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


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Growing pains

Something occurred to me the other day, actually in the midst of doing a presentation at the Joni and friends conference in Pasadena this past weekend. The changes that the church is/will be/should be going through are going to cause discomfort, perhaps emotional distress to those who want to keep things the same. I have commented elsewhere in this blog that there are those who want video screens or texting questions to the pastor, or some other change, and think they are being so innovative. It is the preoccupation with all things technology. To some this is "painful" as pastors aren't behind podiums and the music is different (I can remember when electric guitars were cutting edge, which only tells you how old I am). But though the presentation is different the message, those present, and the focus are pretty much the same.

The kind of change that I am talking about is the change that comes from including all of the people who would want to be part of a church in the church. People are much more willing to buy a video screen then they are to be inclusive. We still have heated discussions (happened this past Saturday) about whether people with disabilities should be integrated into church programs. We still desire to segregate them. I compared it to cutting off my foot or hand and placing it across the room. It should be a part of me, but it isn't because it is separated. To me that implies we are trying to be something that we might call the "church" (an idea of the church) when we should be becoming the Body of Christ. Please don't get me wrong...The Church is the answer. No doubt about it. However, I don't think it is the church the way it currently is because the church the way it currently is is exclusionary. It is a form of church.

The idea that I had while presenting this past weekend, is that the "difficulties" the church faces as it changes to include all people, are growing pains.
I think they are the growing pains that happen when the "church" becomes the Body of Christ.
I therefore embrace the challenges, the discomfort, the wondering what to do. I will even embrace the errors that come with trying to do something not quite done before. All those are the growing pains of the "church" becoming the Body of Christ.

I remember being a gangly 14 year old who was 6'5". I had to think about walking I was so uncoordinated. That is how the church would be and at times,currently is if it is embracing those with disability in its midst. It is ungainly and uncoordinated. It is experiencing a period of growth it hasn't for a long time. Embrace the pain that comes with growth. Pain usually causes you to do things differently than the way you used to do them. Bring on the pain and seek God in the midst of growth.
McNair

10 comments:

happymomlori said...

Hi Jeff - I just included your post in a note on my facebook profile page. Is there a way to "share" your blog on facebook (much like youtube?)

Good writing. You write my heart.

ANE said...

As a new student at CBU, I was required to take the Exceptional Child with Dr. McNair. This class has been eye opening to the diversity of all people; especially the disabled. I have always been sensitive to people with different backgrounds, cultures, and disabilities. I am an active Christian and enjoy going to church but it was not until I enrolled in the Exceptional Child with Dr. McNair that I began to take a look around my church. I noticed different ethnicities, sexes, classes, there were even boys with emotional disturbances from our church group home. But, there was an absence of disabled people. And, though my church is fairly diverse, I do not feel there has been much of an effort to make people with disabilities want to come out to join the church because there has not been efforts made to make them feel included. Often times the church might offer a healing service but the disabled should not just be invited to the church for a healing service but instead on a consistent basis as a "regular" member of the church. It is definitely time the church experience some growing pains.

Anonymous said...

Although keeping up with technology can be a good thing for the church in that it attacts the younger audiences and keeps the church changing and adapting to the times, I agree that what should really be done to "change" a church or keep it "up on the times" is to start a trend of accepting all types of people into the church. Instead of using the money to buy a new screen that may not need replacing, the church could buy song books written in braile for the blind. Bible studies and fellowship should be enjoyed by every person and the money could go to busses to go get people who can not transport themselves, or towards gas money for volunteers who drive out and pick up these individuals week to week. Whatever changes or advancements are made in the church, they should be postponed until everyone who wants to can benefit from them. If we as Christians claim to love our neighbors and treat all people as God would have, then we need to reexamine our churches and make sure that everyone is present, not just those that are easily reached, but those that require more effort and more work from every member of the church.

Anonymous said...

I am a new student to CBU and even though I am a Christian, I have only rarely attended Church. Exclusion is one of the reasons I have not been motivated to attend, even as an adult who now needs God in her life more than ever. This idea that some Christians have that having a relationship with God is about being perfect bothers me to the point that I feel that I cannot be a part of "the Church". I, for one, know that I will never be perfect. What some people see as imperfection on the outside of a disabled person, that is th imperfection I feel inside myself. If the church is able to deny inclusion to a disabled person for being imperfect on the outside, how can I allow them to include myself when I know the imperfection inside me that they cannot see? I believe, like you, that the church is the answer. But, the church needs to help itself before it can say that it is able to help others.

Jeff McNair said...

Anonymous
As you can see from the "rants" I periodically place here, I recognize that the church has a ways to go to be as inclusive as it should be. But please be careful. I would say that the answer is not to distance yourself, but to work to facilitate change. You will never find anything perfect, in particular the church. So please consider being engaged and facilitating the change, being a part of the change you hope will occur.

Adam said...

Jeff I completely agree with your stance and desire to bring change to the church. Though I'm not a Christian nor a church goer, I am a lover of all persons. I've been greatly touched by my cousin who lives with autism. His approach to life is so optimistic and carefree. The idea that an entity such as the "Church" can exclude individuals based on a condition is absurd. If an individual seeks to find Christ, then all means should be taken to expose that person to the word. The "Church" should serve to empower the community in which it is located; bringing an awareness to the community, better yet an assurance that ALL who desire to be there, can be touched by the "Church". Right now it seems that the "Church" is serving as a microcosm to the societal expectations for individuals with disabilities. And one can ask themselves what they expect of individuals with disabilities. If the answer is anything short of what you would expect for yourself or any other loved one the "Church" is misleading its followers and needs to concentrate its energies on uplifting the perception of individuals with disabilities.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff,

The idea that Christians should be perfect is indeed the thinking that drives so many away from the church, believers and non believers as well as the disabled community. I call them "Pharisees in polo shirts". Those casual well educated, financially successful fit and trim Christians who believe the "church" can become a place the world will admire and want to be a part of because of their efforts.

They also believe a disability is unattractive enough to make the world think less of the church if they are included.

We have a different church, willing to embrace disability ministry, but it is still a great challenge to educate those who believe there is something less than God's will going on with a person effected by a disability. Pity and a one time surge of sympathy is not what anyone needs, disabled, fat, sick, scared or any other form of outer flaw. True realization that we are all flawed inside and but for a brief time may be physically whole on earth. Realizing that can be taken away in a heart beat with an accident or illness is jarring. How we want to cling to our control of life, the disabled smack us in the face with reality! Us weak, Pharisees in polo shirts, nice suits, dresses, what ever, do not want any part of that.

Anonymous said...

I couldn’t agree with Dr. McNair’s assessment of the Churches growing pains more. It is so unfortunate that everywhere we look we are segregated from one another. I have recently taken both Dr. McNair’s course, the Exceptional Child and a course on the history of Minorities in America, and while those with disabilities are not actually mentioned as minorities there is a scary similarity observed today. Too often those with “disabilities” are cast aside from the rest of us “normal” people; of course we would not want to risk catching whatever they have, right? Separated and treated as less than human, somehow unworthy the same type of fellowship and education, not allowed to be with “normal” people. Whoever decided what normal was anyways? I mean it has been ingrained into us that we’re all different, special, and individuals, so how do we also get thrown into the category of “normal” taking away what makes us special.

The most important thing is that we are called to love one another and love God. We were given instruction in expanding the church and help it grow, to treat each other as brothers and sisters in the Lord and to be the body. Not segregate and keep separate from each other and those who are different than us. In fact, I believe that is exactly what Jesus is battling against throughout most of His life when He continually hangs out with those that are considered “socially unacceptable” and even those who were discarded as worthless.

I say RIGHT ON to Dr. McNair and challenge others to be more like minded, including myself. How can we ever grow if we’re never pushed beyond our comfort zone? But even more than that, why should including PEOPLE be pushing the envelope of what is comfortable to us? They are People! And it is sad that we cannot seem to see that simple fact and choose to limit our view by a disability. Maybe it’s the “normal” people with the true disability.

Anonymous said...

Dr. McNair, I completely agree with your post. It is disappointing to read that some individuals are experiencing distress because disability advocates are attempting to make a more visible change within the church. Nobody in my immediate family has had to deal with a disability. However, if somebody close to me or myself had a disability, I would want to feel welcome at my church. Most importantly, I would want the church to make every effort to accommodate my needs. I would also feel very uncomfortable if I felt unwelcomed by my church or by some of its members. I honestly would stop attending church. Therefore, Dr. McNair I agree that the most pressing issue at hand is for the church to include everyone that desires to be part of the church whether as members, volunteers, or as employees. It is quite disappointing that the church continues to segregate those living with a disability. We are all children of God, and this type of discriminatory behavior does not represent the true Body of Christ. In order to make drastic changes within the church, these “growing pains” will be inevitable but valuable. Though some may disagree with the new changes that will take place, they must remember to we are all called to serve the kingdom of God and to love one another.

Anonymous said...

Dr. McNair, I completely agree with your post. It is disappointing to read that some individuals are experiencing distress because disability advocates are attempting to make a more visible change within the church. Nobody in my immediate family has had to deal with a disability. However, if somebody close to me or myself had a disability, I would want to feel welcome at my church. Most importantly, I would want the church to make every effort to accommodate my needs. I would also feel very uncomfortable if I felt unwelcomed by my church or by some of its members. I honestly would stop attending church. Therefore, Dr. McNair I agree that the most pressing issue at hand is for the church to include everyone that desires to be part of the church whether as members, volunteers, or as employees. It is quite disappointing that the church continues to segregate those living with a disability. We are all children of God, and this type of discriminatory behavior does not represent the true Body of Christ. In order to make drastic changes within the church, these “growing pains” will be inevitable but valuable. Though some may disagree with the new changes that will take place, they must remember to we are all called to serve the kingdom of God and to love one another.