Families impacted by disability often feel isolated. And church must be the place where they belong, where they are encouraged, where they find hope and healing.
There are a growing number of churches that are being intentional about caring for and fully engaging with people who have atypical lives. These churches are doing more than just “being nice” to people with special needs. They are actually engaging in life with each other. They are resisting fears. They are stepping in faith despite concerns about being over-stretched. They are taking risks to be engaging. They are discovering that God changes lives and enriches churches when they care for and include each other, especially when life gets the most challenging.
Accessibility isn’t just about ramps, elevators, special seating in the sanctuary and gluten free communion. The church—and Jesus most of all—needs to be emotionally and spritually accessible to all people. And that involves more than just being greeted nicely by an usher.
Jesus was much more than just NICE to people. He fully engaged with them—their questions and their pain. He cared that people experienced belonging in His family and wanted them to feel assured they had tremendous value. Very often, Jesus physically reached out and actually touched hurting people. In fact, Jesus spent a lot of time hanging out with people who were on the fringes, the hurting, the weak, the weary, the “different,” the ill, the disabled, the unpopular, the unglamorous and those who were seeking hope (even when they weren’t really sure where to look).
What Jesus always did was engage in love and his foremost concern was and still always is for us to BELONG with Him and to have HEALTHY SOULS.
Loving and praying for each other is not optional and scripture doesn’t leave room for anything but whole-hearted engagement with people who are suffering. True, it’s overwhelming, scary and messy for us as individuals and as the church trying to meet a wide array of complex needs (e.g., disability, mental illness, aging, chronic illness). But people with atypical lives are not a liability to the community or the church. They enrich our lives, communities and churches!
No situation is too big or too complicated for God.
LORD, forgive us for showing partiality with our love and compassion. You call us to love our neighbors and pray for our enemies. Move people into our circles of influence that give us opportunity to stretch our love muscles and prove ourselves faithful to YOUR ways! This is one of our spiritual acts of worship. AMEN
If I said you can play at a role in
helping someone encounter
a saving relationship with Jesus Christ
would you feel apathetic, scared, doubtful or excited?
I want you invite you to join me in jumping out of a comfort zone. Maybe you’re like me — a Christian with a passion to help others know the saving truth BUT not particularly comfortable with overtly “evangelical” conversations. Does it surprise you that I’m not comfortable explaining the Gospel to someone who doesn’t know it or hasn’t accepted it yet? After all, I’m executive director of a Christian ministry that reaches people all over the world. Sure, my life’s passion and work involves helping people experience more intimate personal relationship with the Savior, but I am not (underscore NOT) an evangelist! Yes, I have even written books and blogs about disciple making. But that rarely involves overt presentation of the Gospel message with someone who doesn’t already follow Jesus. Nonetheless, I’ve jumped into an opportunity of a lifetime recently and I don’t want you to find out about it later and wish that you could have come along (because, trust me, a lot of you reading this right now will be hearing about it later and will truly regret that you missed out)!
A few months ago, I was presented with an opportunity to go on a local mission trip in July 2014 sharing the Gospel with people in the Twin Cities and to do so as part of a team as large as 10,000 laborers! So I started attending monthly prayer, equipping and sharing experiences that are an empowering privilege — connecting me with Christ-loving people who want to lovingly share Jesus with people of the Twin Cities who are lost, broken and without hope.
From the faith perspective, I have to tell you that this is one of the more challenging but exciting things I’ve done in a long time. I’ve already been out on a couple of practice runs with Time to Revivie
and I’m being stretched and encouraged in ways that are very satisfying and God-honoring. Just last weekend I spent some time in a hospital coffee shop and met a young dating couple who were visiting their grandpa who was in his last hours/days with brain cancer. My team asked permission to pray for them and they accepted with awe and tears in their eyes. After we encouraged them and shared the Gospel, they thanked us profusely and went back upstairs empowered to read the Psalms and sing hymns with their loved ones.
So with a training recap
coming up this Friday night and Saturday morning, there’s a fire down in my soul to share this really great opportunity with you. I am praying that you will take a hard look at what you have going on this weekend and consider whether God maybe leading you to participate in a few hours that could not only change your life but, more importantly, change someone else’s life for eternity!
There’s a FREE equipping session Friday night then Saturday morning involves worship, prayer, training review and practice within a small team! You get paired up with two or three other people from churches all around the Twin Cities for an opportunity to pray for others and encourage them to go ALL IN with Jesus. Even if you can only attend one session (Friday/Saturday), give it a go! Larry and I will be watching out for friends and would love to see you there!
And the beauty is that you can jump into the fun fray of this at any point (no prior experiences necessary). Adults, kids, grandparents…it’s multi-generational!
As I post this right now, I’m praying that God grabs hold of your heart and time — spurs you into the adventure with us. If you’re still on the fence or just want to ask me more questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at email@example.com. I would just LOVE to see you at Grace Church this weekend.
Merry Christmas from our family and the
team at Walk Right In Ministries!
God made Himself in the form of man and came to earth…and He’s STILL with us!
Does Christmas stir thoughts about life and faith for you as it does for me? For these next few days there will be excitement about gifts, gatherings and good food. While coming to the end of another year feeling thankful, many will also feel melancholy or isolated and alone. Even though Christmas is the season when we celebrate that GOD CAME NEAR, God can seem far away.
For many years, God felt far away and detached to me. I believed and hoped He was “out there” somewhere but I often wished for tangible evidence. I’m thankful that God has been deepening my intimacy with Him year after year and using the Christmas season in that process. So many of the Christmas cards we receive are reminders that God has shown Himself to us through the practical and prayerful love of community, especially during those first few years when disability was new to our family. Doing life around people who talk about how they are experiencing Jesus profoundly enriches my relationship with Him and reassures me that God is truly near, compassionate, powerful and accessible. Especially when life is hard, I need to know that God is in authority over that darkness, that He brings meaning and purpose to what seems tragic or merciless.
Glory Stories are the experiences we live and talk about that point to the power, presence and goodness of God. God uses our shared stories about stumbling and imperfect but seeking faith to shake up our perspectives, deepen our relationships with each other and reassure us that God is INTIMATELY PERSONAL and HE STILL REIGNS!
When it comes to Glory Stories in the Bible, Zechariah’s encounter with the angel Gabriel inspires me at Christmas time. It’s a beautiful example of a man whose life and lips declared the presence, power and goodness of God. The following is an excerpt from my new book “Living Your Glory Story” (available February 2014).
Zechariah, a priest and John the Baptist’s father, prayed for years that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a child. Despite their old age, Zechariah was met by the angel with messages from God that would rock his world and bring the announcement that changes ours.
First, Gabriel told Zechariah that his son would be great in the sight of God. And, as if that wasn’t enough, he told Zechariah that his boy would be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he was born (Luke 1:15)! Zechariah initially questioned that news and, as a consequence for his unbelief, God took his voice away (a very essential need for someone serving as a priest). Ultimately, however, Zechariah was obedient and trusted God. As a result, he was given back his voice along with a song of prophesy—a marvelous Glory Story—to shout out about the greatest rescue mission ever told (Luke 1:68-79).
I pray this Christmas brings you all sorts of beautiful and fun things—laughter, hugs, sparkling decorations, candles, nostalgic music, sweet aromas coming from the oven, games, movies, encouraging conversations—but an increasing sense of God’s intimate nearness most of all. His presence, power and goodness are REALITY.
How can you bring that marvelous truth into your day-to-day conversations with things like compassion, enthusiasm, humility, expectancy, generosity, transparency, authenticity and vulnerability? In those exchanges, may God encourage and reassure you as well as others.
Walk Right In Ministries helps people connect and grow in Christ-centered communities. In particular, we advocate for and make resources available to people on the fringes of church engagement due to life challenges like caregiving for children with special needs. Thank you for joining us with prayers and financial support in 2013. Together, we are sharing the hope and love of Jesus Christ. There is no gift greater we can give.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Larry, Lisa, Tim, Judy, Bud, Jan, Jerry & Marilyn
(Board of Directors)