A Philosophical Shift to Disability Ministry (Part 5 of 5)

After reading the last four blogs in this series, you may be able to identify what approach your church or ministry currently embraces. You may even have a better idea of what some of your deficits are. But when you want to make a philosophical shift in your approach to disability ministry, the big question is how? I’d like to offer three tips that may help make help shift your church’s perspective on disability ministry.

1.    Be patient: It will probably take time for the philosophy of your organization and your leadership team to shift. You see the need; you are the champion of the ministry. But, not all the people you work with will share your same level of passion or knowledge. You may be tempted to forge ahead with what you believe, but let me caution you to slow down. One of the most detrimental things you can do is to leave your team behind. You need a united front to be able to successfully make a philosophical shift. Change takes time, and that’s OK.

2.    Be present: Being present means more than just showing up. Being consistent in speech and in action is key. Most churches experience a turnover in pastoral staff every few years which means you will need to recalibrate as you work with new leadership. The consistency you model in your ministry will provide stability in a changing environment. As you model what you want your church to become, it will encourage others to follow your example. People, including church leadership, may be pleasantly surprised to see what amazing things your friends with disabilities are capable of. Make sure to celebrate every victory that you experience while you are being present modeling the change you want to see. 

3.    Be persistent. Persistence is important—even Jesus pointed that out (Matthew 7:7). Your persistence can be seen not only in your presence but also in your speech. Sometimes it will require you to speak up and ask for help. That being said, there is a difference between being persistent and being a pest. Pastors are consistently overwhelmed and overworked. If they view you as a pest, they will no doubt try to avoid you. So, be wise and try to relate what you want to communicate to the church’s vision and mission. Be mindful of your timing, and avoid approaching your pastor on Monday morning or sermon prep day. 
Following these three tips will help position your church for a philosophical shift. However, in some situations you will find that after prolonged periods of being patient, present, and persistent things are not progressing as you would have hoped. And the hard truth is, that sometimes it just doesn’t work. In those disappointing situations, the best advice I can give you is to brush the dust off your feet and move on. I know this can be heart breaking. But, take a deep breath and ask God to help you find a like-minded church in your area. Don’t give up as you try to find a like-minded church, and be an agent of positive change wherever God calls you. 

(Blog first posted on The Irresistible Church, http://irresistiblechurch.org/)

A Philosophical Shift to Disability Ministry (Part 4 of 5)

When my son was three, I clearly remember how excited he was to leave his highchair and sit in an adult-sized chair at the dinner table. Sure, he had to use a booster seat, but he was proud to have graduated to a “big chair” like his parents. My daughter, Zoe, however, was not quite two and was still strapped into her highchair for meal time.

As the youngest child, Zoe always wanted to do everything that her big brother was doing. We saw this dynamic play out in many different arenas—one of the most evident was at the dinner table.

The predominant phrase that Zoe used was, “I do it by myself!” We could clearly sense the frustration in her voice as she clenched her fist around her utensils. She didn’t want to be fed or buckled up anymore. She wanted to be independent like her brother.

I believe independence is an important ideal for almost everyone. This is no different in the field of disability ministry.

What is the ideal philosophical approach to disability ministry? It is ministry “by” people affected by disability. In this approach, there are two foundational principles that must be embraced by a local church body: belonging and empowerment.

I am careful to not use the word inclusion here, because it falls short of the ideal. Inclusion generally means that we are present in the room together, but it does not necessarily equal belonging. John Swinton says, “Belonging means that you are missed when you are not in the room.” There is a big difference between inclusion and belonging. If you aren’t missed when you aren’t there, you haven’t reached a level of belonging. Belonging means that you have a place to share the unique abilities that God has given to you.

Empowerment is the other foundational piece of this ideal approach to disability ministry. What is empowerment? It means that you been given the authority or power to do something. Another definition would characterize empowerment as the process of becoming stronger and more confident, both in who you are and what you do.

Scripture makes it clear that the Holy Spirit is the one who ultimately empowers Christ followers. As ministry leaders, it’s our job to create safe environments, help people discover their gifts, and release them into ministry.

Sometimes these opportunities will be successful. Other times, they will be met with difficulty. The key isn’t necessarily the outcome, but creating an environment that allows for the discovery and deployment of gifts. For most leaders and ministries, embracing ministry “by” people affected by disability is an evolutionary process.

Below is a sampling of ways within my own church that I’ve seen ministry “by” people affected by disability.

·         Greeter

·         Usher

·         Tech department volunteer

·         Children’s ministry assistant

·         Café worker

·         Security team

·         Parking lot team

·         Leading prayer during worship

·         Choir member

·         Sign language leader

·         Facility team

As leaders, we should seek to empower people affected by disability and release them to serve within the church. And while the church is a wonderful place to discover gifts and train, the ministry of people affected by disability should never be limited to the walls of the church. We should also encourage and empower people to use their giftedness beyond the walls of the church.

Some of the ways that we have seen ministry “by” people affected by disability in our community include:

·         Leading a Bible study at McDonalds

·         Creating devotionals

·         Inviting friends to church

·         Volunteering in the community

·         Making and sharing a meal with friends and neighbors in need

·         Donating food, toys, and clothing

·         Being a prayer warrior

·         Using artistic talents

·         Coaching sports

·         Collecting books for local libraries or hospitals

How does your Disability Ministry empower others to do ministry “by” themselves? The possibilities are endless as all individuals are uniquely made by God.

(Blog first posted on The Irresistible Church, http://irresistiblechurch.org/)

A Philosophical Shift to Disability Ministry (Part 3 of 5)

Before my sixteenth birthday, I vividly remember sitting behind the wheel of my family’s Ford Taurus. We were in the McDonald’s parking lot just a few blocks from our home. At this point, I had received no formal instructions on how to drive, but my father wanted to give me a taste of what it was like. So, he asked me to back the car out of the parking space. Backing a car up should be an easy task. Should be. But as a wide-eyed, almost-sixteen-year-old with blood pumping in my veins, the only concept that made sense to me was hit the gas to make the car go. So, I slipped the car into reverse and hit the gas! The sharp jerking motion of the car was met with screams from my family and my father shouting at me to hit the brakes!

There is a reason why teenagers are not simply handed the keys to a car the moment they turn sixteen. An educational training period is necessary.

Following my incident in the McDonald’s parking lot, I spent countless hours driving in the high school parking lot with my father. I have many memories of working with him as I learned how to drive–some stressful and many comical. 

This example provides a great analogy for what I believe is the most widely used philosophical approach to disability ministry—doing ministry ‘with’ people affected by disabilities. I believe that ministry “with” people affected by disability is distinctly better than ministry “to” or “for” them.

One of the greatest differences between these approaches is the level of personal relationships that are formed. When we do ministry “with” people affected by disabilities, they become genuine friends and are no longer the objects of our ministry efforts.

Friendship is foundational to disability ministry. People affected by disabilities may have an abundance of friends with disabilities, but often lack genuine friendships with people who are considered typical. For some individuals, if all the group home staff, social service providers, and doctors in their lives were no longer paid to be there, they may not have anyone to call a friend.

In the “with” approach, the focus shifts from disability to ability. People are no longer identified by their disability or what they cannot do. Everyone has at least one God-given gift. In the context of a friendship, people identify what they love doing, what makes them unique, and how they can play a role in the body of Christ.

As we work “with” our friends affected by disability amazing things can happen. We might discover that our friend loves being around children or is gifted with technology. Then, we can work with them in a step-by-step process to help them volunteer in their area of gifting.

Every individual is uniquely made by God on purpose for a purpose.  It is within friendships that we can help discover, develop, and deploy our friend’s giftedness. Throughout this process you are partners in ministry together.

Doing ministry ‘with’ people affected by disability is a much better approach than doing ministry “to” or “for” people affected by disability. But, is it perfect? I think there is one more philosophical approach to disability ministry that is even better. Belonging is the ideal when it comes to the conversation of inclusion. Consider for a moment what it might look like to approach disability ministry with the ideal that ministry is conducted “by” people affected by disability? This goes one step beyond ministry “with” people affected by disability, and we’ll take a closer look at it next week.

(Blog first posted on The Irresistible Church, http://irresistiblechurch.org/)

A Philosophical Shift to Disability Ministry (Part 2 of 5)

Growing up at First Christian Church in Canton, Ohio, there was a culture of competition fueled
by our Bible Bowl program. This program was a Bible-based academic challenge, and it was a
big part of my life through my teen years until I decided to leave the program to focus on high
school sports.

After leaving the Bible Bowl program, a young man named Ken started to shoot up through the
ranks at First Christian. He was supremely confident in his abilities and wasn’t afraid to show it.
Because of his recent victories, he began to brag that he was the best. I was so annoyed by his
prideful attitude that I approached him and challenged him to compete with me at the
upcoming round robin tournament only one week away.

Ken had been studying for months, and I only had one week to prepare. But, I was motivated to
put this bragger in his place. My motivation pushed me to study around the clock as I prepared
for the competition.

The day of the tournament arrived and the competition was good. But, by the end of the day I
had defeated Ken and his team twice—each time with a wide margin.

Motivation can drive you to do remarkable things… even if the motivation isn’t pure.
When someone says, “I’m going to start a ministry ‘for’ people affected by disabilities,” you
know there is a certain motivation behind it. Or if you hear someone say, “We minister ‘to’
people affected by disabilities,” you can get guess what their philosophical approach is.
Motivation and philosophy are closely connected.

Remember what philosophy is? I would define philosophy like this—it is our approach to why
we do what we do.

Motivation is what drives us to accomplish the things that we must do or want to do.
When we look at why individuals, organizations, or churches get into disability ministry there is
always a motivation that drives them.

The philosophical approaches of ministry “to” or “for” people affected by disability are very
similar and are probably not driven by a proper motivation.

When we create a disability ministry and set it up to minister “to” people affected by
disabilities, we tend to objectify them. They have become the objects of our ministry efforts.
When we create a disability ministry “for” people affected by disability we might believe in an
“Us vs. Them” mentality where they are somehow less than us because they need our help. No
one wants to be viewed as less than.

These approaches to ministry are often fueled by an improper motivation—most commonly
pity or guilt. Sadly, many amazing ministry leaders may have gotten into the field of disability
ministry because of this sense of guilt or pity.

Doing ministry “to” or “for” people affected by disability tends to have similar characteristics.
First, they are likely focused on the disability rather than the ability. Second, these ministries
are often program or event driven. Third, there tends to be a lack of personal connection
between those doing the ministry and those who are the objects of the ministry efforts. In a
nutshell, the personal relationship aspect of ministry is missing.

After considering these approaches to ministry, I want to add a disclaimer: people who take
these approaches to ministry are not bad people. They are often wonderful people that may
simply need to shift their philosophy and motivation. At the end of the day we need to
recognize that our churches are made up of broken people, ourselves included. Rather than
being upset by those who take a less than perfect approach to ministry, we should be patient
with them and help them see that there is a different, better, way.

(Blog first posted on The Irresistible Church, http://irresistiblechurch.org/)

A Philosophical Shift to Disability Ministry (Part 1 of 5)

When my family moved into our home on Northfield Avenue, we loved our large backyard where deer routinely wandered by our windows. At the time, our children were young, and they marveled at the deer as they passed by. Our family was so fascinated by the deer that we put out salt-licks to coax them closer and closer to our home allowing our kids to get a closer look.

Then, in a single moment, our feelings toward the deer changed dramatically when one jumped through our front window. The deer no longer seemed cute and fun. Our feelings toward them went from wondrous to fearful. We went from viewing them in a positive light to seeing them in a negative light. We instantly disposed of the salt licks and did everything we could to keep the deer away from our home.

You could say we had a major philosophical shift when it came to the deer. I would define philosophy simply as our approach to why we do what we do. This approach is rooted in what we believe.

Disability ministry is no different. What we believe about people affected by disability will determine why we do what we do in disability ministry. I also believe that many churches need to make a vital shift in their philosophy regarding disability ministry.

Jesus himself touched on this much-needed shift in our philosophical approach to disability ministry in John Chapter 9. The first two verses of John 9 reveal the beliefs people held in Jesus’ day about people affected by disabilities. “As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’” (John 9:1-2)

Unfortunately, we see the disciples’ bad theology in this passage. Bad theology leads to bad philosophy. They believed that people with disabilities were sinners and were being cursed or punished for their sins. If not their own sins, they were being punished for the sins of their parents. This theology led them to believe that people affected by disabilities were sinners who did not have a place of belonging with other believers. They were disqualified and not welcomed.

Jesus corrects their theology and challenges them to make a philosophical switch by responding with one powerful sentence, “’It was not that this man sinned, or his parents but that the works of God might be displayed in him.’” (John 9:3)

Jesus declared to his disciples, and everyone present, that disability does not equal sin. And then he took it a step further by declaring that there is a divine purpose for disability. This presented a huge theological and philosophical shift for his disciples and for church leadership throughout history. This one-sentence declaration meant that people affected by disabilities were not worthless and incapable of doing God’s work. Rather it meant that they were created by God on purpose for a purpose. They were loved by God and could be used by God.

The question that I now wrestle with is—if Jesus made this profound shift in both theology and philosophy over 2000 years ago, why have so many people in the church struggled to embrace it? Over the next four Fridays, I invite you to take a closer look at this issue with me.

(Blog first posted on The Irresistible Church, http://irresistiblechurch.org/)

What the Old Testament says about Disability (Part 4 of 4)

Blog #4 Is being in the presence of the King enough for me?

The account of Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel chapter 9 ends with, “And Mephibosheth lived in
Jerusalem, because he was always at the king’s table; he was lame in both feet.” The first time I
read this verse I cringed a little bit. I would have rather it read, “And Mephibosheth lived in
Jerusalem, because he was always at the king’s table.” Period. End of the story. But that is not
the way that it ends.

Mephibosheth is once again characterized by the fact that he is disabled.
Was the author of 2 Samuel just not disability friendly? Or was there a purpose behind
Mephibosheth’s constant characterization as a disabled man? We will dig into that in just a
moment, but before we do let’s consider what it means to “always be at the king’s table.”
To “always be at the king’s table” means that Mephibosheth found a place of belonging. What
Mephibosheth was experiencing was more than just inclusion.

Sometimes when I read Scripture, I like to read between the lines. I like to imagine what was
happening that wasn’t recorded. In this story, I envision the first time that Mephibosheth
entered the dining room and approached the King’s table. I can almost hear the clicking of
Mephibosheth’s crutches reverberating through the dining hall as they hit the marble floor.
After the clicking of the crutches, I can imagine the sound of his feet dragging behind him. The
dining hall falls silent as all eyes focus on Mephibosheth nervously approaching the king’s table. Click, drag, click, drag. Maybe there was even some whispering going on around the table as he approached. People were probably nervous about what it was going to be like. People like Mephibosheth weren’t typically allowed at the king’s table. Maybe there were people in the room who had a problem with Mephibosheth’s presence. Then, in this awkward moment, I like to think that King David stands up and runs to embrace him—in a similar fashion to the Prodigal Son. After a long embrace, I imagine that King David gives Mephibosheth the place of honor at the table. What a beautiful picture! Remember that King David’s actions often spoke louder than his words when it came to his interaction with Mephibosheth.

Finding a place of belonging around the king’s table meant that Mephibosheth’s life had
changed dramatically. He had gone from a life of hiding and shame to a life of being chosen and sought after. He had been taught to believe that he was a worthless burden, but now the king had declared that he was valuable and worthy. Having a permanent seat at the king’s table meant that others would regard him as a son of the king. He would be sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with the princes of the kingdom. It was a place of power and prestige.

So, if Mephibosheth was accepted by the king and viewed as worthy, why the additional
mention of his disability in verse 13? I believe it is because Mephibosheth’s story does not end
in a miraculous healing. Throughout scripture we see God intervene by performing miracles.
There are many accounts of people affected by disability receive healing. We know that God
was able to do this for Mephibosheth, but He choose not to.

There are times when we pray for miraculous healing and God says, “No.” It may be healing
from disability, illness, disease, divorce, job loss, or any other form of suffering. Sometimes we
don’t get the answer we want from God, and other times it feels like we don’t get an answer at
all.

Here is what I believe God wants us to understand from this story: being in the presence of The
King is enough. The King is concerned with our hearts, not with our disabilities. God says in 2
Corinthians 12:9 that His grace is sufficient for us. But is it really? It was for Mephibosheth.
Always being at the king’s table was enough. Finding a place of belonging was enough. The
grace Mephibosheth received from the king was far more important than any physical healing
he could have received.

(Blog first posted on The Irresistible Church, http://irresistiblechurch.org/)

What the Old Testament has to say about Disability (Part 3 of 4)

Blog #3 Don’t believe the lie

We’ve been following the account of King David and Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 9. When King
David summons Mephibosheth, he is found living in a place called Lo-Debar. Lo-Debar was not a nice place. It was isolated, dry, and desolate. Not your ideal vacation destination. If you were
born in Lo-Debar, you likely couldn’t wait till the day you could leave. It was, however, the
perfect place for someone like Mephibosheth to live a life of hiding.

Mephibosheth probably lived most of his life in Lo-Debar—hiding in fear that one day, King
David would hunt him down and kill him. When he opened the door and saw the King’s servant
standing there, he knew that he had been found. He probably wanted to flee, but was unable to
because of his disability.

While scripture doesn’t give the details of his journey to meet King David, it is easy to wonder if Mephibosheth was filled with fear on this long ride back to Jerusalem. If he wasn’t filled with
fear maybe he was filled with hatred. Perhaps he grew up resenting David for the fact that his
grandfather King Saul and his father Jonathan were dead. What if he blamed David for the fact
that he became disabled and had to live a life of hiding and shame?

Mephibosheth’s story takes an unlikely twist when he enters the palace. “When Mephibosheth
son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David he bowed down to pay him honor” (2 Samuel
9:6). As he bowed before David he might have wondered if this was the end of his life.
Then everything changed. “‘Don’t be afraid,’ David said to [Mephibosheth], ‘for I will surely
show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that
belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.’” (2 Samuel 9:7)
Wow! This is a life changing moment for Mephibosheth—but he is unable to hear it. He is
unable to believe it or embrace it. Why? I believe it’s because he believed what others said
about him and allowed that to become his identity.

In response to King David, Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that
you should notice a dead dog like me?” (2 Samuel 9:8)

A dead dog. Really? He thinks of himself as a dead dog. In that culture, this was essentially the
most worthless thing you could believe about yourself. He believed this because in his society,
people affected by disability were considered a burden. They were considered worthless. In
addition to that, he should have been killed when the kingship changed.

His false belief about himself stopped him from being able to hear the good news from the
king. How often does this happen to us? We become consumed by what others think and say
about us. When we start believing these false truths about ourselves, it prevents us from being
able to see ourselves as God sees us.

Ask yourself this… Do you believe that God loves you and desires to show you kindness? Have
you surrounded yourself with the truths that God speaks about you in Scripture, or have you
become burdened by false truths that others have fed you?

King David not only spoke truth to Mephibosheth, but he took it a step further by restoring to
Mephibosheth all the land that once belonged to his grandfather, King Saul. He also gave
Mephibosheth a seat of honor at the king’s table. God wants to restore you too. It starts with
believing about yourself what God already sees in you.

(Blog first posted on The Irresistible Church, http://irresistiblechurch.org/)

What the Old Testament says about Disability (Part 2 of 4)

Blog #2 Don’t just ignore the attitude

After the short mention of five-year- old Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 4:4, we don’t hear anything
about him for the next five chapters. Those five chapters cover many years of biblical history,
and when we reach 2 Samuel chapter 9, Mephibosheth is a grown man with a son of his own.
David had been settled into his role as King of Israel for several years.

In 2 Samuel 9, King David has a moment of awakening. He suddenly remembers a promise that
he made to old friend years ago. His friend’s name was Jonathan—the same Jonathan who was
the son of King Saul and would become the father of Mirab Baal (Mephibosheth). Jonathan and
David were good friends long before David became king.

To understand the context of this promise, let’s look at 1 Samuel 20:14-15 where we see a
conversation between Jonathan and David. Jonathan said, “But show me unfailing kindness like
the Lord’s kindness as long as I live, so that I may not be killed, and do not ever cut off your
kindness from my family...” Jonathan knew that David had been anointed as the next king of
Israel. This meant that Jonathan would not assume the throne after his father’s death. He also
knew that when a kingship changed bloodlines it was customary for the new king to kill
everyone in the previous royal family to eradicate any disloyalty. Jonathan wanted to ensure
that his friend David would not do this to him and his family.

In 2 Samuel 9:1, we see the moment where David remembers his promise to his deceased
friend, Jonathan. David says, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show
kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”

After searching the kingdom, they found a former servant of the house of Saul named Ziba. King David had Ziba brought before him and asked him if anyone from Jonathan’s household
remained.

Ziba’s response to King David is very telling of the attitude that existed in his day toward people with disabilities. Ziba answers the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.” (2 Samuel 9:4)

Don’t overlook the fact that Ziba didn’t even mention Mephibosheth by name. He was just a
son of Jonathan. The only characteristic that Ziba mentions is the fact that Mephibosheth was
disabled. For Ziba, Mephibosheth was his disability. This is a dangerous perspective because
Ziba had dehumanized Mephibosheth. Ziba and much of his society viewed people with
disabilities as a burden, a wasted life. We must remember there was no ADA during the reign of King David. There were not wheelchair ramps and elevators. Disability rights did not exist.
People-First language was not practiced.

King David doesn’t even acknowledge the callousness of Ziba. Instead, he decided to challenge
this judgmental attitude through his actions. He did more than just ignore Ziba’s attitude, he led by example.

King David basically said to Ziba, “I don’t care where he is, go get him!” King David, motivated
by keeping a promise to a friend, would change the attitude of many towards people affected
by disability. He reached out to Mephibosheth to show him kindness and to offer him a place of
belonging.

May King David’s example remind us that we must move beyond simply advocating for people
affected by disabilities through mediums like social media. We must act. We must be
determined to not only speak kind words but also to show kindness. May your actions speak
louder than your words today. May your example change the attitudes of others.

(Blog first posted on The Irresistible Church, http://irresistiblechurch.org/)

What the Old Testament says about Disability (Part 1 of 4)

Blog #1 When a moment changes everything

There are moments in life that are burned into our memories. They may be great moments like
a wedding day, graduation, or the birth of a child. Or they may be moments you wish you could
delete from your mind—the death of a loved one, job loss, or divorce.

Several years ago, on a cool summer evening my daughter had a traumatic moment that she,
nor her family, will ever forget. We all rode our bikes to a nearby park where we decided to
spend time playing on the playground. An evening of perfect joy came to an abrupt halt when
Zoe’s hands slipped off the monkey bars. She had almost made it to the end when her grip gave way. As she fell, she threw her arms out to brake her fall. When she hit the ground, the impact was too great for her little bones to withstand. She bones in her arm completely snapped, just above the wrist. The was no question as to whether the bones were broken—it was gruesome.

In the book of 2 nd Samuel we find a character that would become known as Mephibosheth. He too had a moment when everything changed for him. Mephibosheth and my daughter were
almost identical in age when these traumatic events happened to them. And like my daughter,
he fell and broke a few bones. Unfortunately for Mephibosheth, he didn’t have the advantage
of modern medicine to help him. The result of his accident left him permanently disabled.
Let’s back up for a moment to get an understanding of who this young boy is. I mentioned his
name would become known as Mephibosheth. This, however, was not his given name. His
father was named Jonathan. And his grandfather was King Saul, the first King of Israel. I can
imagine how proud Saul must have been when Jonathan named his son Mirab Baal. Mirab Baal
was a strong name that meant “opponent of Baal.” Baal was the most worshiped false God of
their time. By naming his son Mirab Baal, Jonathan was declaring that his son was destined to
be an example of steadfast faith in the one true God.

His story begins in 2 Samuel 4:4, “…He [Mirab Baal] was five years old when the news about
Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel.”

This news was the beginning of a very bad day for little Mirab Baal—a day that would change
everything for him. The news stated that his grandfather, King Saul, and his father, Jonathan,
were both killed in battle.

Widespread panic began to spread through the palace. Everyone feared that David would be
coming to kill them all. It was widely known that David had been anointed to become the next
king of Israel. And typically, when the blood lines of a kingship changed the new king would kill
everyone in previous king’s bloodline along with their servants.

2nd Samuel 4:4 continues, “His nurse picked him up and fled, but as she hurried to leave, he fell and became disabled. His name was Mephibosheth.”

Little five-year- old Mirab Baal stood in a state of confusion as everyone around him begins to
panic. A nurse that worked with his family noticed him standing there and, meaning well, grabbed him to run off. In the mad dash for safety, little Mirab Baal slips from her hands and
falls awkwardly breaking both legs. His fall left him with a permanent physical disability. If this wasn’t enough, his name was changed to Mephibosheth which means “son of shame.” In a moment, everything changed for this little five-year- old boy. He was left both an orphan and disabled.

You are not alone if a moment changed everything for you. Maybe it was a moment when an
accident left you or a loved one disabled. Or maybe it was the moment when your child was
born and the doctor told you they had a disability. The feelings of despair and shame that
you’ve had to navigate were also experienced by Mephibosheth. We’ll explore more of this in
the next post of this series.

(Blog first posted on The Irresistible Church, http://irresistiblechurch.org/)

Transitions: What Will Ministry Look Like Without You? (Part 3 of 3)

The true mark of a healthy transition is how you leave your ministry. You should be able to look back and see that ministry is continuing as normal despite your absence. Everything you leave behind should be able to stand on its own two legs. What do I mean by that? I simply mean that in your time of ministry you should have built up leaders and empowered them to do the work of the ministry without you.

Ephesians 4:12 gives us a wonderful definition for ministry – “to equip [God’s] people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”

Nowhere in this verse does it say that everything should depend on the ministry leader. In fact, it says the opposite. It says that the ministry leader should empower others to engage in the ministry. A healthy ministry leader is ultimately a leader of leaders. If a ministry leader has done his or her job properly, no aspect of ministry should suffer when that ministry leader departs because they have invested in other leaders.

Is this easy? No way. Unfortunately, many ministry leaders are lone rangers. They feel as though everything depends on them, and they operate as if they are superman or wonder woman. When a leader operates in isolation they are not taking time to prepare God’s people for works of service. There are many reasons why ministry leaders might fall into this temptation.

If you don’t want to be a lone ranger in ministry and you are going to take Ephesians 4:12 seriously, there are two things that must be paramount in your leadership.

First, you must carry yourself with humility. A humble leader is good at keeping things in proper perspective. In humility, you view yourself as someone that God is using to accomplish a specific task. You see yourself as replaceable. You see the importance of others. You know that your task is to live out what John the Baptist proclaimed in John 3:30, “He must become greater; I must become less.” The true source of all ministry success must be recognized. Any credit you receive should first be redirected to God and second to those that support you. Whenever you choose to take the credit for yourself, your humility and your leadership are compromised.

Second, you must be selfless. Humility and selflessness are intimately connected. But, consider this—humility is about you, selflessness is about others. If you are going to lead selflessly, you should not only keep things in proper perspective but you will also need to fight for others. As a leader, you will quickly learn that ministry is not about you, but rather about others being empowered to do works of service so that the body of Christ can be built up.

So, when the day of your transition comes and the Lord calls you away from a ministry that you have poured your heart into, what will your ministry look like without you? This is a question that you should ask yourself regularly, even when leaving the ministry isn’t even on your radar. You could even post that question somewhere in your office to keep you centered. If your ministry suffers without you, chances are you didn’t lead well. If your ministry is healthy and doesn’t miss a beat, chances are you lead well with humility, selflessness, and a commitment to Ephesians 4:12.

The investment in others is always worth the time. One day God will call you elsewhere or take you home, and if you haven’t made the investment in others your ministry will suffer.

Have you walked through a ministry transition? What did you learn from that season?

(Blog first posted on The Irresistible Church, http://irresistiblechurch.org/)