“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Expectations of the rank and file

One of the things I have wondered about over the years, is what is the rank and file Christian's responsibility toward persons with disability in the church? There are people like myself who have chosen this area of ministry (or have been guided to this area of ministry) but what of people who have not taken this on as their focus of ministry?

A friend of mine has given his life to cross cultural missions particularly in foreign countries. He once said that if people were truly serious about their faith they would give themselves to this area of ministry. I responded that from my perspective if people were truly serious about their faith they would give themselves to ministry to persons with disability. Obviously we were both wrong. God calls each of us to different areas of ministry. Our role is to find that area and spend ourselves in that area.

However, the idea of the responsibility we each have in foreign missions might help to understand our roles in other areas of ministy. I am by no means the role model for service to the local church, but it helps me to consider what I might expect of others by thinking what God might expect of me, what others expect of me and what I expect of myself relative to ministries developed by the church.
1. I should recognize that the people involved in ministry have somehow experienced a call to that area of ministry. It is therefore a priority for them and I should respect them for responding to that area.
2. I should support their efforts through prayer, financial support as I am able, and perhaps even occasional service.
3. I should take the time to understand their mission, their goals and how I might support them in some way by what I do.

But I also think there is a larger question in disability ministry as the focus of the ministry is present at the church. People go somewhere to do foreign missions. People with disability are regular members within my midst, at my church. What are the rank and file's responsibilities toward these individuals in their midst? It is interesting how passionate people suddenly become about disability when disability visits their family. Obviously one cannot be passionate about everything, and of course I will take a greater interest in diabetes if my father has it, or in India if my daughter is serving in ministry there. But is there some middle ground of interest, support, service that I might engage in even if disability ministry is not the focus of my life?

I have been coming to a growing realization that when I set foot on my church's campus on Sunday mornings, that I am not there for me. Well I am there for me but it is all not about me. Of course there is the worship service which should focus on God, but there are also other interactions with people, and I am not the focus of those interactions. I guess when I buy my donut and coffee I focus on myself (I have become so predictable that the donut lady has my favorite one waiting for me each Sunday!). But when people talk to me, I try to listen. I try to make other's smile with my silliness. I try to teach people with disabilities about the Lord. I try to make others with severe cognitive disabilities feel welcome as they go through their personal church rituals (see May 22). I try to be accepting and encouraging. At times I will take someone out to lunch later in the week or give them a phone call.

I guess these are the kinds of things I should expect of regular church members. As a rule, at least at my church, they are doing a pretty good job.


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