Despite proclaiming a loving and welcoming God, for far too long, churches have excluded people from experiencing the love and grace of God in community through preventative practices and policies. While often these exclusions are done unintentionally (a problem in its own right), too often, people who have disabilities are pushed away from the church or made to feel unwelcome in any number of ways.
According to a religion and disability study conducted in 2018, there is an increased chance of families declining to attend religious services based on their child’s disability. Families impacted by autism are nearly 84 percent more likely never attend religious services due to a felt lack of inclusion (Disability and the Church, 2021).
Recognizing this problem, more and more leaders are stepping up and advocating for a more wholistic and authentic living out of God’s inclusive good news, especially when it comes to welcoming persons with disabilities. A recent book, Disability and the Church: A Vision for Diversity and Inclusion, written by Lamar Hardwick, specifically seeks to challenge the Church to do better and builds a “theology of the body,” critiquing many theological assumptions by Christians that diminish and demean disabled persons.
In this podcast interview, Lamar shares a theology of the body, talks about the real purpose behind Jesus’ healings, gives important lessons from the Parable of the Sower, and shares how the image of communion and the table present an amazing opportunity for us to live out our theology from his book Disability and the Church.
Lamar Hardwick has a DMin from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and is known as "the autism pastor." He is the lead pastor at Tri-Cities Church in East Point, Georgia. He is the author of Epic Church and the best-selling I Am Strong: The Life and Journey of an Autistic Pastor. He provides workshops, seminars, and consults with local churches and faith-based organizations on creating environments for people with autism. He also provides mentoring services for teens and young adults on the autism spectrum. He lives in Newnan, Georgia, with his wife, Isabella, and their three children.