As each one has received a special gift,
employ it in serving one another
as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
1 Peter 4:10 NASB
(FROM HIS OWN HEART MINISTRIES: The following post by Carole-Anne Hallyburton appears as an article in this month’s issue of Journey Christian Magazine, a Scripture Awakening publication and valuable tool for Christian living. We invite you to take advantage of JCM’s complimentary subscription opportunity here.)
You know you’ve found a book worth reading when you’re engaged before even turning to Chapter One. That’s precisely what happened as I began my journey through Jesus in Me, the latest Anne Graham Lotz release from WaterBrook Multnomah Publications.
The Christian author/speaker wastes no time in getting a point across: the book, framed around the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of each believer, is “Dedicated to the Lonely.” That simple declaration echoed in my mind three chapters later when Lotz explained that one role of the Holy Spirit is that of Advocate for followers of Christ. She pinpoints various groups for whom divine advocacy holds a particularly special meaning, including people with disabilities. She made me wonder, among other things, whether weallow space within our churches for the Holy Spirit to advocate through uson behalf of members with disabilities.
I’m not speaking here of making a structure physically accessible to members with special needs. Or of holding a door for a quadriplegic. Or of affectionately tousling the hair of someone with a cognitive disability. All of these actions are well and good, but candid situations like the following should have us scrambling to figure out what we’re missing.
And how we can fix it.
Her tone is neither dramatic nor bitter when she says so, but I know a person who’ll tell you—if you ask her—that “church can be one of the loneliest places on earth for Christians with disabilities.” She longs for a worship community who sees and values her capabilities over her disabilities; she’s a very hands-on person who thrives on inclusion in service for Christ. Unfortunately, her claim is more than a claim when it comes to involving handicapped members in a congregation’s servant/leadership roles; for far too many, it’s sad reality.
But the saddest reality of all is that, in these situations, the church itself misses an exciting opportunity to see Jesus Christ glorified (see John 9:1-3). Every human has a disability; some are seen while others are unseen, but we all have them. Equally—if not moreso—crucial, however, is the Scriptural truth that every Christian possesses a spiritual gift and is called to use it to serve and glorify Christ (e.g. Romans 12:6; Ephesians 4:7; 1 Peter 4:10).
With that in mind, it seems to follow that Christ’s Church carries two responsibilities to its body. Both require our seeking of guidance from the Holy Spirit. In cases where a person’s spiritual gift is obvious, we must commit to finding ways to incorporate his or her gift into the life of the Church. In cases where a spiritual gift is not readily known, we must come alongside the person to determine what that gift is, then incorporate it into the Church community. Either way, ability – not disability – must be the main concern.
This only happens when a church’s leadership and congregation choose to let go and let God’s Spirit move. Doing so requires that we lay down our own preconceived notions of why a person can’t serve and let God – who created us all in His image in the first place – show us how the person can serve (see Genesis 1:26-27). In other words, we need to welcome the Holy Spirit’s desire to “advocate” not only to us, but also through us.
To borrow Lotz’s title, this is the epitome of living with Jesus in Me.
– Copyright 2019, Carole Anne Hallyburton. All rights reserved.