On the front page of our website, on conference displays, and on the front of our business cards you will consistently find the following three words: Finding, Belonging, Together. If you are reading this page you are probably curious as to what these words are all about. These three words represent the Vision of Ability Ministry. What is vision? Andy Stanley defines vision as “a preferred future.” Vision is a clear picture of what could be and maybe more importantly what should be. Vision is also sometimes an answer to a problem. Our vision: Finding, Belonging, Together is all of these things. Let me explain why these three words are so important to us.
Before you can actively try to find something, you must realize that what you are seeking is lost. At Ability Ministry we take the charge of Jesus very seriously. Jesus himself came to “seek and save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) When departing he commissioned all his followers to do the same, “go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19) All nations would include ALL PEOPLE. Jesus did not put a qualifier on making disciples of only people with IQ scores over 70. In fact, when speaking with the church leadership of his day Jesus gave this command, “when you give a banquet invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and you will be blessed.” (Luke 14:13-14). And oh, by the way Jesus said, “go out quickly!” (Luke 14:21). Jesus was serious about reaching the disability community. We are too. We recognize that ALL PEOPLE are lost without Jesus. There are 1 billion people in this world that live with disability. Unless churches are both aware of the need and equipped to meet that need many people affected by disability will die lost without Jesus. This is not something that we are okay with.
One of the biggest problems in the disability community is isolation. Isolation happens for a myriad of reasons. Often these reasons go beyond basic accessibility problems to deeper things like attitudinal barriers, negative world views, and bad theology. Isolation, as the result of disability, can be seen all the way back to biblical times. Take for example Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9), the man at the gate (Acts 3), the man lowered to Jesus through the roof (Luke 5), the healing at the pool (John 5) to name a few. So, you can see that isolation isn’t a new problem.
Belonging is the answer to the timeless universal problem of isolation. Inclusion is a buzz word for many schools and churches. Unfortunately, we at Ability Ministry don’t believe that inclusion is enough. Inclusion just means that you are in the same room together. While this is a good start it does not go as far as belonging. John Swinton once said, “belonging means you are missed when you are not in the room together.” This statement shows the fundamental difference between inclusion and belonging. It is all about relationships. If you belong you have found meaningful relationships within the Body of Christ.
If you have found a place of belonging, you are also an active part of the Body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:22 says, “those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.” People affected by disability in society’s eyes “seem to be weaker,” but in God’s eyes they are “indispensable.” They are so because they carry within them the image of Christ and a certain giftedness that others do not possess. If they don’t find a place of belonging in the church, the church is robbed of being able to witness the power of God (John 9).
We at Ability Ministry want to help churches take a step beyond mere inclusion and help those affected by disability to find a true place of belonging.
So, what is the word Together all about? Together is probably the simplest of all the words in our Vision. We recognize that the job that we have is a BIG one. We recognize that we cannot be successful without you. Without working together, we could never accomplish what Jesus has charged us with. Only together can we be successful in reaching the worlds largest unreached people group, people affected by disability.
As we seek to equip and empower you, the Church, you will lock arms with your disability community. Together we will assist you as you “seek and save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) Together we will assist you as you embrace people affected by disability just as Jesus did (Luke 14). You and your disability community will come together and become a complete church (1 Corinthians 12:22).
Together is better!