The conference was held to educate leaders from churches how people with disabilities are a largely ignored, tolerated and misunderstood “people group.” The teaching for the workshops took on a Biblical view, which I’d never considered. As you read scripture, countless times, they record that Jesus, when he walked on this Earth, healed the lame, deaf, demon possessed, crippled, blind, paralyzed and more. Even when every other person in the area was headed for the Festival celebration, Jesus made his way to the colonnade where people lay in agony and pain wanting to get into the water to be healed. (John 5:1-16)
One in five people have a disability with statistics indicating 15% of the world’s population having some form. That number climbs to 19% in the United States. That insight is staggering and disconcerting! But what is more disconcerting is how churches largely, like most other segments in society, do not minister to this large people group!
As my husband and I chatted about the number of people in our own home church who we know have a disability, I was stunned at the count! Over the past ten years we have had Down’s Syndrome, autism, those who need a breathing apparatus, a walker, wheelchair, a limb amputated, knee replacement, open heart surgery –with residual complications, and many more. While each of these situations were individual, there was no structured ministry for these folks.
Those who knew these conditions, and as a congregation, certainly accommodated these folks, and in most forms, I’d like to think even had a fair level of acceptance. But I can’t help but wonder if we loved these people like Jesus did? Jesus searched these individuals out to let them know he loved them. He ministered to their needs. He created an environment where they could minister to others.
Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a network within each church that not only saw to the needs of each person with a disability, but also minister to them and disciple them, so they could go out to also be a person who could serve and minister and ultimately disciple someone else? Would it be challenging? Absolutely! But it’s what Jesus did! Aren’t we supposed to live our lives like He did?
This idea is not my own; not nearly! This is what the conference wanted those leaders who attended to take home to their churches. The conference changed the way I think about disabilities. When we exclude them, we are not working at our full potential. The Bible says even the least significant part of the body is important. These seemingly unimportant people have much to give and not only want to be served, but to serve.
I encourage you to look into your own congregation. Are those disabled in your church loved and accepted, taught and discipled to be the ‘minister’ they were meant to be? Are there ways you can minister to them?