As a pastor, I have always been compelled to do all I could do in order to reach all I could reach with the Gospel. However, while this sounds nice, all too often reality takes center stage over faith. So many times I have been presented with an opportunity to which I responded with “I can’t” because of various reasons.
Looking back over 15+ years of full-time pastoral ministry, I wonder how often my “can’t” overwhelmed my “can”, resulting in a missed opportunity. Philippians 4:13 declares that “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” If I truly believe this, then “can’t” should not be part of my vocabulary; rather, it is actually the door to the supernatural where I am blessed to stand by and see the salvation of my Lord.
Disability ministry is still a relatively new concept within the Church and many pastors and leaders are reluctant to open their doors and fully embrace those who are marginalized by a physical, intellectual or developmental disability. Why is this? Why are the very overseers of the Church reluctant to bring the Gospel to all people, regardless of their disability? In truth, we are all disabled… some of us just hide our disabilities better than others. How do we keep missing an entire people group that is waiting to be heard, loved, accepted and embraced as they are?
My hunch is that many of our pastors, while very well-meaning and desiring to share Christ with all, become subject to “can’t” more than “can.” There is enormous pressure on pastors to be all things to all people and to have all the answers to life’s questions. Most pastors that I know are overwhelmed with preaching, budgets, staff oversight, prayer, weddings, funerals, and the many unknown aspects of church leadership. The thought of adding one more ministry to the plate, no matter how compelling and necessary, just seems like a setup for failure.
What if this is exactly where God wants us to be? What if it is in these times of overwhelming fear of failure that He is able to show His strength in our weakness? Without the storm, Peter would have never walked on water. Without the storm, the Hebrew boys would not have experienced the power of God against Nebuchadnezzar. Without the storm, Lazarus would not have risen from the grave. Without my storms, I would not know the faithfulness of God nearly to the depth I do now. God promises to be there, to faithfully lead, and to abundantly provide all that we need in order to do all that He calls us to.
Pastor, will you join me, and so many others, as we prayerfully seek to make the Church the most welcoming location on the planet for individuals affected by disability – an irresistible open door for their families, their caregivers, their friends, their co-workers? This is not about more money (but you might need some); this is not about more volunteers (though you certainly could use more); this is not about expanding programming (but this will happen naturally). Rather, this is about fulfilling the mandate of the Great Banquet in Luke 14. The master was snubbed and ignored by those that society exalted. In return, he reaches out to the marginalized, the outcast, and the ignored. Luke recounts this story where the servant is told to “go out quickly…and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.” As we embrace this mandate and open our doors up to individuals affected by disability, His house, the Church, will be full.
Is it a nervous and even fearful venture? Absolutely! But isn’t that what faith is all about? We do not follow God and trust His calling on our lives because we have all of the answers and we see what is around the corner. It is most often in the very midst of our uncertainty, in the midst of rising waters, in the midst of “can’t” that the greatest opportunity for the “can” of God to manifest.
Mike Dobes has been in full-time ministry since 1997 as a children, youth and teaching pastor in Southern California. He is currently the Supervisor of Church Relations for Joni and Friends and is committed to seeing the Church return to the center of the community. He is happily married, keeps up with 5 children and admits to being spoiled by living minutes from the beach.
Join Mike, Shannon, Dr. G, Joni Eareckson Tada, Nick Vujicic and over 50 other speakers at the Global Access Conference—this February 17-20 in Westlake Village, CA . To receive the lowest possible registration fee, use the priority code “guest” at globalaccessconference.org. Space is limited so don’t delay. Please share this post and hope to see you there!