Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn't talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren't ready for anything stronger. And you still aren't ready, for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. (1 Cornithians 3:1-3, Life Application Study Bible).
I had lunch this past week with a friend, MD Sias. We always have great conversations! He is a man whose heart is for God. In the midst of our conversations about disability ministry he said something to the effect that we are not really prepared to do "solid food" ministry. I immediately got his point and recognized that in many ways we are still at the stage of what might be called milky ministry. So what do I mean by that?
Too often when I am interacting with people about churches including persons with disabilities, the conversation devolves down to a basic misunderstanding of our requirement to love our neighbor. Now clearly that is not an easy thing to do, however, it is at the same time something that we know that we should obviously be doing. So if you are told that people with disabilities should be a focus of ministry, be included in the church, have their gifting valued, but you respond by saying things like, "they are not a priority for ministry" or "we are not impacted by people with disabilities" or one of myriad other responses given as a reason to not love your neighbor, one must speak to you as one who "belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life." We must take out the carton and fill the glass with milk.
But this also applies to some ministries. There are ministries that are entirely separate, entirely segregated such that there is little to no impact on the congregation. These are "milky ministries" as far as the church goes. You see I cannot expect the infants that attend to be willing to be changed, be challenged to love neighbors who are different from those who they typically interact with. I cannot expect them to think about providing special honor to others because they think they truly are less honorable (1 Corinthians 12:23). To expect that would be to expect them to eat solid food, something "stronger." Unfortunately these "infants" can be anyone from rank and file members up to the leaders of the church. Why are they not ready for solid food? Paul answers that question. "...for you are still controlled by your sinful nature."
To not love your neighbor is to still be controlled by your sinful nature. Now trust me, I do not love my neighbor as I should. But I know that I should, and I am trying to get better and by God's grace I will! I want to embrace the change that solid food would bring to me. I get visions of what I might be able to become if I could nibble and bite on solid food. I get visions of what the church could be if it would increasingly move toward a diet of solid food as evidenced in ministry related to persons with disabilities that would cause real change.
It is funny that when you get a taste of solid food ministry, you aren't as impressed with milky ministry. You are glad that folks are drinking milk rather than nothing, but you want them to experience the change that being filled with solid food brings.