7/20/2006

Spiritual mind-shifting

Should we be concerned that we as the church have a difficult time reaching out to one another, especially in our differences? Is it our nature to exclude others who are not like us? Do we as a people have to be shown how to include others, or is it something we pick up along the journey? What makes a person inclusive?

These are just a few of the questiosn I hope are allowed to surface among church communities.

I remember special education class when I was growing up. All the "special ed." students were in their class room, while all the rest took up the rest of the school. Certainly, curriculum was an issue and we in America have improved on mainstreaming efforts in schools. There just seems to be something deeper that makes us people that exclude others so easily.

One author wrote about doing special needs ministry with Lifeway publishers and stated that only 5% of America's churches put forth any effort to minister to people with disabilities. Is this because churches don't know how to program such a thing, or because they prefer not to? This is an alarming statistic for Christian churches considering the lame, the blind, and crippled were at the forefront of Jesus' ministry throughout the gospel. Of all the institutions and people groups, church communities should be the most inclusive groups of all.

Maybe a more fine tuned questioned in this regard is this... Does it require a program for the church to reach out to a certain type of people, or should our reach be a natural reaction to who we are? And, does our identity move us further to designing programs and efforts to reach out to certain groups, or can we live together without the programs?

I write these questions because there is a strange cycle that takes place in many churches across the globe in regards to ministry efforts and different people groups. Imagine for a moment that God has one very large table. He is throwing a party and everyone is invited to the bash. What does this look like and is this table reflected in the church today? Does God have one table or many that are bound together in the work of Jesus?

How do we view disabilities? One might say that no one is truly disabled, which leads to normalizing. This thinking would deny the very fact that people are different. There would be no need to pay any attention to the extra needs of others. The opposite view is to say that everyone is disabled in one way or another. I call this supersizing disabilities. Supersizing leads to the same end result in that extra needs are not given a correct amount of attention where needed. For those who are abled minded and bodied, it is important to find a balance. Neither normalizing or supersizing leads to including the disabled in our daily lives and practices of the church.

Bottom line, we all have neighbors. Many who have disabilities. Some of us have family and friends with disabilities. Whether by their own fault or genetics, each of these people are worthy of being included in the life of the church. Nearly ten percent of every city in America is considered to be disabled in some fashion or another. If we are who we say we are, we will make a way for all to play in the kingdom of God.

What barriers does your church face in creating an atmosphere that includes the disabled? Moreover, what does your church do to reach out to this marginalized group of people? What is accessible about your church community? Can that be improved upon? Part of our journey in Christ is about discovering and learning the ways of Jesus. What would your journey look like if you included a cast of mentally and physically disabled people? What could God teach you about the ways of Jesus, through the lives of the disabled?

3 Comments:

At 8:51 AM, Blogger preacher22 said...

Great Tim! God Bless Mike Rice Ashland KY

 
At 12:43 PM, Blogger Tracy said...

Tim,

You deeeply move me. I truly loved your writings. You make a difference in the lives of the many families.

Tracy
www.ccgrows.blogspot.com

 
At 10:21 PM, Blogger melorrie2 said...

Tim
I remember those special ed classrooms too. As an elementary teacher, I am so thrilled to see more inclusion and welcome it into my classroom.

I have a nephew who was not expected to live past 13. He just turned 30! He suffers from hydrocephalis, spinal miningitis, quadropelgic, enlarged heart, and severe spinal curviture. He blesses me with his trust and love.

I have a granddaughter who currently has little hope of surviving a rare form of Leukemia. When others see her, they see her bald head and wonder why she is bald or if she is a boy. When her family, friends and I, her very proud grandmother, see her, we see beauty, blessedness, bravery, courage and the sweetest little smile that will melt your heart away.

I pray that as a society 100% full of imperfections that we love and support any person who asks of us just as Jesus does.

Thank you for your ministries!
Lorrie Ward, Hillvue Member

 

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