassadors of Christ, especially during dark, chaotic times.

St. Paul writes:

“A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth.” 2 Timothy 2:24-26

We can act, instead of react.

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3

We can engage, instead of huddle.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-24

We can strive to comprehend, not accuse.

Jesus himself tells us:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:43-45

We can value every person as Jesus did, not devalue those we see as enemies.

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:34-36

We can love our enemies, instead of becoming filled with hate.

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40

Who knows? Even those with whom you disagree deeply may be striving to act, engage, comprehend, value, and love their enemies, too.

You might even become like each other after all… as friends.



Those Moments to Pause

Click Here for a Moment to Pause

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Taking a moment to pause.

Whether it is a flower, or the sunset, or the smile on a child’s face, taking a moment to pause reminds us of how quickly time is passing and how precious this moment is.

I halfway jokingly tell my wife Kathy, ‘On my tombstone, make sure it says “He never missed a day of his life.” Stress, worry, crisis, deadline, or any myriad of unsettling demands often erodes our attention on the beauty that exists all around us.

I’ve learned over the years that life is much less about what happens, than it is about how we respond to it. From my family of origin, I learned the value of humor as a coping skill. Pause. Draw a breath. Notice something you would have missed otherwise. Laugh whenever you can.

Life is a gift that is both precious and fragile. Sometimes, it means we must take a moment to remember.


Ghetto Girl

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There’s no place for her upon the playground
for she’s not so fast or quite as pretty
When she asks them they laugh and run around calling
“Homely girl, go back to town.”
So she shakes her fist in anger
to hide the feelings she has inside her
she runs as far as the school-yard will let her
the teachers call “Hey girl, don’t you hide.”

“I’ll run as far away as my legs will let me go.”
She curses and mumbles under her breath
Stares at her legs, at the scars of long ago and she’ll carry them until her death.

They laugh, the children laugh
at the way she never smiles.
They make fun of her, or just leave her alone;
For the ghettos stretch for miles and miles
and she always has to go home.

When she gets there she has to listen
for someone unseen who’s visiting while her father’s away
She reaches deep in her pocket for the key
The noise is behind closed doors, so it’s okay…

The teachers don’t understand why she doesn’t seem to learn
or why she doesn’t even care.
But what is there for her to try and ever earn
there’s no one to share it with
no one is ever there.

They laugh, the children laugh
at the way she never smiles.
They make fun of her or just leave her alone;
For the ghettos stretch for miles and miles
and she always has to go home.

She is always on her own
Does anybody care…
just how alone?


Many years ago, I wrote these lyrics and my brother Bert put them to music. Always had a special place in my heart. Every child deserves to be loved and cherished. This simple belief led us to adopt five wonderful children who were all born into tough situations.

These words, in no way, are intended to imply that parents raising children in impoverished settings are not loving and involved. In fact, many of these parents are heroic as they teach values and instill integrity in their children while living in such dangerous settings. They are to be applauded and respected for the incredible odds they help their kids overcome.

But this little girl… scars on her legs from beatings, and strangers coming in-and-out of her home… she gets mocked at school as well. “They laugh, the children laugh at the way she never smiles.” Where does a child like this find refuge?

When I wrote this, I simple wanted to create a brief word-picture that causes us to ask ourselves, “do we really care?” If so, then what actions are we called to take?