What if we really did bring in the poor, crippled, blind and lame?

I’ve really been blessed recently by the ministry of Joni Eareckson Tada and her “Joni and Friends” network.  I won’t get into the details about why I contacted them, but basically, I was struggling to know how to minister to someone that was going through a period of immense suffering.  I wrote to Joni and Friends about the situation and received a prompt email reply withsome wonderful words of encouragement and advice.  The next week a package arrived in the mail with a number of resources that I feel are going to be tremendously helpful to me. Included was a message by Joni on the subject of hope that I have already forwarded on to the person I’m seeking to help.  Also included was Joni’s book Heaven Your Real Home, which is in my opinion the best book on Heaven that has been written.  Get it and read it, you’ll be glad.

Now, let me just throw something out there that has been on my mind today.  You know, of course, that I’m a church planter and church planting strategist in the Chicago area.  Part of my job involves identifying unreached or under-engaged ethnographic/demographic groups and to mobilize prayer and raise up missionaries for those pockets of lostness.  Well, I heard something today in a message by Joni that just really got me thinking.  Joni said that in her ministry they take Luke 14 very seriously.  Here’s what I read there:

 He said also to the man who had invited him, "When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just." When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, "Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!" But he said to him, "A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready.' But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, 'I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.' And another said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.' And another said, 'I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.' So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, 'Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.' And the servant said, 'Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.' And the master said to the servant, 'Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 
(Luk 14:12-23 ESV)

And so I got to thinking, what if we really did go out and do that?  What if we had specific church plants that were focused entirely on bringing in the disabled?  What if some of our dying and gasping churches – with more empty pews than people – shifted their focus on reaching the poor, crippled, blind, and lame?  What if?  Well, actually the Lord Jesus gives us the answer in this chapter.  He says that at least two things will result:

1. You will be blessed . . . for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.
2. My house will be filled.

You know, for people that talk a great talk about believing and living by the Bible, we so often fail to practice some of the most straightforward principles.  For people that often get so infatuated with the notion of church growth and spend millions on conferences and books and seminars to learn the latest cutting-edge strategies, we often ignore the simplicity and certainty of Christ’s own words.  You want to fill the house of God?  Go out and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.  Invite the disabled. 

So I am calling on the New Work Team of Chicago Metro Baptist Association and all my readers out there (or maybe both my readers out there), to start praying.  Let’s pray specifically that God will raise up church planters in several different areas of Chicago to plant churches that are focused on reaching disabled people with the hope and wholeness of Jesus Christ.

I've also noted that Joni has been very involved with Lausanne in the past.  I'm wondering if she'll be among the 400 U.S. Americans at Cape Town next year and, if so, whether or not I'll get a chance to meet her.  I'm always pretty bad about that stuff though.  I feel weird about talking to famous people that I admire and usually chicken out.  We'll see, I guess.