Impact Church

Passionately serving God and His people

Category: April 2018

Autism “Action” Month

The month of April at Impact Church is special! If you were in Worship this morning then you saw everyone wearing blue in honor of Autism Awareness Month. For those who have been connected with Impact for a while, our support and ministry to children with Autism is commonplace. However, for those who are not familiar with Impact, I would like to articulate why we feel so compelled and called to serve these children and their families.

The following is a letter written by a mother of a child with Autism. Although, many of us may not know her personally, her sentiments are shared by over 900 families in Greensboro. These are stories that Sarah Althoff, Kay Davis, and Norma McLamb heard almost every day in the public school system. The reality is that believing families were looking for a place to worship but were unable to because of the church’s inability to accommodate the needs of their children. We became “aware” of the problem. However, we began to feel God’s stirring to not just be aware but to be active participants in the solution.

Excerpt from Autism and The Church by Amy Fenton Lee:

Have you ever heard of a church that turned away a little boy because he had red hair? What if a mother was greeted at the children’s ministry check-in with news her redheaded son had to go back home? No, you can’t imagine. If any church ever sent home a child because of their natural hair color it would make the evening news!

Now, have you ever heard of a church that turned away a little boy because he was on the autism spectrum? What if a mother was greeted at church check-in with the news that her son with autism couldn’t be accommodated? Yes, you can imagine. It happens.

Did you know that the percentage of Americans with red hair is roughly equal to the percentage of 8-year-old boys diagnosed with autism? I think it’s fair to say that statistically speaking, a children’s ministry should have the same number of participating boys with autism as with red hair. That’s pretty sobering. People would go nuts (justifiably) if families of redheaded kids had to figure out which churches were “redhead friendly”. The reality is that this same scenario is happening now for families of kids with autism. While many churches are working to become special needs-friendly, there is room for improvement.

Recently a church leader said to me, “We just don’t have any kids with significant special needs in our church. We haven’t seen the need to create a ministry or think about doing anything special to accommodate students with disabilities.”

In the church world, we’re at a fork in the road. Up to now, it’s been an accepted norm that not all churches could or should accommodate kids with autism and other special needs. Realistically, churches cannot all accommodate these needs to the same degree. But times are changing. It is no longer acceptable for any church to be unaware of and unprepared to welcome families with special needs. Every church needs a plan for inclusion.

These real-life experiences led Impact to consider what we could do to help and in that searching we found a calling that has given us immeasurably more than we have given it. As of now, Impact Church has certified teachers at every worship service that provide individual and appropriate instruction and care for children with Autism. On Sunday mornings, we have a time of worship and music specifically for children with special needs. Furthermore, we have a 4 week Impact Autism Summer Camp, culminating in the Autism Extravaganza (a big block party, outdoor celebration) that is providing acceptance, love, and resources for hundreds of children in our area. Lastly, we have also founded Impact Journey School, a private school for children with special needs. We currently serve 30 children with 14 staff members including ABA curriculum, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and music therapy. Praise the Lord! We are thankful for the heart of the church that makes these events and ministries possible.

Lastly, as thankful as we are for all that we have been able to do, we are willing and desiring to learn and expand as we see needs increase. Therefore, if you have any ideas as to how we can better serve children with Autism and their families please let us know. We want to be a part of the solution!

Advertisements

How Much More

Luke 11:13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more will your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?

A freshly-baptized disciple, flush with shameless joy and first-day-on-the-job zeal, popped the question bible teachers relish most – “Hey guys, now that I’m saved… what’s next? Where do we go from here?”

And from that childlike inquiry we sat around a bare table that night immersed, fascinated, and turned on: searching scripture, probing, testifying, teaching, encouraging… and praying!

We noticed it was prayer that intrigued the disciples to ask Jesus – “teach us to pray as John taught his disciples”. And it was from that Luke 11 exchange that Jesus spoke of prayer as ultimate access: a privileged connection to power drawn from the grace-provided relationship of earthly children and their Heavenly Father.

Rhetorically perhaps, but quite pointed nonetheless, Jesus challenged His disciples with logic:

  • Do dads give their children a bowl of rocks after they’ve asked for bread?
  • Or is there a relationship between dad and child so evil, that when requesting fish for lunch the child is given a serpent?
  • Or is there a dad so abusive that the eggs the child asks for breakfast is substituted for a dangerous scorpion?

No, of course not! There’s a natural, loving, caring concern for those we bring into the world! And there’s a committed, compassionate regard for those who depend on us for their survival! Parents have an inherent, preferential association with children that has no rival or equal; and that protective oversight flows freely from the perfect bond of love, a far greater caretaker than the oppressive bondage of mere duty.

Thus, in affirming parental affinity as something commonly expected and nothing beyond what any parent would do, Jesus advanced the natural concept and made the case spiritually for those who would believe on His Name.

If our earthly fathers (dads that have shortcomings, disposition shifts, forgetfulness, errors in judgment, etc), freely and gladly satisfy the basic needs of a child because of a father’s natural love – can we not unquestionably trust our Heavenly Father to give us any, and everything, we need? Is not our Heavenly Father love, itself; a Father birthing us after His own will and Word; a Father beyond error, and a Father who supplies needs from the limitlessness of His own creativity and power? Is not the answer to such questions an absolute, unashamed, did-you-hear-me-clearly, YES! YES! And YES!

Consequently, it’s upon this single, simple, time-honored precept of prayer that a believer’s days on earth are providentially safeguarded.

There is nothing lacking, to those who ask.
There is nothing lost, to those who seek.
There is nothing locked, to those who knock.
Whatever things we desire, when we pray, believe that we receive them, and we will have them!

So to the young man still dripping from his Jordan River experience, to the mature disciple serving faithfully in anticipation of the Lord’s return – faith filled prayers lifted to the Father determines the quality of the believer’s earthy, mortal existence.

Do not earthly fathers address their toddler’s late night fears when he hears strange sounds… especially when they’re under his bed? Yes! How much more then does our Heavenly Father assuage fears eliciting from our troubled, violent, and discordant world!

Do not earthly fathers encourage children to rise and redo, especially after that first bike ride results in an inglorious face plant? Yes! How much more then does our Heavenly Father comfort and instill fresh confidence after our “didn’t go as planned” endeavors!

Think then, of the many scenarios where earthly dads would be welcomed and needed, and from there you can count even more so of our Heavenly Father’s presence!

So, through prayer, let us include the Father’s presence and power in every facet of life, whether in the mundane or in the spectacular.

Petition Him for assurance.

Request of Him wisdom.

Call on Him in trouble.

Persist with Him when He seems unhearing.

Bug Him when you’re uncertain and doubtful.

Cry out to Him when you’re sinking.

Talk to Him when you’re lonely.

Thank Him when He listens. And He does.

Worship Him when you don’t understand.

Praise Him when you do.

Above all, pray.

All the time.

In every way.

At every intersection.

And on the open highway.

Just pray.

Just do it.

And, HOW MUCH MORE will He be everything we need… or desire!

Seen

 “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their prayer.” 1 Peter 3:12

My three-year-old son attended his first soccer practice this week. As he stood center field, sporting his lime green soccer cleats, I noticed him watching me. Every few moments he made eye contact with his momma, ensuring I hadn’t moved from my designated spot on the sideline. He maintained this rhythm for the entire hour of practice. He was striving to keep my attention, but, oblivious to the fact he already had it. I hadn’t taken my eyes off him.

Dear ones, we can live assured, God hasn’t taken His eyes off us. We are never overlooked, alone, or insignificant even in the seasons we feel like we are. Feelings can be poor indicators of truth. Following the fall of Adam and Eve God said, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15) Before we knew we needed saving the Lord had already scripted our rescue plan. He looked more than 2,000 years into the future, saw us, and knew we were in desperate need of a Savior. The truth is this – we were completely seen, lavishly loved, and meticulously “prepared-for” long before our arrival.

Believers across the world gathered, yesterday, in joyful celebration of the single greatest event in all of human history, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. His death, burial, and resurrection will forever be the culmination of all that our hope hinges on. Romans 5:25 says, “He was handed over to be crucified for the forgiveness of our sins and was raised back to life to prove that he had made us right with God!” We gaze at the cross and empty tomb and are filled with awestruck wonder.

He saw us so He came.

He saw us so He died.

He saw us so He rose.

Every move was a part of His beautiful plan to redeem, reconcile, and restore. We no longer have to wonder if we matter to God. One glance at the cross and empty tomb tells us we do. We have always had His attention. In fact, there is never a moment when God is not paying attention to us. God, completely, meets our need to be noticed. He sees us when we are washing dishes, folding laundry, and tucking in babies. He sees us when we rise early, punch a time card, and work to provide for our family. In both the ordinary and extraordinary moments of life we can be confident that the eyes of the Lord are on us. Hear Him tenderly whisper today, “Yes, beloved, you are seen.”