NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The Great Commission should compel Southern Baptists to conduct ministry among visually impaired men and women, Paul Ferrara said during a reorganizational meeting of the Southern Baptist Conference of the Blind June 18-19 in Nashville, Tenn.
During the meeting, the conference elected Charles Couey, a master of divinity student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., as president and Ferrara as vice president. Couey, who helped lead the organization when it was active in the early 1990s, and Ferrara will serve on the conference’s constitution committee along with Randall Beasley.
“The Great Commission commands us to minister to blind people,” said Ferrara, a Ph.D. student at Southern. “… The Great Commission is very clear: We are to teach. We are to preach, baptize and do everything else that it says for us to do to make disciples of sighted people and of blind people.”
When doing ministry among blind people, Christians must remember blindness is not caused by a person’s sin but is the result of God’s mysterious providence so that He can accomplish His purposes, Ferrara said.
“God loves blind people and made them blind for purposes we often can’t understand,” he said. “… He makes them the way He wants to make them for a particular reason for some particular work He wants them to do.”
At times God may allow a person to be blind so that He can use their lack of physical sight to make them receptive to the Gospel, Ferrera said. Southern Baptists must take advantage of witnessing and discipleship opportunities among visually impaired people so that their spiritual eyes may be opened to Christ, Ferrara said.
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful for the first thing I see to be Jesus,” he said. “But … how horrible will it be if the first thing a blind person sees is that he’s separated from God and will spend eternity in hell because he did not obey.”
Believers should feel an urgency to provide Braille and audio resources to blind people because many groups advocating false gospels produce a large quantity of Braille and audio resources proclaiming their faith, Ferrara said. For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons and the Unitarian Universalist Association all offer materials for the visually impaired, he said.
“If we don’t minister to blind people, someone else will,” Ferrara said. “… It’s not up to us to make sure that every blind person gets saved. That’s not what God calls us to do. But we need to make sure that the resources are available in one form or another because it’s only fair; it’s only right that if any average individual can walk into a bookstore and get a resource and buy it and walk out in 20 seconds, a blind person should be able to do it.”
In addition to electing officers and forming a constitution committee, the conference adopted five objectives:
— Propose opportunities for fellowship among blind members of Southern Baptist churches.
— Provide opportunities for blind Southern Baptists to develop leadership skills through planning and participating in conference programs and activities.
— Encourage blind members of Southern Baptist churches to participate actively in the total life of their churches.
— Make Southern Baptists aware of the many blind persons among their churches and communities and encourage Baptist leaders to make needed materials and ministries available to blind individuals.
— Offer assistance in the development and distribution of educational and evangelical materials for the use of blind individuals.
Churches need members who can participate in and lead ministries each week, Couey said. Whether those members are “sighted or blind should make no difference. But for us to make a difference we need to have available to us the resources. And they can become available if we put [forth] enough prayer and enough effort.”