Is the body of Christ complete?

Featuring
Lynn McCann
Imagine plucking up the courage to go to a new place for the first time. You can’t drive, or walk, so you get someone to take you.
As you are wheeled through the door, people smile and say hello to your companion but not you.

You are given a book and a piece of paper with lots of writing on it, but you can’t read so have no idea what they are.
You and your companion have to sit at the back of the room; it’s the only place a wheelchair can fit. You like the music and sing along even if you don’t know the words. People look at you and ‘tut’.

They sit down and stand up a lot, even your companion doesn't know when to do what. Then a man stands up at the front and starts to talk, he does for about thirty minutes. You understand some words but he says so many that you haven’t heard before.

Then he says “let’s eat the body and drink the blood of the lamb” and people start going to the front. You are really freaked out because you don’t want to eat a dead person’s body and drink their blood.
Your companion manages to calm you down and tries to explain that you didn't mean to make all that noise.

You set off to a hall, to join everyone for a drink, but there are stairs, so you have to go outside and find another way in. When you finally get to the hall the lady serving the tea, asks your companion; “Does she take sugar?”

People are talking over your head, not giving you any eye contact or avert their gaze when they catch you looking at them looking at you. It would be nice if they just smiled and said hello. You don’t think you will come here again.

This is church for some adults with learning disabilities.

I hope it wouldn’t be like this at your church but how many adults with learning disabilities do come to your church? In many places they are a part of the body of Christ that is missing. And if one part of the body is missing, then the whole body suffers.

“But God has put the body together, giving greater honour to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.  If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
1 Corinthians 12:24-27

I write a blog about a group that was set up at my church for adults with learning disabilities. It is a group that meets in the middle of the week, like growth (cell) groups and other ministries do. We encourage our members to see themselves as part of the whole church body; to come along on Sundays, get involved in church missions and other activities. We are a Bible believing and teaching church and so is our group. We are well supported by the leadership and the wider church. We are a mixture of adults with a range of abilities and disabilities, their carers and a team of people who lead and support the weekly meetings.

Sound impressive? Don’t be impressed or overawed by us, but do be impressed by our Lord Jesus who first showed us how to love and reach out with the Kingdom of God – a Kingdom available to all.

So if we have created barriers through our physical environment, our rituals, our reliance on spoken and written forms of communication, our jargon, our embarrassment in speaking to people who may not respond in a typical manner – then we can overcome these for, and with, people with learning disabilities who currently cannot access the Body of Christ. We need to remove the barriers and allow them to take their place at God’s table.

Every church can and should include people with disabilities. We are all the poorer if we don’t. The Church belongs to Christ. Let us pray…

Heavenly Father,
Thank you that there is no-one excluded from the Body of Christ, and that your gospel and salvation is for everyone. Forgive our churches when we exclude, ignore or just don’t know how to reach out to people and so we don't. Equip us with the heart and vision to see people with learning disabilities in our community and have the confidence to share Christ and our church family with them. May we see the possibilities, have high expectations and come together in our church to do your will.
In Jesus Name. Amen

You can find out more about the help and support available at www.churchesforall.org
Connect with Lynn on twitter and read more of her thoughts on her blog Included by Grace




Sharing the joys of being inclusive at Mondays Musings, Make a Difference and Rays of Grace & Joy

5 comments:

  1. This is an exciting concept to have a special service for those with learning disabilities to help them understand what Jesus meant when he said (all) come onto me and find rest. At first I thought of something else about your title. The Body of Christ is missing some essential parts. Needed are the Prophets, Words of Knowledge, Healings, Discerner of Spirits, and anointed Preacher/teachers.

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  2. Oh yes, you are a neighbor at Salt and Light

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  3. Thanks for commenting Hazel. I really did mean people missing in the body of Christ but I would also add that people with learning disabilties should be gifted and demonstrate God's gifts as readily as anyone else can. On my blog I write about how we should have high expectations of what God's Spirit can do in our group.

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  4. Thanks for being a voice to those who need to be a part of the church. And, thanks for helping those who may have a learning disability, I work sometimes with kids who have learning disabilities and I often wonder how adults and children with similar disabilities could still be a part of the church.

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    1. That's an important observation Katie. All of us are adults for far longer than we are children and whereas a good start in life is important, churches should be making long term plans to support people with learning disabilties. There is a particularly woeful lack of support for teenagers that I wish I could do more about too. Thanks again for reading...Lynn

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