What if I said the following… “If you are bald, redheaded, or left handed you are not welcome in the Church.”
I imagine there would be an absolute uproar! You cannot single people out based upon what they look like or based upon their attributes. That isn’t fair. That isn’t politically correct. That is a violation of their rights. No good Christian would ever do something like that! Shame on you. CNN, and Anderson Cooper, should do a show on you to feature just how un-Christian you really are! We could keep going.
So why pick on the bald, redheaded, or left handed? Simple, people with these attributes represent roughly 20% of our population. Hold onto that thought for just a moment.
It is not uncommon to see a sign hanging on business doors that declares “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service.” My question is where did this sign come from? Was there a widespread problem of people not wearing shirts and shoes in public? As far as I can tell these signs started popping up on all over in the late 1960s and 70s. Was it an anti-hippie thing? Or was it a simple response to a perceived problem with public decency and cleanliness?
I couldn’t pin point the exact reason why, but it should also be noted that the Civil Rights Act was signed into law in 1964. It was unlawful to stop someone from entering a business based on their race, color, religion, etc. It was however not unlawful to stop someone from coming in based upon their attire.
Now back to the bald, redheaded, and left handed. They make up roughly 20% of our population. To tell they were not welcome in the Church would simply be un-American, right?
Let me make the connection for you.
Roughly 20% of our population is personally affected by disability.
Sure, churches do not have signs that say, “Abled Bodied People Only.” This would be outrageous! As outrageous as having a sign that said, “You are not welcome if you are bald, redheaded, or lefthanded.”
But consider this.
Back in 1990 President Bush signed the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) into law. Similar to the Civil Right Act is prohibits discrimination because of disability in all areas of life. All but one that is… the Church. Interestingly enough the Church was made exempt from the ADA. Because churches have been exempted from having to be handicap accessible many of those 20% of Americans affected by disability have not been welcomed.
Churches don’t need to post signage that states that those affected by disability are not welcome, there buildings often say it for them. Lack of wheelchair ramps, handicap parking spaces, elevators, handicap accessible bathroom stalls, large print Bibles, assistive hearing devices, and more show that churches have not concerned themselves about this 20% of the population. Beyond our facilities the attitudes of our members, volunteers, and staff can communicate things even louder as to who is, or is not, welcome.
Its often what you don’t say or don’t do that speaks the loudest.
Yes, churches have a long way to go, but they are the “hope of the world.” Bill Hybels, Pastor of Willow Creek, first coined this phrase about the local church and I do believe it to be true. I believe a good first step in being this “hope of the world” is by welcoming all people in both word and deed. This includes the 20% of the population that is affected by disability. It is time for churches to step up and stand out. It is time for churches to declare that they will do more than the bare minimum that the ADA requires. It is time for the Church to take the lead and not just simply follow slowly behind society’s standards.
If you are interested in being more accessible in both word and deed don’t hesitate to contact us. We are here to help.
It is Ryan’s passion to equip and empower churches, organizations, and individuals to reach their disability communities for Jesus. Ryan, Director of Program Development, comes to Ability Ministry with 15+ years of ministry experience. He previously worked at First Christian Church in Canton, Ohio as their full-time Disability Pastor. He also worked as a Church Consultant for Key Ministry. Micah 6:8 and Proverbs 31:8 best describe Ryan’s commitment to life and ministry.