Today’s post was written by my friend, Shannon Dingle. Shannon and I “met” last spring through the blogosphere. It’s amazing how a few hyperlinks can connect people who were just meant to be friends! Over the past few months, Shannon and I have had coffee together a few times…me, on my brown couch in Ohio, and Shannon in her home in North Carolina. I love hearing Shannon’s ideas and stories~ she runs the special needs ministry at her church, and brings a wealth of experience to that role. Shannon is a gem~ be sure to read her blog for a unique, fresh, Kingdom-minded perspective on ministry. You’ll be so glad you did!
Has the Church Disabled Itself? by Shannon Dingle
Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert. (Isaiah 35:3-6)
This post isn’t going to be about what you think it will be. It’s not about people with disabilities.
It’s about a church that has disabled itself.
Please don’t get me wrong. I love the church. We are the bride of Christ. The royal wedding of William and Kate was so popular – reportedly the sixth most watched event in online history – that it almost shut down the internet. But the union that is to come of bridegroom – Christ – and the bride – the church – described in Revelation is more beautiful than anything Westminster Abbey could ever offer.
It’s my love for the church that motivates me to desire intensely that we reflect the glory of God rather than the flesh of man. When I recently read verse three in Isaiah 35 – strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees – I thought of the church.
We are weak. We are feeble. But – praise God! – that’s not the end of the story.
But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
God doesn’t intend for the church – for us – to remain weak. His strength and grace is sufficient and complete for our weak hands and feeble knees and blind eyes and deaf ears and lame legs and mute tongues.
When I read about weak hands and feeble knees, it hits home. I have rheumatoid arthritis, and bones have eroded in my hands and my knees as a result. Those verses are literally true for me. I know that when one joint in my body is swollen and painful, I feel it throughout the rest of my body.
And so it is with the church. When we exclude parts of the body who are essential (and you’ll see in 1 Corinthians 12 that ALL parts are essential), we disable ourselves as a church. Why? Because we choose our strength and our ways rather than God’s whenever we choose sin. And let me bluntly say this: if God says all parts of the body are honorable and that we all ought to care for one another, then it is sin to do anything else. Not a mistake or oversight. It’s sin.
And what are we called to do about sin? Seek forgiveness. Repent. Change. Be healed.
May the church no longer disable herself. In the words of Isaiah 35:6, may “the waters break forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.” May the church behold her God, looking and hearing and leaping and singing and loving in worship with all members of her body.