The Church's Indispensable Members

The Church's Indispensable Members

We say, “useless!”  God replies, “on the contrary — indispensable!”

Our churches are filled with people who don’t realize how the culture has made a negative impact on their perception of disability.

For those of us with loved ones who live with severe cognitive impairment, it can be frightening to live in an American culture that so highly values ease, transitory wealth, health, and beauty.

Some people (generally not those who go to church) will even say out loud what many people are thinking: that person is so limited by disability he or she isn’t really a person; I would rather be dead then live like that; they are useless.

God provides a clear response:

On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable . . . (1 Corinthians 12:22).

In case there is any confusion, indispensable means “absolutely necessary, essential or requisite; incapable of being disregarded or neglected.”

And we can add other statements about God’s intentionality in creating some who will live a different sort of life than what we call normal:

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb (Psalm 139:13).

Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (Exodus 4:11)

Combine that with promises:

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

“I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

The result? Rather than dread that ‘those people’ are showing up at your church, anticipate that God is up to something incredible, knowing that he will help you!

An authentic welcome offered to the most cognitively impaired members of God’s human community might change everything you ever thought you knew about love, grace, and the sovereignty of God over all things. Not because they change — but because God changes you.

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John Knight is Director of Donor Partnerships at Desiring God. He is married to Dianne and together they parent their four children: Paul, Hannah, Daniel, and Johnny. Paul lives with multiple disabilities including blindness, autism, cognitive impairments, and a seizure disorder. John blogs on issues of disability, the Bible, and the church at The Works of God.