George Bailey, the main character in the movie It’s A Wonderful Life, is given a tremendous gift from his guardian angel, Clarence. If you recall, George contemplates jumping off a bridge one night but Clarence jumps off instead because he knows George will jump in and rescue him. In their back and forth afterwards, George tells Clarence that he wishes he had never been born. Clarence shows him what life would have been like for the people in George’s life had he not been born. Even though George was living through a very difficult time when he first encounters Clarence, he was able to see how important his impact was on the lives of so many people he had crossed paths with prior to Clarence jumping off the bridge. This gift, from Clarence, gave George Bailey a new outlook on life and returned him to his family a renewed man who understood that even in difficulty life itself is wonderful because of the people we know.
Obviously, we do not have the ability to see how the lives of our loved ones would be impacted had we never been born. However, I believe too many churches are missing out on the blessing of ministering to individuals with special needs and their families.
I have walked through the halls of many churches with my son, or behind other individuals with special needs, and seen the looks of Christians as we walk by. I have seen church staff turn away as someone with special needs passes by them. I have seen small group leaders not make eye contact with special needs individuals and act as though they have not seen the individual. I have had church staff tell me that certain parts of worship may not be for individuals with special needs. My own son was turned away from a church at the age of 4 because he and the teacher had a “personality conflict”. In other words, the teacher did not want my son in her class. One children’s teacher at a church, proudly told my wife that she gathered the other children together, away from my son, and had them pray thanking God that they were not like “him”.
I have witnessed the good churches do in the world, and it’s more than they are given credit for by the public. I have also lived through more hurt and rejection, than I care to share, in church because I am the father of a son with special needs.
Romans 12:4-5 (ESV) says, “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”
I believe all members of the church have an important role, including individuals with special needs.
I believe the promise of God in Jeremiah 29:11…”For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I believe this promise applies to individuals with special needs just as much as it applies to me.
My question is, what would church life be like in 2016 if God, in His infinite wisdom, had never allowed individuals with special needs be born?
Do you believe your church would be better off or worse off without individuals with special needs?
I believe every church in America would be better if they all had ministries for individuals with special needs and their families. I have learned more about true, unconditional love from my son, and others with special needs, than I ever have attending a church service.
I believe every church would be better if they lived out the Great Commission in their local communities first by reaching out to individuals with special needs. Church mission trips to foreign lands are great, but accepting and showing love to individuals with special needs on a weekly basis allows a congregation to live out the love of Christ continually.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” 1 John 3:16 (NIV)
“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18 (NIV)
Despite my experiences, I love the church. I grew up in church and enjoyed/enjoy being an active member. In fact, my wife and I lead a small group for adults with special needs in our current church.
I close with a quote from the movie Woodlawn that applies to every Christian. “If you only love those who can love you back, what kind of love is that?”