I have recently been thinking about what an ideal church, for me, might look like. So, I have come up with five marks of my ideal church. Of course, no one congregation will be able to embody these five marks perfectly. I have no delusions of finding or creating an actual ideal church. But I think these five marks can help guide us towards improvements and in what direction we should go. And I am curious as to how others would imagine their ideal church, so please leave comments.
As Christians approach Good Friday and Easter where we commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord, I am reminded of the startling new insight that Nancy Eiesland gave me in her book, The Disabled God: Toward a Liberatory Theology of Disability (Abingdon Press, 1994). In that book, Eiesland made me see the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus in a new way.
Reflecting on how the gospels describe Jesus’ resurrected body as carrying the scars on his hands and feet where the nails were driven into, and the scar on his side where the spear pierced, Eiesland asks, “What is the significance of the resurrected Christ’s display of impaired hands and feet and side? Are they the disfiguring vestiges of sin? Are they to be subsumed under the image of Christ, death conqueror? Or should the disability of Christ be understood as the truth of incarnation and the promise of resurrection?” (p. 101)
As I write this post, it is December 3 the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. I am ashamed to say that before my youngest daughter was born with Down Syndrome, I was totally ignorant of this day. I just did not know there was such a day to remember, celebrate and advocate for persons with disabilities. These days, I am more aware and alert to these things. I start seeing news and life a little differently. In fact, I am even doing theology differently. I read the Bible with a little more awareness of how it may speak to issues of disabilities. I am beginning to think through Christian doctrines to see if they are inclusive or exclusive of persons with disabilities. In short, my thinking and seeing has become more inclusive. Some of my previous blind spots have been removed. My daughter’s disability has changed me, and is continuing to change me, for the better. It is one of her many gifts to me.
Dr. Timothy Keller, author and pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, once said that his church’s mission is not to create a great church but to create a great city. This is borne out by the church’s tagline on its website: Seeking to renew the City Socially, Spiritually and Culturally. These three foci align very nicely with my three-dimensional gospel, by the way. I am beginning to lean towards naming the three dimensions of the 3D gospel as the communal, confessional and creational/cultural dimensions. (See my post on the Total 3D Gospel.) But the point I am making here is that I think Keller has it right. I believe that God’s mission or plan of salvation is not to create a great universal church but to create a great world. Continue reading “Rethinking Salvation and God’s Mission”
(This was originally written for the Disability Concerns Newsletter.)
Rev. Mark Stephenson, Director of Disability Concerns for the CRCNA, [Christian Reformed Church in North America] led an excellent workshop at the Spring 2009 Disabilities Conference on “The Biblical Basis for Inclusive Ministry”. Some of the main points that participants learnt from the workshop: Continue reading “Bible, Church and Disability”