Why Should My Congregation Move Toward Inclusion?
This is a part of a series called That's a good question designed to provide answers to questions I commonly receive from interested individuals. I do not claim to have all the answers, nor do I attempt to provide concrete answers to every question. However, I do hope to provide opportunities to rethink existing questions.
That's a good question
Pastors and leaders often ask why their congregation should move toward disability or access programs. Here my friend Mark Stephenson from the Christian Reformed Church of North America has said it better than I, so I will allow him the stage.
The following is taken from:
Everybody Belongs. Everybody Serves. A Handbook for Disability Advocates. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Disability Concerns, 2009. This booklet has been revised and is available as Inclusion Handbook: Everybody Belongs Everybody Serves. Ed. Terry A. DeYoung and Mark Stephenson
Jesus’ first recorded sermon proclaimed that God’s kingdom was at hand. Then he spent the rest of his public ministry on earth bringing in the kingdom. Our calling as disability advocates is to carry on Jesus’ work so that all people, especially people with disabilities, will be welcomed to the body of Christ and encouraged to use their gifts in ministry. The Scriptures provide us with a basic foundation for this work.
- All people are created in the image of God; therefore, each person has intrinsic value not based on what she can do but on who she is.
“Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image . . . ” (Genesis 1:26)
- Jesus’ body, the church, has many parts but is ONE; therefore, each member of Christ’s body (each person) is essential for a healthy church.
“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. . . . those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.” (1 Corinthians 12:12, 22)
- All believers are called by God; therefore, each believer has a mission given by God to fulfill while here on earth.
“For we are what [God] has made us, created in Jesus Christ for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” (Ephesians 2:10)
- All believers have spiritual gifts; therefore, each believer receives from God the gifts he needs to accomplish this mission.
“Now there are varieties of gifts but the same Spirit . . . ” (1 Corinthians 12:4)
- All believers are invited to participate in God’s work; therefore, every member of Christ’s body fulfills an essential and unique function in the body.
“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good . . . ” (1 Corinthians 12:7)
- In healthy churches, everybody belongs.
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (1 Peter 4:8-9)
- In healthy churches, everybody serves.
“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10)