Disabilities And The Church
by Michael A. Justice
According to Genesis 1:27 all people, including the disabled, are made in the image of God because they are humans. Likewise the psalmist speaks of man’s value in Psalm 8:4-5. People who live with disabilities, however, tend to struggle with the feeling that they are of no value. They may even feel absolutely worthless, particularly if they sense there is no need for them at their local church.
Value and dignity are often felt through usefulness. The blind man whom Jesus healed in two stages in Mark 8:23-25 served as a wonderful object lesson to the disciples that their view of Jesus was distorted, needing eventually to become clear (as in Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Matt. 16:16). Even through Moses’s inadequacies and doubt, God used him to demonstrate grace, power, and provision to the people of Israel.
Tom wanted to be on the greeting team of his church, but he was mute. He could see and hear well, but he could not speak. How could he even think of greeting people as they entered the building? Since the leaders of that ministry turned him down, Tom went home and made a sign that he would wear around his neck each Sunday. On it were three well-printed lines.
My name is Tom.
I cannot speak.
Welcome to our church!
When Tom walked throughout the foyer and noticed new visitors, he would show them his sign, then give a big smile, and shake their hands as a welcome to the church. Tom’s proposal was rejected at first because the leaders feared what visitors might think. But the more Tom showed people his sign, the more favorably people responded to his being on the team. Now he is second in command of the greeting ministry, thus using his gift of hospitality. Tom feels useful, and he certainly provides a unique service to help his church. No one has left that church because of Tom’s speech impairment, nor because of the disabling issues of any others.
A church-based disability ministry is more than a ministry to those with disabilities; it is also a ministry through them. But what can be done to accomplish outreach, not only to the disabled but also to anyone who is suffering? Perhaps the best idea is to consider what can be learned from those who are disabled and suffering.
Taken from Why, O God? by Larry J. Waters and Roy B. Zuck, ed. Copyright © 2011. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187.