Today I would like to direct your attention to an item that has come across my desk which strikes near and dear to me, for reasons which should be obvious to those of you who know me well.
Elevation Church in Matthews, NC (a suburb southeast of Charlotte), asked a boy with cerebral palsy and his mother to leave their Easter service. At the end of the opening prayer, the boy reportedly voiced his own special “Amen”. He and his mother were approached by a church volunteer and, in her own words, “were very abruptly escorted out”. They watched the remainder of the service from an overflow area in another section of the church.
I won’t say what I really think about this. Elevation has been taking it on the chin because of this incident, and I don’t want to be guilty of piling on. Also, at this stage, I might get penalized for a late hit. I would probably get enough personal foul penalties to get myself ejected from the game.
Instead, I will refer you to Skye Jethani to read his take on the incident. He is perhaps more generous to Elevation than I would be. He concludes his post by describing how a similar incident was handled in a congregation where he preached.
I will also refer you to Rachel Held Evans’ post “Blessed Are the Un-Cool”, a reflection on church life inspired by this incident. While you’re at it, check out the rest of her blog too. It’s great stuff.
And I will say this: Elevation markets itself as “an explosive, phenomenal move of God–something you have to see to believe.” It is sad to see that there is a disconnect between these words and their treatment of people with special needs in this instance.
I will also say that this incident is part of a larger problem affecting all of evangelicalism: a crisis of priorities between entertainment and hospitality. In many evangelical churches, the service is a full-on production and they want the audience to experience it without any distractions. But in the process of working to provide a distraction-free environment, they erect barriers to many of the people whom God has specially called to Himself. Think about blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52) or the little children in the marketplace (Mark 10:13-16) or the paralytic lowered through a hole in the roof (Mark 2) or the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28). Would these people be welcome in our churches?
We need to talk about this.