Instead of creating another program, let us examine what the church would look like if everyone, regardless of special needs or extraordinary abilities, were embraced as a fully functioning member of Christ’s body. Regardless of cognitive processing, verbal communication, behavioral struggles, or physical ability, each member would be valued as a person flawlessly created in the image of God, and the church family would receive each member’s God-given gifts with joy. Such a church would be irresistible, not just to the special needs family looking to be loved for who they are, but for anyone skeptical that the church holds a place for them. The unemployed, the addict, the chronically ill, the divorced, the widow, the young single, the orphan, the perfectionist, the insecure, the average Joe or Jane— each would recognize the unconditional love of such a church by seeing how those with disabilities belong unconditionally. This larger dream requires change. The change needed is easy to name but takes effort to implement.
Luke 14 commands Christ followers to “Go quickly . . . find the blind, the lame, and the crippled . . . and compel them to come in!” While this sounds inspiring and daunting, exciting and overwhelming, motivating and frightening, all at the same time, what does it actually mean? How do we live and function within the church in such a way that families affected by disability are compelled to walk through our doors to experience the body of Christ? We can certainly compel them by offering programs, ministries, events, and other church activities, but what if the compelling aspect was more about heart, culture, acceptance and embracing? What if our churches were overflowing with the hope of Jesus Christ . . . a hope not simply for those who look the part or “fit in,” but rather a hope to all, including the marginalized, the downtrodden and outcast?
Becoming irresistible is more than programs and activities— it is about a transformational work in our hearts . . . first as individuals and then as the body of Christ. Irresistible allows us to see each individual as he or she truly is: created in the image of God (Genesis 1: 26-27), designed purposely as a masterpiece (Psalm 139: 13-14), instilled with purpose, plans and dreams (Jeremiah 29: 11), and a truly indispensable member of the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 12: 22). Irresistible is a mindset, a perspective, an awareness. It is the ability to see the world through the eyes of Christ and love people where they are, knowing that God has designed an amazing future and hope for every person on this earth. Irresistible captures the heart of the church as it should be— how else do we explain the rapid growth and intense attraction to the church in the book of Acts? People were lining up to join this movement of people in spite of the intense persecution and ridicule. The heart of God was embodied through the people of God by the Spirit of God . . . and that is simply irresistible!
Kate Brueck is author of Start with Hello: Introducing Your Church to Special Needs Ministry, from which the above excerpt has been adapted. Kate is the Church Relations Manager for Joni and Friends Charlotte, training, equipping and resourcing churches and families throughout the Southeast for effective disability ministry. “Start with Hello” is part of the Irresistible Church Series developed by Joni and Friends. For more information or to join the community, please visit www.irresistiblechurch.org.