The Christian Church has a problem.
The Church, as a whole, doesn’t have solid theology on disability. On top of that, the Church struggles to demonstrate compassion to the disabled. Both of these are essential to every local church, and the Church needs to be taught how to do so.
So, Pastor, this post is for you.
I’ve narrowed it down to three things you should be doing for your church. Your church needs you to lead them to a solid theology of disability. Your church needs you to Preach, Teach, and Point.
Preach the Gospel
This may seem obvious, but you are called to preach the gospel. You are called by God to proclaim the good news of Christ, so do that while looking through the lens of disability.
We are all broken; our relationship with God is marred because our sin. We are all disabled; we are unable to freely obey and purely please God on our own. We are all in need; we all need help to reconcile us to God
But Jesus died for the broken, the disabled, the needy. He lived perfectly, died sacrificially, and rose from the grave in order to make us righteous before God, to give us freedom to obey and please God, and to reconcile us to our Creator and Father.
Preach the good news. Preach Christ. Preach the Gospel.
Teach the Bible
When I woke up, disabled and critically ill, from a coma, I couldn’t even lift a Bible. But, when I could pick one up I was completely unaware that people, in the Bible, I had read about for years were disabled as well. I had no idea.
The first person I learned about was Jacob. Jacob wrestles a “man” (traditionally said it was God) and after wrestling for a period of time, Jacob’s hip was touched and his “hip was put out of joint” that resulted in a lifelong limp and unending pain (Genesis 32). But his lifelong disability was also paired with a blessing from God by rename Israel and becoming the father of the twelve tribes of the nation of Israel.
Teach your church about biblical examples of how God loved and used disabled men and women for His sovereign purposes. Teach your flock about how some of our “heroes of the faith” were disabled and God used, and still uses, the disabled for His name and fame.
Point to People
The last thing that your church needs to hear voices of disabled Christians. (Quick note: There is not an abundance of disabled pastors, writers, and speakers out there, but the prominent voices are amazing.) As someone who was not disabled then became disabled, I wish I had known where to turn for solid teaching and writing from a disabled Christian.
Here are three people to point your church to:
- Joni Eareckson Tada: Joni is the most well-known speaker, writer, advocate for the disabled in the Church. She has been a quadriplegic for 50 years, founded the Joni and Friends ministry, has written over 45 books, and speaks at conferences constantly.
- Vaneetha Rendall Risner: Vaneetha is a fantastic freelance writer and blogger. She contracted polio as a three-month-old baby which led to 22 operations by the time she was a teenager and eventually post-polio syndrome. She has endured plenty of trials since then, and she has become a God-glorifying writer and speaker. (Blog: https://www.vaneetha.com)
- Dave Furman: Dave is a pastor of Redeemer Dubai in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. He has Reflex Sympathetic Nerve Dystrophy, which is causes significant pain and atrophy in both of his arms. He needs help with everyday tasks, but he has been used by God to pastor his church and writes two fantastic books.
Pastors, please do three things to teach your church about disability moving forward: Preach, Teach, and Point.
Preach the Gospel. Teach the Bible. Point to People.
Your church needs you to do so…. Whether they know it or not.