Transitions: How Do I Tell Everyone? (Part 2 of 3)

Once you have determined that God is calling you to a new Kingdom assignment, the next part of your process should be building a communication plan.

Leaving one Kingdom assignment for another can be emotional, especially as you communicate your transition to those that you have worked with closely and care for deeply. Putting intentional thought into how you communicate can help your transition go more smoothly. Here are five quick tips on communicating your transition:

Bathe it in prayer: If you have not bathed your conversations in prayer and carefully planned them out, they can quickly wear you down. It can be helpful to write out everything you want to communicate before you attempt to speak it. When emotions begin to play a role, it’s easy to forget key points that you wanted to share. Pray that the Holy Spirit would guide your words and prepare the hearts of those you will be speaking to. Pray that He will help you say everything you need to say without saying too much.

Stay positive: As you prepare to communicate your transition, keep both your words and your tone positive. Goodbyes can make emotions swirl, and it is easy for people to focus on the negative. People might be thinking that the ministry won’t be the same without you. They may worry that things will fall apart. And most of all, they will miss you. Encourage people to see that different isn’t bad, it’s just different. Different can actually be good—a new leader with a fresh set of eyes can see things that you probably missed. Transition can also provide opportunities for others to step up. Highlighting these positives can encourage those under your leadership as they face uncertainty.

Communicate with grace: You can communicate with grace by building up those you are talking with. Help them understand the role they’ve played in your life and how they’ve impacted you. Help them see their potential. Help them understand that the ministry does not belong to you, but rather to God. God is bigger than all our ministries and without His grace no ministry would ever succeed.

Communicate inside-out: Inside-out communication always starts with those that are the closest to you; your loved ones and family. Next you move to those in authority over you—mentors and ministry leaders, your boss or board of elders. Beyond this, you will need to talk with the people within your congregation or community that you are closest with. You might determine who fits into this category by asking yourself the following question: “Who would I be disappointed to not be able to share this information with personally if word got out before I wanted it to?” The final group that gets to hear your news is the congregation at large. Depending on your level of influence with the congregation there are many ways to share your news; from the pulpit, in the bulletin, in an eNews publication, or however else the leadership of your church determines is best.

Move quick: As much as you want to do everything in your timing, word will travel fast. Because of current technology and social media, you should proceed with caution. Be wise in who you communicate with before you are ready for your transition to be made public. More damage could be done if others begin to share your news before you are ready to share it. Once you have communicated your transition to those in your inner circle, you should try to schedule as many meetings as possible in as short of a window as possible. You will probably need to set up a meeting with staff and a meeting with volunteers. You will not likely have 100% attendance at these meetings, so it is wise to have a written communication piece ready to send. The moment your group meeting concludes you should be ready to click “send” on your mass written communication.

As you work through the communication phase of your transition, take time to prepare your heart. This will likely be the most emotionally draining part of the entire process—more draining than packing up your house and loading it onto a moving truck. So, take time to approach the communication of your transition with intentional prayer and strategy.

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

Transitions: What is God's will? (Part 1 of 3)

 

After serving in full-time ministry at the same church for 15 years, I have felt an urging from God that He has a new Kingdom assignment for me. During my time at First Christian Church in Canton, Ohio, I have served in roles ranging from Children’s Pastor, to Middle School Pastor, to Family Pastor, to Disability Ministry Pastor. I have watched a lot of friends come and go throughout my tenure in these roles. I heard many of my friends talk about being “called by God” to a new assignment. I began to wonder if that would ever be me. And if so, how would I hear from God? Does God really speak like He did to Jonah? To be honest, I was always a bit skeptical when my friends talked about being “called.”

Being able to discern God’s will in your life is a critical component of having a healthy ministry transition.

As I searched scripture, trying to uncover this mystery of God’s will for our lives, two passages stood out to me:

  • Ecclesiastes 12:13 (NIV) – “…here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV) – “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Notice that no verses from the book of Jonah made the top of my list. There is a reason for that. While I do not discount the fact that God sometimes speaks very specifically about what He wants us to do, I believe that this is the exception and not the rule. Does God speak? Absolutely! What does God primarily speak about? He primarily speaks about us being in awe of Him, being obedient, being joyful, praying continually, and giving thanks in all circumstances. If you think God may be calling you to a new assignment, do a self-assessment on these things. Discerning God’s will is much easier when you are pursuing Him wholeheartedly.

Once you do a self-assessment, take time to ask yourself the following questions (in order).

  1. How will this move affect my relationship with God? Everything we do, or don’t do, has the ability to either draw us closer to God or drive us away from Him. God would not want you to take a new assignment if the circumstances would put a strain on your relationship with Him.
  2. How will this move affect my relationship with my family? Just like God would not want you to make a move that would adversely impact your relationship with Him, neither would He want you to do anything that would negatively impact your family. No ministry leader can have maximum ministry impact if his or her family is not fully supportive. Family life always bleeds into work life.
  3. How will this move affect my ability to make Kingdom impact? Please note that this question comes after the other two. If the first two questions cannot be answered in a positive way then it might not be worth asking the third. If you are living in obedience to God you can have positive Kingdom impact wherever you are. Ask yourself if this new opportunity would open the door for you to share the Gospel with more people. You might also consider whether you have reached everyone that God would want you to reach in your current assignment. Finding release is as important as seeing opportunity.
  4. How has God prepared me for this new opportunity? God will not call you to a new assignment if He has not prepared you for it. Looking into the future almost always requires looking into the past. It’s only in retrospect that we can see how God has actively prepared us for new things.

If all these questions can be answered positively then God may be up to something. This list of questions is certainly not exhaustive, and I would encourage you to invite trusted individuals into the process.

Does God speak? Absolutely. More often than not He speaks to us through the Bible and through trusted people who know us well.

As you seek the will of God, be careful not to allow discomfort or difficult times in your current assignment to be the primary motivator for finding a new assignment. Don’t allow troubled times to drive you away from a work that God wants you to endure and complete.

Determining God’s will is paramount in seasons of transition. As you assess your heart and challenge yourself with these questions, I pray that His will for your path becomes clear.

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

Mentoring Young Adults With Disabilities

Apocalyptic-type movies are not my favorite because they all have the same basic plot, and they create an overinflated sense of impending doom. However, I do think there is something we can learn from them. In 1998, Morgan Freeman played the role of the President in a movie titled Deep Impact. This storyline showed a seven-mile-wide, killer comet on a crash course with Earth. The Americans and Russians worked together to build a spacecraft that could be sent into space with nuclear missiles to destroy the comet before it collided with Earth.

This storyline may sound far-fetched, but it was based on a scientific theory. Scientists believed they could save the Earth by either destroying a comet with explosive missiles before it reached our atmosphere or changing its trajectory by making impact with it.

While Deep Impact was being filmed, NASA was actually planning a mission with the same name. The mission entailed crashing a small spacecraft into a comet to collect data from the impact. After crashing the spacecraft into the comet, they found that there was a slight change in the comet’s speed and trajectory.

You are probably wondering how this information relates to mentoring? You didn’t read this blog for a science lesson on kinetic energy. But, there are more similarities than you may think.

First, mentoring is an intentional act. It is not something that happens by accident.

Second, mentoring is time consuming. The Deep Impact mission planning began in 1998, but it didn’t make impact with the comet until 2005.

Third, when you mentor you can change someone’s life trajectory. Mentoring, like the Deep Impact mission, comes with results.

Okay, so what else does mentoring look like? Let me start with what it is not. Mentoring is not a one-way street. You may think you are there to help and guide your mentee, but you will soon realize that you have much to learn as well. Mentoring is also not about me making you into me. It is about me helping you become who God created you to be.

Mentoring is not complex. Mentoring is simply intentional relationship. We make time for each other in relationship. It isn’t just random unfocused time. Mentoring is specific. It’s about helping someone take the next step, whatever that step might be.

In mentoring you may see grand results or you may only see smaller results. If you ever question whether the small results are worth it, don’t! Remember that, like the rocket crashing into the comet, even small results now can have tremendous impact later! Mentoring is worth the investment no matter the size of the change. God will determine the results.

When you choose to mentor a young adult with a disability you are taking a chance on someone. God loves that person dearly and has specific plans for his or her life. By mentoring, you could forever change someone’s life trajectory. By mentoring, you could empower someone to become who God has created them to be. You could release them to do ministry and not just be an object of ministry.

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

Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People? (Part 4 0f 4)

Suffering Produces Hope

Today we will look at the big question: why does God allow and/or create suffering? In previous posts, I quoted Joni Eareckson Tada saying, “God allows what He hates to accomplish what He loves.” I’ve also heard it said this way… God is more concerned about your holiness than your happiness. I’d like to address four ways these statements help us answer the question of “why?”

First, God desires us to depend on him alone. The world tells us that we should be self-sufficient; we don’t need anyone ; if we are strong we can make it on our own; everything that we need we can find within. These statements are false. Each of them come from a faulty worldview.

The truth is, we cannot make it on our own. We were not designed to be self-sufficient, nor can we magically find the answers within us. When we rely solely upon ourselves we always come up short.

2 Corinthians 1:9 tells us, “Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.”

Suffering can feel like a “death sentence.” But sometimes, suffering is the only thing that can change our faulty worldview of self-reliance, and help us see that only a God who raises the dead can deliver us.

God is worthy of our dependence because only He can sustain us. When our eyes are opened to the fact that only God can give us what we need, the burden of self-reliance is lifted.

Psalm 68:19 reads, “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” We can depend on God because He cares for us, and takes upon Himself all our burdens.

Secondly, God wants us to recognize that He is enough. Grace has been defined as the free and unmerited favor of God. There is much we could say about grace, but we will focus on how it relates to our suffering. Suffering can make us feel weak and defeated. Weakness and defeat create an intimate understanding that we cannot accomplish that which we desire on our own. We must rely on others. It is in this void that God’s grace can be realized in a fresh and meaningful way. Without suffering, the full extent of God’s grace isn’t always realized.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9 Paul writes, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

Suffering causes us to see that we are weak and needy. It is God and God alone who can deliver us in our weakness.

Thirdly, God is interested in our character development. God loves us despite our sins, which is hard to fathom. But check this out… God loves us too much to leave us the way He found us. Call it character development, spiritual development, or discipleship – however you label it, God is concerned about shaping you. You are not a finished product. Suffering can help you develop into who God wants you to be.

Romans 5:3-4 provides insight into the character development that suffering can produce, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

Did you notice that Paul said “we also glory in our sufferings?” Ouch. Suffering doesn’t feel glorious to me. But clearly there is something glorious about it; if we embrace it rather than loathe it, God can use it to shape us into who He wants us to be.

God wants us to become more like his Son, Jesus. Because this is not an easy process He is gentle with us.

Isaiah 40:10-11 says, “See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”

God’s gentleness is truly a gift as he shapes us to be more like His Son.

Fourthly, suffering can produce an intimate connection with Jesus. None of us desire suffering. What we desire is to live a happy, comfortable life. This desire is built into us and is often what drives us. However, comfort and success were of little concern to Jesus.

Philippians 2:8 “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”

No, we don’t desire suffering, but when we encounter it we can gain great perspective from it. Through our suffering, we meet Jesus in a unique way, we gain new appreciation for God’s grace, and we are shaped into the image of God’s Son.

Why does God allow, and even create, suffering? More than anything else in this life, suffering brings us closer to God.

First posted on: http://irresistiblechurch.org/bad-things-happen-good-people-part-4-4/#

Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People? (Part 3 of 4)

Does Suffering Equal Discipline?

What does suffering look like for my nine-year-old son? He would probably equate suffering with losing his electronics privileges. When I say electronics, I mean his gadgets… his Chromebook, his Nintendo DS, the Wii, the iPad, the TV, you name it.  There have been times when he has not listened and has lost the usage of his electronics for a day. He can suffer through 24 hours without much trouble. However, there have been other times when he has done things that require tougher consequences, like lying. Lying carries a much heavier punishment than not listening. When caught in a lie he loses his electronics for a week.

I often wonder what my son thinks of us as his parents. Does he think that we are cruel? I mean, how in the world could he possibly survive a week without electronics? I think he knows that we want the best for him as we try to help him learn the importance of obedience. At least I hope he does.

Knowing that God both allows and creates suffering can give us a wrong picture of God if our theology isn’t sound. We could be tempted to question God’s character. We could fall into the trap of believing that God is cruel, cold, and distant.

Here is the deal. God isn’t cold and distant. God is certainly not cruel. There is a method behind what we may feel at times is madness. Let’s dig into some scriptures to see exactly who God is rather than basing our theology on feelings or fears.

Lamentations 3:32-33 says, “Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.”

As a parent, I can relate to this passage. When I need to teach my children a life lesson it sometimes comes with a level of discomfort. My children and I both grieve when this kind of discipline must be enacted, but it is always done out of love. Compassion always follows discipline.

I want to be careful not to unilaterally equate affliction and discipline across the board. In my previous blog series, I have talked about the theology of suffering, noting that God can have several purposes for what He wills. John 9 is a perfect example of this.

Psalm 23:4 offers reassurance, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

God never leaves us! Even in our darkest hours when we feel abandoned, God is there. The “rod” and “staff” in this verse are pictures of correction and guidance. God is actively teaching, protecting, and moving us to a better place. This does not portray a cold and distant God.

Genesis 50:20 is a powerful verse that concludes the story of Joseph. Joseph suffered much in his lifetime. He was hated by his brothers, beaten by them, and sold by them into slavery. He got thrown into prison because a less than virtuous woman lied about him. He had more than enough reason to believe that God was cruel, cold, and distant. But he didn’t. He lived by sound theology. He did not allow the circumstances of his life to color his view of God’s character.

In this verse, Joseph speaks humbly with his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Joseph saw clearly what Joni Eareckson Tada eloquently says, “God allows what He hates to accomplish what He loves.”

The suffering that we experience in this lifetime is often not random. There truly is a method behind the madness of what we endure in this world. It does not come from the hand of a cruel, cold, and distant God. It comes from a God that is compassionate, that journeys with us, and has a purpose for us.

First posted on: http://irresistiblechurch.org/bad-things-happen-good-people-part-3-4/#

Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People? (Part 2 of 4)

Does God Create Suffering?

I have a good friend named Coral, a godly woman with developmental disabilities. Coral has taught me so much about faith and disability. She has faithfully volunteered with our special needs ministry for over ten years. Through the course of our friendship we have shared many meals together. Her favorite place to eat is Wendy’s. I noticed that Coral always orders her burgers plain, so one day I asked her why she never adds any condiments to her burger. She replied, “You only need to add those things if something doesn’t taste good.” She is right! Sometimes I notice my kids living out this principle. When they have to eat something they don’t enjoy, they cover it in a sea of ketchup – making it easier to swallow.

Something that can be tough to swallow is the reality that God allows suffering and disability. The truth that we address today might be more like trying to swallow an elephant in one single bite. No amount of ketchup will help it taste better or go down easier. Let’s get right to it, because there is no easy way around it.

God creates suffering.

Ugh. I’m choking already. I feel uncomfortable even typing that. I mean, that makes it difficult to want to follow and trust God. I thought God was supposed to be nice all the time?

Some people who have experienced hardship and suffering believe that God hates them. If God isn’t cruel and doesn’t hate them, the only other option is that He is completely disconnected from His creation, right?

God is not disconnected from His creation, nor does He hate His creation. So, why would God create suffering?

Let’s look at the facts.

Lamentations 3:38, “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?” God comes right out and says it. Both good things and bad things come from Him. That means that, at times, He is the author of the suffering we experience.

Isaiah 45:7, “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.” I think I was a bit more okay with the word “calamities” than I am with the word “disaster.”

When I think of “disaster” I think of natural disasters and tragedy on a large scale. These are things that I don’t want to attribute to God. I don’t want to because my finite mind can’t always make sense of it. I also don’t want this to be true because I don’t want people to think that I am some crazy, sadistic, right-winged, fanatical Christian. But, if we accept that ALL scripture is true and inspired by God, we don’t get the liberty to pick and choose only the easy passages that make us feel warm and fuzzy inside.

So, why would God create suffering?

Ephesians 1:11 says, “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will…”

God has a plan. God is not distant or disconnected. God knows what He is doing. We don’t always get it, and there are things that we will never understand. But, if we understood everything what would be the point of faith? We must trust that God knows what He is doing even if we cannot make sense of it. The concept of God creating “disaster” and “suffering” is one of those areas for me.

If we continue to read Ephesians 1:12-14 we gain some insight into God’s ultimate plan, “…in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”

There it is again. God desires our praise. God wants to be glorified above all else. In the end, as we attempt to swallow the difficult truth that God creates suffering, we must conclude that He does so to accomplish His will for us. His will is ultimately that we would praise Him and put our trust in Him. Maybe, just maybe, the only way that some of us will open our eyes to this is through disaster and suffering.

* First posted on http://irresistiblechurch.org/bad-things-happen-good-people-part-2-4/#

Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People? (Part 1 of 4)

Does God Allow Suffering?

My family sometimes jokes about having a “black cloud” constantly hovering overhead. We joke because laughing is sometimes better than crying. Recently our garage door broke, costing over $1,000 to repair. Then the toilet in our bathroom stopped working, followed by the bathroom sink. If those repairs weren’t bad enough, we found bees living in the side of our home just outside our daughter’s bedroom. We used three full cans of “bee spray” to kill the hive, but inadvertently had over 40 angry bees escape into our house. To top it all off, our roof started leaking in our son’s bedroom. We crawled into the attic to inspect the leak and found that we had carpenter ants. Each of these things happened within a span of several weeks!

After the dust settled, I could recognize that these problems were fixable. A financial burden, yes, but at the end of the day, fixable. This recognition helped me cope with the “bad things” I was experiencing.

What about the “bad things” that have unfixable consequences? Hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, police shootings, terrorism, people shooting police… the list goes on. Simply turn on the news, and you’ll see all the “bad things” happening in our world.

I’d like to take it a step further. Some of my friends were born “typical” per society’s labels, but through illness or an accident, they became permanently disabled and lost their “typical” label. If I’m honest, when I hear their stories, I want to question God. I think to myself, They are good people that come from good families. Why, God? Why would you allow this to happen to them? It doesn’t seem fair, it isn’t right. I’m left confused and, at times, angry.

Why do bad things happen to good people?

As I searched Scripture trying to find the answer to this age-old question, I discovered a somewhat shocking reality – God allows both suffering and disability.

This wasn’t the answer that I wanted to find. I wanted to find that it was Satan’s fault; blame the bad guy! I wanted to find that God is our mighty protector, and that He would never allow bad things to happen to us. Unfortunately, that wasn’t what I found.

Take for example the classic exchange between God and Satan surrounding the treatment of Job in the Old Testament. First, it is mind blowing to consider that Satan can walk into heaven to talk with God. Secondly, God allows Satan to inflict suffering on Job.

It can be hard to make sense of this. Perhaps it is an Old Testament thing – weird stuff happened in the Old Testament that makes little sense. Can we chalk it up to that? Surely when Jesus arrived on the scene in the New Testament, the concept of God allowing suffering went away, right? Wrong.

Luke 13:11 describes another situation where God allowed Satan to afflict someone with suffering and disability, “…and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all.” (NIV)

Why would a loving God allow bad things to happen to good people? Why would God allow His people to suffer and become disabled? These are tough questions.

I love what Joni Eareckson Tada says about this dilemma, “God allows what He hates to accomplish what He loves.” How true is this? We find repeatedly that God is more interested in our holiness than our happiness.

Both Job and the woman in Luke 13 were being tested. Both were given an opportunity to either grow in their faith or become bitter. I love what Scripture tells us in Luke 13:13, “Then He put His hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.” God was praised by this woman. God was glorified. God desires our praise and trust. God wants to be glorified above all else.

Because God is God, He has the power to heal. But God doesn’t always choose to heal. We possess the ability to choose our response to our circumstances. We can choose to praise God, trust God, and give Him glory despite our suffering. The question is, will we choose to praise Him if He doesn’t bring the healing we desire?

* First posted on http://irresistiblechurch.org/bad-things-happen-good-people-part-1-4/

Disability Inclusion on Mission Trips

Inclusion is one of the top buzz words in the disability community. Extensive research has been done on inclusion, countless articles have been written and everyone seems to have an opinion on appropriate levels of inclusion in schools. I think we can all agree that there are clear benefits to inclusion.

In the church world, the conversation on inclusion almost always is centered on children and the world of children’s ministry. Obviously, there are more possibilities for inclusion outside of children’s ministry.

Many in the church world are waking up to the fact that children with disabilities don’t stay children forever. Special needs ministries often struggle to keep children engaged when they grow older. We must continually look for more opportunities for inclusion as our friends age.

Have you ever heard someone say, “They may be 20 years old, but have the mental ability of a 5 year old.” Too much emphasis is placed upon cognitive ability and social and emotional needs often get ignored. This mentality not only stifles people with disabilities from achieving what God wants them to do, but also puts up roadblocks to meaningful inclusion opportunities.

At First Christian Church in Canton, OH we took the conversation of inclusion to a whole new level. For the past few years we have been talking about a philosophical switch in our approach to disability ministry. The conversation is about moving beyond just doing disability ministry “for” or “to” people with disabilities. We realized that this approach made our friends the objects of our ministry and that was never our intent. We wanted to move beyond that and become a place where we do disability ministry “with” people with disabilities. They are our ministry partners as our brothers and sisters in Christ. Ultimately we simply want to empower our friends to “do” ministry.

We finally saw this play out in a very unique way through my friend, Nick. Nick is a young adult in our Hidden Treasures Sunday morning adult class. Nick was going through a difficult time last December. He found himself stuck in depression. After weeks of counseling I challenged Nick to go into the worship service and to simply pray. I asked him to pray that God would help him discover what he could do that would be positive. Nick was so consumed by negatives in his life at the time. After the worship service that Sunday, Nick’s entire countenance had changed. He was no longer slumped over and dragging about. He was completely upbeat and wore a smile on his face as he approached me. He could barely contain himself as he told me that God had answered his prayer. He felt convicted that God wanted him to plan a mission trip.

A mission trip planned by and for people with disabilities was exactly what we were hoping for as we were making our philosophical switch. Note that it was not something anyone from my leadership team came up with. It was an idea that was birthed by God through our friend Nick.

Mission trips are incredible experiences that have the ability to accelerate spiritual growth. Persons with disabilities rarely go on mission trips - a typical experience that should be made available to “all people.”

We wanted to see inclusion work here too, so 9 months of planning started after that conversation with Nick. Trust me - along the way I had all the reasons why it couldn’t work bouncing around in my mind. Who gets to go? What are we going to do? What about medications? Am I going to be able to get consent from families or guardians? What about traveling out of state? What if we had an emergency? How are our friends going to be able to raise the money necessary? And the questions kept coming.

During our planning stages we were blessed to find Dutton Farm, The House of Providence, and Woodside Bible Church. All three ministries are located close together in Michigan. All three ministries also shared our same philosophical approach to Disability Ministry and were excited to play a part in our trip.

Along the way God answered all of our questions. On August 25-28 we went on our first-ever Disability Ministry Mission Trip. God was faithful to Nick. God spoke to Nick. Nick listened and acted in obedience to God. Because of his obedience, God blessed our little adventure.

So inclusion is even possible on mission trips!

If you’d like to see some of the highlights from our trip check out our video on the home page. 

Why God? (Part 4 of 4)

Why won’t God heal my child?

(First posted on http://irresistiblechurch.org/god-part-4-4/)

One of my greatest joys as a disability ministry pastor and church consultant is when I get the opportunity to work with other churches as they grow their disability ministry. On one consulting call, I spoke with a volunteer who started the ministry at her church because of her daughter who has a disability.

The call was pleasant as we discussed strategies that she could try at her church. As we were wrapping up our conversation she anxiously asked if I had time for one more question – I sensed that our pleasant conversation was about to take a different tone. She asked me what my beliefs were about healing, particularly healing her daughter’s disability. I shared that I believe God is able to heal anyone He chooses to heal, but I didn’t know what God’s will was for her daughter; if it is His will that she be healed God would do that in His timing.

That was not the answer she wanted to hear. She spent the next twenty minutes screaming at me through the phone telling me that I was wrong – that God wants to heal every person of their disabilities and that He would heal her daughter, something she prayed for every day.

I tried to reassure her that her persistent prayer was good – Scripture is clear that we should pray without ceasing. I also tried to tell her that Scripture teaches us to pray that God’s will be done, and not necessarily our will. This can be tough because our will and God’s will don’t always align.

Paul gives us encouragement in Philippians 4:6-7. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Notice it doesn’t promise that God will answer our prayers the way that we want. It simply says that God will guard our hearts and minds – He wants to offer us protection from our angst.

If not healing for our children or ourselves, what does God will? God’s will for us is obedience to Him. God wants us to trust and obey Him. He wants us to understand that He is enough for us, that His power shines through our perceived weakness.

Therefore, if He does not will that our loved one or ourselves are healed in this life He still has purpose for us.

Before this passionate volunteer hung up on me, I tried to help her consider Jesus’ perspective in the classic “through the roof story” (Luke 5, Matthew 9, Mark 2). Jesus did not pity the man with the disability who was lowered down on the mat. Jesus didn’t even acknowledge the man’s disability. He did not define the man by his disability; He was concerned with the man’s heart. Jesus healed the man of his true disability, sin, by forgiving him.  It wasn’t until after the religious leaders started complaining that Jesus healed his physical disability too. Notice that it wasn’t primarily for the benefit of the man with the physical disability that Jesus performed this miracle. It was for the benefit of the others in the room. I tried to share with this mother that perhaps Jesus has a bigger plan – He wants to heal her daughter’s heart. She unfortunately couldn’t hear that possibility.

The truth is, even if God willed for all disability to be healed in this lifetime it would only be temporary. We would still eventually get sick and die. Sorry to be a downer.

Disability, on some level, is something that everyone will likely experience in this. People with disabilities are the largest minority group in the world. It is a minority group that crosses all races, religions, gender, and demographics. It is also the only minority group with open enrollment. Any of us can join this minority group at any moment in our lives, and most of us will join it as we age.

Reality check: our perspective is often different than God’s. His primary concern is the heart because that is what determines whether or not we spend eternity with God after death.

May we place our hope in true, lasting healing – and in the meantime, trust in God’s sovereignty.