“Fully welcoming people with disabilities is fundamental to following Jesus.”
Bethany McKinney Fox, pastor of Beloved Everybody Church
When you think of sharing the gospel and making disciples of all, do you think of people with disabilities?
The effects of disability touch a number of individuals and their families within the United States. Erik Carter, researcher and professor of special education, shares that “almost 20% of the population has some type of disability.” If you were to poll any neighborhood, he says, “1 out of 3 households are affected by disability.”
One out of three knows the reality of disability. The question is, does the Church? Are these individuals being invited into discipleship? Are these families being cared for or forgotten by the Church?
Carter also discovered a “participation gap.” A 2004 survey showed “44% of adults with severe disabilities reported attending a church, synagogue, or other place of worship at least once a month, compared with 57% of people without disabilities.” Why are they absent? What is preventing their presence?
Too often people with disabilities are left on the outside, wondering where they fit and when they will belong. Next week I’ll share some of the obstacles that prevent presence and hinder belonging. For now, let us look to the example of Jesus.
He saw people who had been marginalized by society, like the man born blind in John 9. He spoke to those ignored by others, like the blind beggar in Luke 18. He went to where the “invalids” gathered, like the man paralyzed for 38 years in John 5.
Jesus paid attention to those society pushed aside, entering into relationship with them and showing they matter to him. Jesus invites us all to be friends. He wants our love for Him to be embodied and lived out. He wants those with disabilities to be included.
Reflect on Your Own
How has discipleship looked in your own life?
Refer to Scripture
Read the Parable of the Great Banquet. Start with Luke 14:12-24.
Respond with Action
Extend an invitation for conversation and/or prayer. The person you texted two weeks ago might not be a part of a discipling relationship. You can offer the space to talk about what you’re both reading in the Bible, what God is teaching you in this season, and share prayer needs. An even bigger impact is taking the time to pray with each other. With the isolation from community during the pandemic, let technology, like FaceTime, be a gift for connecting.
Bethany McKinney Fox, Disability and the Way of Jesus: Holistic Healing in the Gospels and the Church (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2019), 133.
Erik W. Carter, Including People with Disabilities in Faith Communities: A Guide for Service Providers, Families, and Congregations (Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., 2007), 54.
Erik W. Carter, 2019, “Incomplete Without You: The Church and People with Disabilities,” Presentation for “The January Series,” Calvin College, February 6, 2019. Video, 46:24. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRZHwj6CarM.
Carter, Including People with Disabilities in Faith Communities, 6.