Monday, January 23, 2012


10% of the nation have disabilities.  90% are unchurched.  If that is not a mission field, I do not know what is.

Yesterday at church, the sermon was pushing praying specifically for missions.  And Saturday, I got to go to a small conference where a minister and father set forth his ideas and framework for a successful special needs ministry.  And as this is obviously where my heart is, the two entwined themselves in my mind.

My church is taking baby-steps to setting up a special needs ministry.  Right now, the framework is in my court for more tweaking...which makes the fact that EVERYONE IN MY FAMILY KEEPS GETTING SICK all the more frustrating!!!  I am not fussing, not really, but for now, the fact that the implementation is slower than Christmas is my fault...which stinks.

But The Guy (every church has one, you know, "The Guy" who knows everybody and everything?) at our church has a friend who is a minister and also has a son with profound Autism.  Anyway, he was invited to give a presentation to our church's children's ministry staff and a few lucky extras like me and other Idea Men and the folks who started The Pier (a local thrift store specifically and almost exclusively hires those with disabilities)...And it was AWESOME!

Paul Thompson is the senior minister at First Baptist Church in Jensen Beach, FL.  He has started the ministry called Enable.  He knows his stuff and gives practical working information on how to set up a special needs ministry.  He also gives concrete Biblical support of why this ministry is so important.  He referenced the Biblical passages of Luke 14:15-24, where Christ specifically asked those with disabilities to his banquet table.  1 Corinthians 12:14-26, where Paul talks about the Body of Christ as being incomplete without even the seemingly inconsequential parts, because they are indispensable.  And finally,  Matthew 25:31-46, speaking about the "Least of These" as being a judgement of attitudes and not a measure of value, and that the needs become a tool to use in reaching out.  He also gave me the numbers I opened with.  He is doing his doctoral thesis on this, and so he is not throwing around numbers, these are confirmed.

Of course, Paul Thompson's presentation set heavy on me, and only underscored what I feel like I need to be doing.

But then yesterday, with the sermon calling us to pray for missions, I was struck again at how my "missions" mindset has changed.  And I am asking you to reach out.  I know that as families touched by special needs, you often feel isolated, tapped out, and exhausted.  I know that you are laying heavily on God's grace just to get through some days.  But I PROMISE that God will give you a little extra strength to reach out to others and offer God's grace and strength to those struggling.  I promise that even if you are not touched by special needs, that if you reach out to someone struggling with special needs, you do not need the "RIGHT WORDS".  All you have to do is love someone.  Paul tells those who volunteer in his Enable Ministry, "I am not asking you to sign up for a ministry, I am asking you to love and care for someone."  If your tongue is glued to the roof of your mouth because you don't know how to start, then start praying for them.  Eventually, God will get you beyond yourself and you can start.

I am talking about families who have someone with special needs in it and I am speaking about those who have the special needs themselves.  There is no disability too big that cannot feel Christ's (and yours!) love, whether they can verbalize it or not.

Welcome to a new mission field.  They are waiting and ready to be loved.  GO!


  1. Paul Thompson is my pastor - and, all bias aside, is probably one of the most gifted exegetical teachers/preachers in the United States. I moved here just to attend his church. That being said: if you would attend one of our morning services (attendance around 525) you would likely notice several special needs folks and their caregivers. Yes, they attend "big church" - they are part of our family. Our Enable ministry got off to a slow start for just the reasons you mentioned - people are nervous, frightened, unsure of themselves, don't know if they can "handle it." But we're learning and growing and loving - and it shows. This summer we will greatly expand our L.I.U. - "Learning Independence University" program - a program available free of charge for young adults in and out of our church body to learn life skills - from cooking, to cleaning to crafts to interaction with others. We also partner with local schools and other churches to participate in "Friday Night Angels" - dozens of school-age children with multiple challenges who come together to play, to sing, and to learn. Their choir has performed at several of our services and special events, and the audience experiences an equal mix of smiles and tears. It's challenging and sometimes heart-breaking to reach out and minister to these special people and their families - but we are Christ's hands and feet - and we are desperately needed to provide His Love and Grace to sometimes desperate, lonely, and hurting people - of all types, abilities, and life stories. We keep learning and loving - and I echo your sentiments: this is a virtually untouched mission field comprised of our family, friends, and unreached neighbors. For the glory of God - and in obedience to Him - go!

  2. Hi, a friend of mine sent me a link to your blog post! Looks like we have a few things in common :) I love to see that there is beginning to be a movement in our churches to see things change, to acknowledge ALL of God's people as important and necessary.
    I just wrote a blog post, check it out when you get a chance :)