A religious leader was asked, What was the most important thing for a church to do?"
He responded, "What do you think it is?"
The questioner responded, "You should love the Lord you God with all your heart, soul and mind and you should love your neighbor as yourself."
"That's correct! A church should reflect the commands of God."
The questioner responded "What does a church look like that loves its neighbor?"
The religious leader responded with a story.
A man with a disability went to a local church. He went to the worship service of the church. While he was there he was totally ignored. No one so much as spoke to him. It was as if he wasn't even there. He left as he came, a person devalued, without worth.
The man then went to another different church the following week. He went in and was greeted. When he asked whether the church assisted people with disabilities, like himself, they were gracious. However, they said that ministry to people with disabilities was not a priority because they are doing so many other ministries. They did ministries to the poor, and evangelism overseas. So they couldn't take the time to include those with disabilities as a focus of ministry. But they noted that there was another church just down the street that had made ministry to people with disabilities a focus so they felt like they didn't need to address this group of people. They told him to just go there.
The following week the man went to the church down the street the other church alluded to. As he entered, he walked past the handicapped parking spaces and up the ramp into the building. When he used the men's room he noted that there was a wheelchair accessible stall. There was an elevator that went to the second floor and there was a section in the worship center where people who used wheelchairs could sit. During the sermon, the pastor passionately stated, "We are not really impacted by disability, but we will love all people who come to us!"
The religious leader then ask the questioner, "Which of the churches was one that loved its neighbor?"
The man replied, "The one that had the accessible building."
The religious leader replied. "That is not correct. None of the churches were loving their neighbor. The first church ignored people with disabilities in the community. The second church skillfully sidestepped their responsibility toward persons with disabilities. The third church made modifications to their building in response to government regulations. We must not confuse compliance with mandated, government regulations with loving your neighbor. Additionally, it is fine to say that a church will welcome only those who come, but in reality they may not be welcoming to persons with disabilities because so many do not have the ability to come. Either they have intellectual disabilities that prohibit them from getting a driver's license or they have physical disabilities that would make it difficult or impossible to drive a car. So to say we welcome all who come is not sufficient.
“So the man in the story with the disability just kept looking...”
I loved this modern-day parable. There was so much richness, truth, and conviction. When reading the story, I too agreed at first that the last church was the one loving its neighbor, until I read the ending. I think that this is such a prevalent issue for today. The church needs to be more informed of the needs of those with disabilities. I also felt convicted by this post because I now do see the need, and the big impact, a little gesture can go. The Bottom line is that people with disabilities need to be reached out to and included.
I had never realized what a huge problem this was until taking this class. What an eye-opener. While interviewing the pastor at the church I attend for our Church and Disability Part 2 activity, I was taken aback by the response I got. The pastor had not really thought about this issue until we spoke. (It was an eye-opener for him as well). This post mentioned that the second church was sure to minister to the poor, and evangelize overseas. But what of the men, women and children who suffer from mental, emotional and physical disabilities in our own neighborhoods? Jesus would not turn them away, but would welcome them with open arms, and would instruct others to do the same. Churches have the responsibility to welcome all people, and not just because the law states that they should have access. It should be an act of true love and true concern for all of the people in their community.
I believe this story encompasses how we see and treat individuals with disabilities as a whole. A lot of times we feel as though we are addressing individuals with disabilities by making physical structures "compliant" as per stated in the law in most states regarding access for individuals with physical disabilities. The law clearly states that structures that do not address physical access for all can be held liable for not doing so. Unfortunately there is a whole culture surrounding finding those physical structures and punishing them financially in court. If we as a society are truly going to focus on disability and love our neighbor as we love ourselves then we must address all aspects of disability including the unseen mental disability. We also must address the stigma and devalued nature in which we treat individuals with disabilities. What would inclusion truly look like if we were to honestly treat individuals with disabilities as if they were one of our family members. We would not tolerate individuals but rather value their presence in all situations just as you would any other member of your family. Individuals with disabilities would be included in the community because the community would feel a sense of responsibility to help their family in need. A Hill
This is an extremely thought provoking story. There is so much about it that is absolutely true in today's Christian society. I see my church as somewhere between the second and third church. We have certain disability ministries, but only for people who are deaf and hard of hearing. We are welcoming and accepting of all, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they can make our church their home. There needs to be much more outreach into the local community- an active pursuit of people with disabilities. Because as you said, sometimes it is impossible for them to make it to church on their own. But they still need the truth and love of Christ, so why are we not showing it to them?
This is an amazing parable and it's sad to think that each church didn't do a single thing to love on this man. I thought at first that the third church was the one who showed love but they only had accessible things for handicapped due to regulations. They basically had to have the handicap elevator and ramp. This is a great example of what the church's are doing today. Most aren't reaching out to those with disabilities or loving on them and we need to get people in the church to be more accepting like Jesus is.
Right before reading this post, I finished my church and disabilities part 2 and it made me realize how important it is to be welcoming in the church to people with disabilities. I have been to a hand full of churches throughout my life and I have never seen a strong emphasis on working with people with disabilities except for deaf ministry. This story shows that making legal accommodations to a church does not mean anything compared to actually welcoming someone in and not treating them as if their disabilities defines them. I liked how this tied the story of the good Samaritan into it but it really packed a punch when the last church, in fact, was not the good Samaritan. It really just shows that some churches try to make things better, but it is a thing of the heart and being welcoming and loving towards others that is the real need in he church. This class has really opened my eyes to this need and has made me want to get involved and make a difference in my own church.
After reading the post about the good Samaritan Church it really got me thinking about my own church and how even to this day there are no areas that will allow someone with a physical disability to get access to the office that is located in a different building outside of the church. I know that many people within the church emphasize the importance of loving our neighbors, but they never talk about those who have disabilities. Within our church the one thing that I did notice was done over the past year was that there was an area towards the front that is all reserved for those who have disabilities, but even then when there is no more room in the other seating areas other people without a disability will go and sit there during the entire service. The post just really got me thinking about one thing that we need to focus on is talking more about those with disabilities, but also on how we can make them feel like they are welcomed and not solely on the idea that it is mandatory to at least have a designated area for them. Overall, I think the post serves as a great example on how we need to be doing more within the many churches to ensure that we are making people with disabilities feel loved and accepted as they are.
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