Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Diversity, disabilities and the church

Having become a Christian within evangelical, British, charismatic Christianity there are a number of things that I have never been prepared for when the church is trying to navigate itself within the reality of modern life.

Before I was a Christian I encountered these things and simply got on with life, but once I had become a follower of Jesus these things were either pushed to one side and ignored, or a wholly inappropriate response was given to these events and realities.

An obvious one was sex.  It continues to be something the church gets itself tangled in knots over.  Before I was a Christian I had sex and didn't even think about it and the consequences.  Once I committed my life to God I realised that I needed to be transformed in my attitude to woman and sex.  Yet honesty, openness and good advise were lacking.

Another one was woman.  Before I was a Christian woman were objects of desire and second class in my eyes.  I became a Christian and encountered all kinds of mixed messages.  I heard the church saying abusive things like woman are equals but couldn't be in leadership.

I saw the church practising bad attitudes saying woman could be in leadership but then were never preaching or obviously in leadership.  So I wasn't sure what was going on.

And then there is people with disabilities.

You see in many evangelical charismatic churches there is the belief that God will physically heal.  And I go with that belief having seen God physically heal people in the most remarkable ways.

Yet God does not always heal.  And actually there are many instances where the word 'healing' is deeply unhelpful and wrong.  Because some people do not need to be healed because they are who they are and don't need to be physically changed.

So when someone who cannot walk, talk or move their limbs comes into the life of the church we struggle to know what to do, think or say.

Yet without such people within the life of the church we miss out on the diversity of humanity and the insight into who God is through them.  They reveal to us something new, challenging and beautiful about the Crucified God.  And so the church needs people of all backgrounds and diversity in order that we can truly and fully be the church.

I hate churches where everyone looks the same.  You have this homogenous looking group where people say the same thing, look the same and act the same.

Local church needs people of all ages.  The older have wisdom, have seen it all before and are able to be a voice of beauty.  The young have the enthusiasm, insight of modern culture and gifts that surprise us.  All the ages in between bring something unique, special and needed.  When we are lacking in a generation the local church will struggle and suffer because we do not have the beauty of diversity.

The local church also needs all kinds of different people from all kinds of backgrounds.  We all bring something different and a perspective that reveals something fresh of who we are, what the world is like, and who God is.

I hope and pray we can all be involved in churches that have people who are so different to us that we all challenge each other, learn from each other and grow together in love for God and love for each other.

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