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

Friday, December 27, 2019

Disability ministry and cultural change in the church

Matthew 9:16-17
"Besides, who would patch old clothing with new cloth? For the new patch would shrink and rip away from the old cloth, leaving an even bigger tear than before. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved."

Jesus replied this way to the disciple of John the Baptist when they asked about his disciples and their fasting. There might be an aspect of this which applies to the cultural changes in the church that need to occur with the presence of persons with disabilities. The old cloth or old wineskins might be the past and at times current practices of the church in relation to persons with impairments. The new patch or new wine, may be inclusion and belonging of persons with disabilities that does not easily work under the old practices. That is why something new is required.

Disability ministry done well is not simply a room where persons with impairments go, or another program on a night when no one else is there. Would you feel loved and a part of a church, if you were only invited to come there when people who others wrongly considered as having a life defining characteristic were also invited or present? What you experience might be better than no involvement or better than what you have experienced in the past, but it is not what is best for everyone. I will at times try to illustrate this by talking about a church having a "ministry to blue people." Imagine a church that only invited people with blue skin to come on a night, once a week or once a month. This form of discrimination would become the defining characteristic of that group. Yet we think that is OK when it comes to persons with disabilities.

Maybe the cultural change that needs to occur in churches is tantamount to new clothing because the new cloth patch wouldn't hold or new wine skins to hold the new wine. I think one of the points of this is that if the clothing can't be patched, it must be replaced. The new wine needs to be put into a wineskins and the old won't work anymore. The new wine is put into new wineskins so BOTH are preserved. The cultural change needs a culturally changed setting so "both are preserved." It is as Jesus demonstrated. Something that needs to be changed, should be changed. Applying the metaphor to our subject, the change will be good for both the church and those with impairments.


1 comment:

Unknown said...

I think it is really interesting to apply the new wine in old wineskins metaphor to disabled people within the church. I think that the way many churches and people have handled those with disabilities in the past has shown that the methods and practices previously used do not work. I think it’s harder to love people well when you don’t have information or education about how to do that. I think it would be awesome if churches educated themselves and their leadership about the best methods and practices to get disabled people involved in church. The general population has been taught for so long that people with disabilities need to be separated and loved in a different way than the majority of people. As a church, we need to love on people with disabilities as we would love on anyone else. The only difference is that in order to do that, it will not be as easy. It will take conscious effort, intentionality, and work. It will require that the church seek out the lost, not just wait for them to come around. Jesus did not wait for people to come to him, he took the first step and went to them. We will reflect Jesus’ heart when the church also chooses to take the first step.