Here is the link for part 1 and the introduction if you haven’t read it!
2. The diversity and guarantee of gifts in the body of Christ
Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth guarantees that every person in the church has gifts. It assures us that those parts that seem to be the weakest are indispensable [1 Cor. 12:22]. Each and every person represents a different gift that God has given to equip the church to fulfill our mission. If the value of a person as an active and vital part of what we’re about is not discernible, it is a failure of our vision, not their quality. Our friends with disabilities must be a part of the Church if the Church is to be effective in its mission. If they are absent from our ministries, we disable St. James’ ability to do the work God has set before it. Also, by affirming the gifts of our brothers and sisters with disabilities, we amplify the affirmation to each person in the church that they are important and their gifts matter. Special Connections endeavors to open up spaces and programs that are a wide open door for people with disabilities to enter the church, as well as spaces and programs where people with disabilities can be nurtured and discipled. We also want to make ready each space and ministry within St. James so that we can invite the diverse gifts of Christ’s body into it.
How this looks lived among us
Ken and I volunteer at a local high school. Many of the students we work with have pretty significant limitations. Walk into the classroom with us and you might be struck by their disabilities and the great lengths the teachers and the aids must take to accommodate them. That’s not the impression Ken leaves with, though. If you rode back from the school to Ken’s house you could share in one of the greatest delights of my week. As I drive, Ken talks about the students. The details that he lifts out make the students and staff in those classes glow. Ken sees those students in the same light that God and their parents see them. It’s heartwarming and lovely. He always focuses in on the things they achieve and all they have to offer. Ken sees the things that many people are too distracted by the limitations to see, and without that vision the Body of Christ would look out on a dimmer, poorer world.
It’s also somewhat important to know that Ken works with his own disabilities. Some organizations might second-guess sending a volunteer into a classroom that may struggle with reading or arithmetic himself. Those limitations totally miss all that Ken offers to the students he’s there to assist. Instead, we let scripture rather than disability be the final word on someone’s giftedness to serve. We push to have our friends with disabilities in places and roles they’ve been left out of. We are much richer for it. Yes, service together does look different. Ken and I’s partnership in this ministry is essential for it to work, but I think it makes us look much more like Paul’s description of the Church as Christ’s body.