Think about your local church. Think about an average Sunday gathering. See all the faces: children, teens, college kids, 30-somethings, the older folks, and visitors.
Now, ask yourself: How many of them are disabled? Seriously, how many?
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that there’s not many. And, sadly that is way too common in the U.S. and around the world. — If your church is different, that’s amazing but I haven’t seen it or heard about it.
So, why is this? Unfortunately, I can’t summarize it in this post (I’ll do it soon) because there are a lot of factors that could take a LONG time to hash out.
For today, let’s look at how you should reach out to the disabled. Make no mistake: there are people all around you with some sort of disability, and they need the love and saving grace of Jesus too.
But first you need to know some things:
Who are the disabled?
Here some stats to shock you and make you reflect for a bit:
United States (Pew Research)
- 40 million Americans are disabled (12.6% of the population)
- 20 million adults have little-to-no ability to walk
- 13 million people have cognitive disabilities
- 18 million people have a hearing and/or visual disability
Globally (World Health Organization)
- 110-119 million people are disabled (about 15% of the world)
- Poorer countries have a higher rate of disability
- The elderly, women, children, or anyone poor is more likely to be disabled
- Across the world, disabled people are sicker, less educated, and more unemployed
Where are the disabled?
There is no data on where disabled adults live, but disabled adults have a short list of housing options available to them. (Special Needs Answers)
High functioning disabled adults live around you, just take time and look around!
Family – Spouses, parents, or extended family
Your neighbors, your area, your city — But there are disabled people that live most of their lives inside (including me)
Section 8 Housing
Long waits, low-income neighborhoods, not good for severe needs
Group Homes / Supportive Housing
Live with or around other disabled people, not available everywhere
Assisted Living Facility
Live independently but need help with important parts of life, mainly for elderly folks
Need consist medical care/supervision, usually the last option for most people
Now, How to Reach the Disabled…
“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28: 18-20
God does not call you to invite people to come to you; God has called you to go to the people. Christians are not told to ask people come and see what we got going on. Christians are told to go and tell the world who God is and He has done for sinners.
Go. Go to the disabled. Go to their homes (in your neighborhood or in more concentrated disability housing). Don’t do it to feel good about yourself and definitely don’t go in pity. Go because God has called you to do so and because you believe God is the only One who saves sinners, not you and your effort.
Volunteer, serve, love. Whatever you do, you are called to go.
Maybe it’s the hardest step… but GO.
When Jesus says “make disciple of all nations,” the first step towards discipleship is preaching the good news of Christ. Yes, this is a call to go overseas and make disciples across the globe, but this is also a call to preach the good news to everyone. And, this also means people around you, near you, and within your reach.
So, once you go to the disabled, God calls you to preach the gospel with the disabled. — And by the way, don’t preach the good news unattached and without love. Befriend people, including the disabled, and share who He is. — Now, just like anyone else, be ready for hostility, pain, and/or misunderstandings fed to them by a false teacher or immature Christian (ex: if you’re not healed then you don’t have faith).
Preach with confidence, boldness, and patience.
AGAIN… Befriend them. Don’t cold-call preach. Love, serve, and then preach Christ.
Most of the there time Christians struggle with what happens after the gospel is preached. Let me state this as clear as I can: If you feel good with your life mission being only preaching to non-Christians (with no follow-up or further instruction), you are disobeying God’s great commission. Remember, Jesus said that Christians are called to teach “them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
This goes for everyone. Teach the able-bodied and the disabled. Teach them to observe Who God is, what He’s done, who we truly are, and how we are called to live in light of knowing Jesus. Teach them “all” things about the Bible.
Becoming a disciple of Christ happens when you receive Jesus as Lord and Savior. But, just as essential, growing as a disciple is a life-long journey.
Christians are called to go, preach, and disciple. Able-bodied and disabled folks need this, and this is how you reach out and extend the greatest news on Earth.
Obey God’s command and just watch what God does through you.