As Worship Pastor at Calvary Chapel in Oxnard, California, I have the privilege of leading our congregation in worship through music. We have a worship team that serves each week. But twice a year at Christmas and Easter, I lead a special choir that any member of our congregation can join. This choir practices and prepares to sing with our team for the worship services on those special Sundays. Over the course of the last two years, a number of individuals from our special needs ministry have joined the choir. It has been a delight to include them along with typically-abled people in our congregation. Together, they become a truly beautiful representation of the Body of Christ. Young people, more mature people, typically-abled people, and people with disabilities all join together to give praise and worship to God.
In Mark 5:21-34, we find the story of a woman who had been afflicted by a health condition that caused continuous bleeding for over 12 years. She had done all she knew to do and sought help from various doctors, none of whom could help her. In addition to losing all her money, her condition grew worse. According to the requirements of the Jewish Law, she was considered unclean. Nobody would touch her, nobody would go near her. She was completely isolated—until she met Jesus. Not thinking she would ever be worthy of an audience with Him, she snuck up behind Him and touched the edge of His cloak.
Instantly, she was healed. She must have felt a tremendous rush of relief as her physical suffering was removed.
What followed her physical healing, was something even more beautiful. Jesus noticed her.
He looked for her until He found her. When He found her, He called her “daughter.” Where others had seen a disease, a diagnosis, or a disability, Jesus saw a daughter. In an instant, she had been moved from isolation to celebration. She was seen, she was loved, and she was celebrated!
Recently, I was invited to lead worship for Joni and Friends’ annual staff conference. As I was preparing songs, I suddenly had an idea. Why not invite some of my friends from our holiday choir to join me? I knew it would be a blessing in more ways than one. They would be blessed to come with me and lead worship at Joni and Friends. I would be blessed to have them join me. And I knew God would use us together to bless His people. My friends were over-the-moon excited about the opportunity.
Scott, one of the leaders of our special needs ministry, joined Geri, Shelby, Galina, Daniel, and I as we lead worship together that morning. It was an absolute delight! I think I smiled for the rest of the day. People who are a delight to God had been included, wanted and celebrated as together we brought an offering of worship to God.
I can think of no better picture of what the Church should be. A place where the divisions of age, race, gender, socio-economic status, and disability fall by the wayside as believers in Jesus gather together to worship God in unity. It isn’t difficult to do, but it does require intentionality. Maybe God is speaking to you even now about ways you can intentionally include those who are isolated in your church or community. Maybe He is calling YOU to play a role in leading people from isolation to celebration.
Rob Branchflower prayerfully prepares and leads worship at Calvary Chapel Oxnard (CCO). His focus is to shepherd the Worship Team and the people of CCO through music and worship, leading them into God’s presence. Rob, his wife Corey, and their five children have been attending CCO since 2013. Rob and Corey are also very passionate about and engaged with helping foster and adoptive parents succeed in the calling to foster or adopt.