Supporting churches to include people with Autism and Learning Disabilties

Posts tagged ‘#parables’

You do not know the seeds you plant?

Leyland Band

    Leyland Brass Band were amazing last night. A world class brass band who happen to come from our town and doing a concert in our church. I never thought I would love brass bands so much, but then I never thought our 15 year old son would be playing trombone in another local brass band, either.
It was at primary school when a brass playing headteacher arranged for the whole year group to have free brass lessons for a year. The instruments were given out by size, so being one of the taller ones, our son got a trombone. A seed was planted that was watered and nurtured in him and still amazes us, his parents who are not musical at all.
The same sort of thing happened when I was a girl. It wasn’t music that someone planted into my life, but church. An elderly lady took my best friend to Sunday School with her every week. One week I was playing outside my house and she asked if I’d like to go too. Like the Pied Piper, she walked a long route to church, collecting various children, about 5 or 6 each week, and took them to church. None of our parents or siblings were interested in going and so, if she hadn’t have planted those seeds, I would have not have loved the Bible stories and Wesleyan hymns that still are the foundation of my faith.

‘My food,’ said Jesus, ‘is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, “It’s still four months until harvest”? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying “One sows and another reaps” is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labour.’ (‭John‬ ‭4‬:‭34-38‬ NIVUK)

spiritual-growth-header

In our ministry to adults with learning disabilities we planted cress seeds last week.  Some of the members came back this week very excited that their seeds were growing.  We want the seeds of the gospel to grow in their lives too.  We don’t always know what they already know.  Some have been to church with their families and tell us about their faith (such as Liz who wrote a blog post for us – https://includedbygrace.wordpress.com/2014/10/23/what-one-member-thinks-of-the-good-news-group/ )  Others are unable to tell us and others we know have never been to church before coming to our group.

A retired church leader once said to me “Why bother teaching the Bible to people with learning disabilities when they have the understanding of a three year old?” … after quickly composing myself, I forgave him his ignorance (we are all ignorant until God open’s our eyes) and talked to him about how this was a wrong assumption and asked him would he teach the Bible to a 3 year old.  He said yes, but not all of it as they couldn’t understand.  But for the fact that it is a completely wrong assumption, we talked about the power of God’s word and how we cannot limit it’s power by assuming someone can’t understand it.  It lead very well into the session I was delivering about how to communicate the Bible in accessible ways!!

We are farmers of God’s word, in this ministry and in all ministries.  We are sowing the seeds of the gospel to EVERYONE and we are harvesting the souls who receive it in faith.  But let’s not forget that God is the gardener, it is he who brings the water and the sunshine to nurture and grow those seeds and it not for us to exclude any people because we think they can’t understand it.   Let’s not be a barrier to God’s power and transforming Spirit. read this

I think we also need to be sowing lots of seeds to help others in the church understand that including people with learning disabilities in their fellowships is something they need to do, and have high expectations of how they can receive the gospel, be ministers of God’s grace and serve the church family just as we all can.   This is the purpose of this blog and why I’m so privileged to be involved with the Additional Needs Alliance, Prospects, Through the Roof, Urban Saints and Churches for All.  I’m privileged to speak about what we do, be interviewed and write about it…anything that will help and equip others to become involved in a fabulous, rewarding and amazing ministry.   I’m currently getting my talk together for the Additional Needs Alliance forum and Hand in Hand Conference in Eastbourne  http://www.handinhandconference.com/  and wondering if I can get one of our GNG puppets into my suitcase…

Me and a friend explaining the Bible to adults with learning disabilities

Heaven and Hell…

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Have you read the Rich Man and Lazarus?  It’s been a while for me. But doing a talk about a parable should be straight forward…or so I thought….

This parable is the only time that Jesus really mentions where we go when we die. It is a parable about heaven and hell. My task was to explain this difficult concept to our group of adults with learning disabilities last week.

So how would you explain heaven and hell?

I had found a video of the parable on You Tube that my daughter downloaded and converted for me and prepared a reading of the parable from the Easy English Bible (found on www.biblegateway.com). In presenting the Bible and explaining the gospel we try to start with a tangible story. The members of the group like to see something visual and dramatic.  We tend to repeat the story in different ways using video, drama, reading, pictures and symbols. That then gives the speaker who is going to explain what it means a foundation to work from.

So far, so good…

I personally find the fact that the Bible says that some people will go to heaven and some people go to hell when they die quite challenging.  I believe it because I believe the Bible and it is referred to enough times for us to need to take notice.  And in God’s justice there has to be somewhere where those who don’t want his salvation can go…otherwise we don’t have free will.

I know there are a lot of differing views on the meaning of this story. I am not a theologian but I do trust those who lead our group who have much more training in studying the Bible than I do.  Therefore, it was important to check what I wanted to say with someone who is wiser than me.  I was very glad of the help and encouragement I had.

But knowing we can’t second guess God and judge for ourselves who will go where is very difficult for us human beings…could someone we love NOT be in heaven?

When praying and preparing my talk I had to face this challenge once again. Then prepare how I would explain this parable to our members with learning disabilities.

As usual it is God’s word that came to my rescue. As I searched the Bible and some good examples of sermons on the parable from trusted sources, I realised that my answer was to concentrate on a really important truth…

God wants ALL men to be saved.

And so we ended with a memory verse to take home, a familiar but awesome, amazing and fabulous promise…

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that WHOEVER believes in Him, shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3V16.

Our members responded very positively. Those who could talk were familiar with the concept of heaven and hell. When I asked, (as usual) Do you believe Jesus is God’s son? Do you believe he was sent to take the punishment for our sins? Do you believe we can live forever in heaven with Him? There were lots of yes’s, cheers and even a ‘of course I do’…  And I praise God that I do too!

This subject is a challenge to us all.  Do comment with your thoughts.

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