Did you hear about the dyslexic atheist? He wasn’t sure he believed in dog.
All joking aside, disabilities are a real hurdle for people, especially for children. Is there anything sadder than a disabled child? I can think of something mighty close: a church that is dysfunctional because its members are disabled.
During my ministry career, I have occasionally taken on extra work to supplement my income. One of my jobs was to drive a van full of pre-school children with various disabilities to a special school designed to help them. I heard the father of one autistic boy say, “My son has started speaking now!” The extra attention and the specialized therapy his child had received had paid off.
In another case, I’m picturing a five year-old with an infectious grin. If you look up the word “courage” in the dictionary, you’ll find his picture. He can walk but only with the aid of his two three-toed rubber-tipped metal canes cut to his size. His legs are weak, as though from polio or MS. Yet he is cheerful and brave as he takes five full minutes to heroically struggle ten feet from the school door, down the short sidewalk, to the van door, where he can then be lifted up and placed into a car seat.
The emotionally gripping picture of developmentally delayed children has stuck in my mind. I wonder why? Is it because the Lord has allowed me over the years to have the privilege of serving congregations that found themselves in a setback: stuck in chaos; having lost members, money, reputation; and given up hope? My specialty was to get them reconnected with their corporate vision; believing God again; believing in them selves also; and leaving them healthier than I found them.
A picture is worth a thousand words. For illustration’s sake, let’s take the image of a van with four children on their way to a school chosen by their parents for therapy. Consider the analogy: riding together we have a baptist child, a catholic child, a pentecostal child, and a non-denominational child.
Now imagine that these beloved children in their own way are all suffering a handicap. Each one is developmentally disabled. Let’s say that the pentecostal kid has ADHD and can’t sit still. He wants to go, but never sits and learns. Maybe the catholic kid has an obsessive-compulsive disorder and keeps repeating an action. He doesn’t know why he does it, but it makes him feel better.
Perhaps the baptist kid is limited in her ability to express herself. She longs to pray from an open heart, but her family frowns on that expressiveness. Maybe the non-denominational kid feels rejected and insecure, not sure where his parents are or whom he belongs to. He secretly wishes for a father to affirm him and correct him. Can you picture this scene? If you were our Heavenly Father, how would you feel about these kids?
These kids could be from any religious stream or have any church label, so I’m not picking on anyone in particular. We are all in this together, aren’t we? All of us, without exception, have a degree of disability- some shortcoming or flaw. In many cases, our disorders are concealed. In others, like the heroic boy struggling to walk, the weakness is obvious for all to see. The result? We are hampered in our ministry. We can’t express the fullness of Christ because our development has halted.
Here is my point: the Body of Christ is a dysfunctional family. There’s too much mothering, not enough fathering, and perpetual immaturity. Our kids are beset with learning disabilities, delayed advancement, inhibited expression, and lack of confidence. They think only professional clergy can minister so they are passive. So the members of our family never grow up. They do not become productive. They are dependent on being spoon-fed and diapered. They can’t feed themselves and don’t want to be weaned from milk. They are afraid to feed on the real meat of the Word.
“Overcome Satan? Fight the fight of faith? Pray through? Win souls? Study the Bible? Stand for truth? Deny the flesh? Submit to discipline? Heaven forbid! Don’t we pay someone to do that? Hey, turn on the TV. Hand me my pacifier. Leave me alone.”
Ron Wood is a pastor and writer. He is the founder of Touched by Grace
and was a former resident of Meridian. You can reach him at