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

Friday, October 23, 2009

Corporate Faith

In relation to persons experiencing various disabilities, discussion must be made of aspects of corporate faith versus individual faith. 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that one can speak in tongues of men, be a prophet, move mountains, give everything to the poor, even sacrifice one’s own life, but without love you gain nothing. For those with disabilities who look at the Christian church, and for those within the church who have the awareness to self evaluate, one must ask what we have to offer those with disabilities in terms of faith development because we have lacked love, toward them. We focus on all these things which are described as less important in comparison to love and think we have the ability to grow their faith. We show favoritism to particular people in the face of warnings against such favoritism (James 2:1-13) and then expect to grow their faith.

For many, perhaps most churches, corporate faith development has to precede individual faith development of individuals with disabilities because as a friend with severe physical disabilities once commented to me, “Why would I go to them for help when they have already indicated they have no interest in me?” The church’s corporate faith is in many ways a prerequisite to developing the individual faith of members with disabilities. Many who have endeavored to include persons with various disabilities in local churches for the very purpose of increasing their faith are often frustrated by the lack of faith, the lack of understanding of who God is, their lack of trust in God and dependence upon themselves and their ignorance and actual disdain for God’s desires for all people evidenced in the leadership of churches. What is revealed about what faith is when faith leaders are comfortable with the exclusion of persons with disabilities? Would one go for piano lessons from someone who cannot play the piano or plays poorly with no interest in improving and doesn’t even particularly like the piano? For faith development to occur at local churches there needs to be a change in the understanding of what faith requires in local churches. Why would I possibly want to learn the faith of a group who would exclude me? To tweak the famous Groucho Marx line a bit, “I would not join any group that would not want me as a member.” People with disabilities will not be drawn to a Christian church that does not want them as a member. People with disabilities will not be drawn to a Christian faith that is comfortable with their exclusion. Why would people with disabilities want to learn and grow in the Christian faith if it does not see them as a priority? It doesn’t take Bible knowledge to understand that such a stance is evidence of a lack of faith, whatever the faith of the group is. For the Christian faith, such exclusion indicates that at worst, the faith is not at all Christian, and at best sinful behavior.



Gary Sweeten said...

It seems to me that you are assuming a lot about the perceptions of Ministers and Christian Education Leaders. In my experience, they do not "see" disabled people or understand how the church can and needs to minister to them. I am currently doing research about what parents want from a church and how churches can serve them and the picture is not clear.

As a former CE Director I know how difficult it is to recruit people to teach and disciple anyone, let alone members with special needs.

I am conviced we must do a better job of educating and training CE Directors to research the needs of special people and respond with appropriate activities.

Neil Cudney said...

It's more than just not 'seeing'. The problem is many times they are 'seen' but chosen to be ignored because they are not seen as contributing members, but rather as detracting/distracting ones. It is the observed behaviour of many churches that the 'assuming perspective' comes in. There are indeed exceptions, but sadly, they are just that. I would ask, why is it your asssmption that it would be more difficult to find people to teach people with special? Therein lies some of your answer. Education is good and there's lots of good research available. Ironically, this subject has been the source of much research and education - I'm coming to the conclusion however that my disabled friends have spent much of their time waiting to see the effects. They just want what ever one else does, a place to be ministered to, and a place where they can minister. It's not just the CE directors we must reach however, we must reach into the heart of the corporate body itself -- the image of God is a Corporate one, not mine alone.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the previous comment about how its not that special needs in the church are not seen, but rather they are perceive as too difficult to handle, so people choose to ignore the situation so their life does not become inconvenienced. But if we look at the situation, it is an opportunity we have been give to show God's love. And isn't that what we were put on the earth to do is to show and share the love of Christ? I am confident that some churches are doing there part, but unfortunately the majority need to do work, but after all we are human, sometimes we just need someone to point out our fault so we can correct.

Anonymous said...

I have always said that churches only want their middle class, white, contributing families only. I was merely thinking about other races, classes and familial circumstances, but after reading this post I saw that I was excluding those with disabilities. This just solidifies what I have though for years. Churches just want those who can give their money and serve within. To mean this is saying that whole outer groups arent good enough to be included in their worship. Its horrible that as Christians we dont love one another no matter what.

Anonymous said...

I also agree that Christianity and Christians choose to ignore people with disabilities because they do not want to deal with the hard issues. People in general, especially some Christians believe life should be easier once Christians, but we need to be more open to others and willing to go out of our way to help others.

George said...

When I was reading this I was thinking about a story you discussed with us when you compared the good samaritan story and the church. You talked about what if the good samaritan told the guy to walk into town and then they would help him. The same way goes with the church. The church needs to make a conscious effort to go and reach those with disabilities. Many people with disabilities are unable to drive and therefore need transportation. Also, if it is known in their communities that there aren't churches out there that will accept them, then what will make them just happen to come to your church. The church, as a whole, needs to make a conscious effort to seek those with disabilities and also be able to sacrafice time for transporting them to church. This kind of change will not happen merely by human means because all that will create will be bad attitudes probably. They need to seek the Lord to change their hearts and lives to better acknowledge and accept people with disabilities into their church communities.