Engaging Disability With The Gospel exists to serve individuals who have disabilities – young and old – and their families. The word disability often conjures images and ideas that reflect a limited understanding of the breadth of unique abilities of people with disabling conditions. The word disability often causes us to focus on the condition itself, what a person is lacking, or the distinct challenges and limitations the person faces. But, is this how God sees people with disabilities?
Here is what Scripture teaches:
On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable and the parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow greater honor… 1 Corinthians 12:22-23
The word disability implies a lack of something. In contrast, Scripture confronts us with the reality that individuals who seem to be lacking in strength or appear to be weaker are actually indispensable parts of the body of Christ. Notice that Paul doesn’t use the word valuable, which would imply someone of great worth to the body of Christ. Instead, Paul says they are indispensable; they are “absolutely necessary and essential; incapable of being discarded.”
Without the necessary and essential components, an object is considered broken or inoperable. A motor is necessary to a car; without it, the car will not run. A battery is essential to operate a flash light; without the battery, you cannot see in the dark. People with disabilities are essential to the body of Christ; without them, the body is not complete and cannot operate as God designed. Without the complete body of Christ, we cannot fully understand who He is and who we are meant to be.
Embarking on Disability Ministry
It is easy to approach disability ministry by focusing on what practical help people need and how we can serve them. It’s not wrong to want to serve and meet practical needs, such as through special accommodations. Those are important functions of disability ministry. But providing assistance to meet practical needs is not all there is to disability ministry, and usually it’s not the place to start. So how do we start ministry to people touched by disability?
Our starting point for disability ministry is crucial. People with disabilities need to be enfolded into every aspect of church body life. We don’t encourage churches to establish separate, designated ministries into which folks with disabilities are funneled. It’s much more exciting when the existing ministries of the church work with families to make needed adaptations and accommodations. Then, everyone—disabled and able-bodied—meets one another’s needs and, as a result, know Christ more deeply.
We start by understanding a church’s full scope of ministry. We don’t simply tell churches what we think they should do. We help them discover steps to take so that, prayerfully, both the stronger and weaker members of the body get to know one another, love one another, and serve one another well.
We also don’t tell families how to live their lives or relate to their churches. We encourage them to pursue spiritual growth despite their challenges and to work with their churches to make accommodations that are mutually beneficial. It’s exciting when congregations and families connect so that a love for the Lord and His church is fostered in the whole family.
How We Serve: Engaging Disability with the Gospel
Engaging Disability serves two groups: people touched by disability and PCA churches. “People touched by disability” includes individuals who have disabilities and those in their lives who are also impacted by the disability, such as their families. The PCA includes almost 1,900 congregations and church plants. How do we engage them?
We take the gospel to individuals and families and help them apply the gospel to all areas of their lives. We want to see them come to Christ and grow in all aspects of their faith.
We help churches apply the gospel in ways that embrace people touched by disability and enfold them into their congregations. We want to see churches respond to individuals and their needs with authentic, mutual relationships, as well as be confident in their abilities to make needed adaptations.
Our churches are where people with disabilities should find true belonging. Where every age or stage-of-life group and every ministry says, “You’re part of us…let’s grow and minister together.”
We are here to engage everyone affected by disability—individuals, families, and congregations—with the gospel of grace, because identity in Christ gives everyone value, identity, purpose; and those realities pave the path for authentic ministry.
Engaging Disability With The Gospel means that we desire to see every person touched by disability in relationship with both God and with fellow believers.