|"Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world,|
but be transformed
by the renewing of your mind." Romans 12:2a
Please know that I am not writing this from a position of judgment. I struggle on a daily basis with my desire to be comfortable rather than obedient. I even wrote a recent journal about it.
"And my comfort is NOT important. I have a decision to make. Will I follow my feelings, or will I follow the Holy Spirit's lead? We are not called to be comfortable but to be Jesus to those around us."
One of the biggest struggles I have in sharing our ministry with those in the US, yes, even my friends, is that I am often met with the reaction, "I'd love to serve with you but I AM JUST NOT COMFORTABLE around people with disabilities." Sometimes they even say "people like that." This breaks my heart, and if I can be so bold as to suggest it, I believe it breaks the heart of the Father, and of the Son who came precisely for "people like that."
Think about it. How many of the miracles Jesus performed were aimed at those with special needs? To perform these miracles He and His disciples had to be around "people like that." Can you just image the reactions of fishermen and tax-collectors when confronted face-to-face by ten lepers? Do you really think they were comfortable?
No, we may not be able bring physical healing to most of people with physical limitations, though I do believe that God still heals and have seen Him do so in this country. We can, however, bring Jesus to them. And I believed many of us are being called to do just that but our COMFORT is drowning out the voice of the Holy Spirit as he beckons us to come.
I recently listened to a short sermon by Francis Chan on Hebrew 13:12-13:
And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.
Chan goes on to explain that the garbage was put outside the city gate, along with those people who were found to be unacceptable, often including the ill and disabled. So that's were we can find Jesus--outside our city gate--outside of our comfort zone. I think this is the greatest benefit of good mission trips which challenge our comfort, and even security. (Security is, after all, an illusion, but that's for another post).
I believe in 2018, God is directing much of my ministry effort toward the American Churches, while continuing to serve the "least of these" in Guatemala. There are many churches that feel they are meeting the needs of those with special needs, but few which really are. The questions to ponder are these:
What is my church doing to DISCIPLE the those with special needs?
What is my church doing to involve the them fully in the life of the church through SERVING OTHERS?
How does this discipleship model for the disabled fit in with the rest of the discipleship done by your church?
Is it considered enough for your church members to be pew sitters on Sunday morning?
Is it enough for your church members to sit passively in Sunday School classes, and pretty much be ignored by those around them?
Is it enough for your church members to be served, but never invited to serve?
This is the experience of many of those with disabilities who I know. And they attend what we would consider to be good churches.
This year I will be exploring and challenging you with these questions. Besides talking with churches, I will be sharing with you as individuals much of what I am learning through my exploration.
You see, I believe the solution lies not with church programs for those with special needs, but for individuals who are willing to be uncomfortable, and go outside the city gates to come along an individual with disabilities and learn how to disciple and engage them.
I will be sharing stories of individual Christians who have done just that. . .out-reach to a person who may be sitting right near you in church.
Don't know how? We'll help you. My biggest suggestion is just talk to them.
Are they non-verbal? So are animals and we feel perfectly comfortable talking with them!
I AM NOT FOR ONE SECOND SUGGESTING WE TREAT THOSE WITH SPECIAL NEEDS AS "PETS." I AM AFRAID WE DO TOO MUCH OF THAT ALREADY. I AM CONVINCED THAT MANY OF US, HOWEVER, SHOW MORE INTEREST IN THE ANIMALS WE ENCOUNTER THAN WE DO THE DISABLED WE MIGHT MEET.
I AM NOT COMFORTABLE because I fear I have offended you.
Have I offended you? I'm not sorry. The gospel is offensive, and I believe Jesus sent us into the WHOLE world and that includes the world of those with special needs.