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The marks of evangelicalism (biblicism, crucicentrism, conversionism, and activism) support the inclusion of people with disabilities; however, research reveals that having a disability label, especially a developmental disability, is a reliable predictor of whether people and families are present within the church. Using disability studies to identify how certain historical, social, and theological veins within evangelicalism have contributed to modes of mission, evangelism, and church that struggle to fully include and engage people with disabilities, this paper will argue that by embracing missio Dei and a more robust model of church as an alternative community that models reconciliation, we will begin to live out the Cape Town Commitment’s vision that we “think not only of mission among those with a disability, but to recognize, affirm, and facilitate the missional calling of believers with disabilities as part of the Body of Christ.”


Birthed in the great revivals of the eighteenth century, evangelicals, as famously described by David Bebbington, are Protestant Christians committed to conversion, activism, the Bible, and the Cross.1 Their particular emphasis on the conversion of individuals through the gospel proclamation of believers2 leads evangelicals toward active participation in evangelism and mission. Evangelical ecclesiology anticipates the advancement of God’s kingdom through the preached Word and the priesthood work of believers who are growing in holiness and seeking the good of those around them, both inside and outside the church.3 This expectation that all believers should participate in this priesthood calling to spread the Good News is noteworthy. As the Lausanne Movement succinctly states it, it is “the whole church, taking the whole gospel, to the whole world.”4

If this evangelical calling to reach the whole world rings true, we would expect that as churches grow, they would become a credible witness and foretaste of Revelation 7:9.5 Sadly, having a disability label, especially an intellectual or developmental disability, is a reliable predictor of whether people and families are present within the church.6 In fact, globally, ninety to ninety-five percent of people with disabilities are unreached by the gospel.7 What is more, when people with disabilities do enter the church, the church struggles to know how to respond. “Churches want to serve and help,” Benjamin Conner notes, but in not knowing how, opt to “do things for people with disabilities rather than with them.”8 This tendency affects evangelism and mission approaches as well. Evangelism keeps “disability impairments in view and assumes the person with disabilities needs services and ministry. Churches seldom consider what people with disabilities might contribute to the congregation and even less frequently imagine that someone with a disability could possibly be the minister.”9

The marks of evangelicalism support the inclusion of people with disabilities. Evangelicals regard the Bible as the authority of their faith and practice. While disability scholars and theologians alike note there are complicated readings of Scripture with respect to disabilities,10 the Bible “can help us view and embrace disability as a mysterious sign of God’s providential creation” and when read with a disability perspective, “can open up new vistas to understand the nature of God, whose strength and wisdom are manifest through weakness and foolishness.”11 The Bible also firmly establishes that God’s kingdom is meant to be inhabited by people from every tribe, nation, language, and tongue (Revelation 7:9) including those who are not highly regarded by worldly standards: children (Matthew 19:13–15), slaves (Philemon 1:15–16; Galatians 3:28), and those with disabilities (Luke 14:15–24). As people of the Cross, evangelicals preach that salvation is only through Christ’s work on the Cross. Since Christ died for all, the offer to join God’s family extends to everyone. Within God’s fam- ily, divisions between people are destroyed (Galatians 3:28, Ephesians 2:18) as each person takes his/her place and role in Christ’s body. Enabled and equipped by the Spirit to bring forth their gifts as members of the Church (1 Corinthians 12), no person is excluded from participating in the work of the church and its calling to be “a visible, material witness in the world.”12

So why is there a seeming disconnect between the marks of evangelicalism and the move toward mission and evangelism among and with people with disabilities?13 This paper will use disability studies to identify reasons why evangelicals traditionally struggle to fully include and engage people with disabilities in mission and will argue that by embracing missio Dei and a more robust ecclesiology, evangelicals can more fully live out their identity in inclusive and empowering ways.

It should be noted here that focusing on distinct markers of evangelicalism does not eliminate or address the many practical considerations that also factor into the church’s welcome (or not) of people with disabilities. Disabilities make many people uncomfortable because disabilities often disrupt what people know of, believe about, and experience in the world. This can leave people unsure of how to act or what to say so that even our best efforts toward inclusion can be awkward, clumsy, and even hurtful. Many churches remain weak in their commitment to learning about and from people with disabilities and this is a growth edge for most churches.14 However, the purpose of this paper is to tease out how certain historical, social, and theological veins within evangelicalism have contributed to modes of mission and evangelism that have often discounted or excluded people with disabilities.

Disability Studies 

There are several ways to understand disability. The medical model of disability is an essentialist approach that locates disability within individual bodies.15 This model centers on identifying biological deficits and correcting them. Because this model views disability negatively (i.e., something undesirable, to be avoided), people with disabilities are viewed as inferior16 and in constant dependence on others.17 Theologian Thomas Reynolds notes that while people do benefit from many corrective measures that come from medicine and technology, the medical model’s reductionistic tendency diminishes a person “to a function of disabilities rather than vice versa.”18

The social model of disability focuses on the socially constructed environments and attitudes that bar people from full participation. Where the medical model assumes that people with key functional deviations are disabled, the social model says people become disabled through prejudice and exclusion.19 In- dividual diagnoses are no longer problematized; rather, physical spaces, social attitudes, systems, and points of access are brought under the microscope. Key to this model is the need to expose and oppose ableism, which enacts institutional discrimination on the assumption that there are “normal” people and bodies which are superior and “abnormal” people and bodies which are inferior.20 This model critiques the notion that the quality of an individual life should be determined by an arbitrary and socially constructed idea of “normal.”

While these two models, in a sense, represent opposing poles of how to consider disability, quite often the social model is presented as critiquing and superseding the medical model. Navigating the space between these two models requires attention to definitions. Impairment highlights the biological/physiological loss. Disability explains when an impairment disables one from performing certain tasks due to physical and social barriers. Though these definitions suggest distinct boundaries of experience, reality reveals the complication that many with disabilities embody because they can experience a range of difficulties in tandem with, apart from, or solely due to social limitation. Unlike people who face exclusion and prejudice because of age, sex, or race/ethnicity, simply removing the barriers or changing attitudes for people with disabilities does not fully resolve their experience. A woman, for example, might face a social barrier but when that barrier is removed, she is not still limited simply by being a woman. However, when barriers for people with disabilities are removed, their impairments remain and to lesser and greater degrees still affect function, access, and experience. Thus, while meaningful, impairment and disability cannot be easily distinguished, and their interrelatedness points to the need for a phenomenological approach that says both bodies and social environments matter.21

In focusing the spotlight on embodied experience, we are led to consider the cultural model of disability22 which embraces and celebrates disability as a marker of group identity and a contribution to human diversity and embodiment.23 Against the medical model’s assumption that bodies need to be fixed, the cultural model considers how “a medical ‘good’ may result in the loss of other, perhaps less tangible, goods.”24 The Deaf community is most illustrative of this idea.25 The cultural model also challenges socially constructed ideas of normalcy, critiquing some aspects of social models for assuming sameness rather than promoting a diversity of bodies.26 Cultural and social location matter for disability and the cultural model not only suggests that disability is an “intertwinement of modes of thought depending on particular situations and circumstances” but also highlights “the potential of disability as a state of being.”27 Wrapped up in the cultural model, then, are important and complex issues not easily addressed, like: How important is a given disability to a person’s identity? Who qualifies as disabled? And so, while disability can embody a way of being in the world, it is never untethered from the medically and socially constructed ideas of “normal.” And this is key.

No disability model can perfectly explain the experience of people with disabilities because no experience is the same. It is at the intersection of these models that we uncover the complexity and diversity of the disabled experience, even while finding points of commonality and congruence. And it is at this intersection that Reynolds says we “can see how bodily impairments become saturated with meanings external to, and much wider than, themselves” because “they are interpreted in light of role expectations about normality and human wholeness, which ironically set up conditions for social participation that cannot be met given the real barriers that exist under the auspices of a community’s assumptions about what counts for normal and healthy human functioning.”28 Reynolds argues that this governing role of normalcy creates a circular logic from which the disabled cannot escape. Once a society establishes the norms by which it functions, it not only becomes resistant to the inclusion of the non-normal, it also assumes the non-normal are incapable of participating.29 This produces, he says, a perception that absolutizes and totalizes disability and ideologically overdetermines people with disabilities such that they are defined solely by their inabilities and considered incapable of contributing to and participating in society in meaningful ways.30 This is the challenge disability studies seeks to resolve. And this is the challenge the church must take up as well. Using these models as a lens, we will examine how evangelical environments and beliefs might affect our understanding of and engagement with disability, especially within mission and evangelism.

Medical Models of Disability and the Evangelical Church

Brian Brock’s definition of the medical model, in Wondrously Wounded, positions disability “as the biologically rooted incapacity of an individual to achieve mainstream pictures of economic productivity and aesthetic beauty.”31 This definition highlights two key points on which to assess the evangelical church and its practices of mission and evangelism: views of economic productivity and aesthetic beauty.

Economic Productivity 

In defining evangelicals, Bebbington’s quadrilateral has taken such a central place that it is easy to forget the importance of a qualification that he somewhat assumes and scholars like Timothy Larsen32 and Douglas Sweeney33 make explicit: evangelicalism is “a movement of orthodox Protestants with an eighteenth-century twist.”34 While Sweeney and Larsen more specifically relate this eighteenth-century association to the Great Awakening and the works of John Wesley and George Whitefield, this reminder that evangelicals arose during a specific time and place in history moves us to consider how broader cultural developments influence thinking and practice. Standing out among the many developments in the West during this time period include industrialization and the move toward free-market capitalism.

While Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, does not speak specifically of evangelicals, Weber has importantly noted that certain Protestant beliefs—particularly ascetism and Calvin’s emphasis on predestination (which carried over into early evangelical thought through reformed preachers like Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield)—contributed to forms of personal behavior and social ethics that gave society a final and powerful thrust toward capitalism and provided legitimacy to the industrial age.35 Though the heavy strains of predestination waned in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the overriding social ethics that came from such predestinarian beliefs—things like industriousness, thrift, and economic success—persist.36

Economist Benjamin Friedman follows Weber in noting how religious influence far exceeds the religious practice itself, but in his own work, Friedman examines economic thinking rather than economic behavior.37 He argues that in the century or more after the time period Weber emphasized, when modern economics was in its infancy, the “movement away from predestinarian Calvinism” provided an “expanded vision of the human character and its possibilities” that ultimately “opened the way for the early economists’ insight into the beneficial consequences of individually motivated initiative carried out in competitive markets.”38 Through his expansive study, Friedman concludes that even though economics has matured as a field in its own right, religion continues to have a powerful and profound influence on the economic policy and perspectives of the general population.39 Especially noteworthy for Friedman are three prominent connections between religious affiliation and one’s views of economic policy, especially among American evangelicals.40

First, Friedman notes that turning away from predestinarianism fostered expanding visions of human autonomy within competitive markets.41 The emphasis on human choice and action entrenched a belief that individual economic success is dependent on one’s ability and effort. Many Americans continue to espouse economic policies that assume people are responsible for their own economic destinies and that reward (successful) economic initiative (e.g., embracing a limited welfare system compared to other high-income countries and giving broad support of lower taxes and less government regulation than similar countries).42

Second, Friedman suggests that with their “strong historical tradition of Protestant voluntarism,” evangelicals embraced the idea that “strong religious institutions cultivated the civic virtue that made individual liberty possible, and they therefore filled the vacuum that limited government necessarily left as the counterpart to that liberty.”43 In practice this meant that most American Protestants acted on the belief that social action should be performed voluntarily by individuals and churches as part of their religious duty. This belief has only grown among evangelicals. With their suspicions of the government’s role in the social gospel in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and their fear of communism in the mid- to late-twentieth century, more than two-thirds of white evangelicals in the United States believe the government has overreached by performing charitable services that evangelicals believe should be the responsibility of churches and charities.44

Third, Friedman notes that the almost universal embrace of premillennialism among American evangelicals shapes how evangelicals perceive and involve themselves in society. While Friedman overstates his case that premillennial beliefs give way to a pessimism about the temporal world that is inimical to social action,45 he is not wrong to observe that the greatest concern for most evangelicals is the salvation of individual people. Over eighty percent of religiously conversative Americans think that social problems would be eliminated if people just had a personal relationship with God. This stands in stark contrast to the less than thirty-three percent of religious progressives and fewer than twenty percent of the nonreligious who would agree.46

This fosters beliefs among evangelicals that uphold hard work as a virtue, laziness as a vice, the need for individual salvation over social reform, and the role of the church as the arbiter of charity. Sixty percent of Americans believe the poor are poor because they are lazy and sixty-one percent agree that hard work produces upward mobility; however, among born again Protestants, the belief in upward mobility is seventy-one percent.47 Such belief leads evangelicals, more than others, to embrace the “productive imperative” imposed on people within a market economy: a “sociocultural obligation that pressures human bodies to exhibit qualities and perform in ways that are useful and thus generate capital.”48 When value equates to the ability to earn money and productivity defines ability, people who must rely on others and/or public assistance are considered weak and dysfunctional.49 Within such a society, poverty is judged as morally unacceptable and believed to erode political stability.50 This is no different in the evangelical church where being poor or unsuccessful is shameful.51 With the strong belief in religious voluntarism over government welfare, churches are left with deciding who are the “deserving” and “undeserving” recipients of charity and help. Such judgments are largely based on principles of capitalism and liberal democracy and ideas of an “able” (i.e., normal) body.52 When bodies do not conform to these assumptions or achieve expected norms of productivity, the solution is rehabilitation (i.e., normalization) through medical and therapeutic technologies or exclusion from society to dependent care.53

Aesthetic Beauty

The second aspect of the medical model concerns bodies that conform in form and expression to socially constructed norms. Reynolds argues that because consumerism is so enamored with youth and vitality, we craft an ideal bodily form and function abounding with youthful vigor and depict it as normal.54 Ironically, no one can fully or forever achieve this ideal, but nonetheless, we buy into this illusion to the point that we fear, ostracize, pity, or ignore any expression of vulnerability in body or mind. Few in the church would subscribe to holding such beliefs; however, the elevation of normal bodies and minds is prominent even among Christians who do not easily admit they hold to categories that judge bodies by their usefulness and beauty.55 Carrying on the capitalist veins of productivity and individualism, Brock observes that in the contemporary developed world, people understand and relate to disability and healing in biomedical ways that emphasize the mechanics of what people’s minds and bodies can or cannot do and focus the “problem” of disability within an individual body that is deemed not normal.56 It is often no different in the church in which is it assumed that Jesus’ work of healing is centered on curing individual bodies of malfunctions. Though Brock explicitly says this “is a truncated gospel,”57 Christians often assume Jesus healed every person he met and, thus, a healed, whole body is desirable and best.58

By problematizing the individual body, Christians risk spiritualizing disability in ways that vilify or valorize. Either the person is a great sinner being punished or a great saint meant to inspire others. A lack of healing either signals a faulty faith or is a pathway for God to build character. This has serious consequences. The focus on bodily limitations not only defines people with disabilities by their disabilities rather than their personhood, it also affects the ways in which people with disability are valued, leaving them to be objects of people’s pity, admiration, or avoidance.59 When limitation is the focus, “reciprocity is annulled” as people with disability move (or are relegated) to “the role of an otherwise helpless and useless burden.”60 When this happens, people with disabilities are welcomed in the church as objects of ministry but nothing more.

Medical Model and Evangelical Mission and Evangelism

Evangelicals embrace the medical model of disability more than any other. The preceding conversation allows us to raise several issues that are instructive in understanding why people with disabilities are largely absent in evangelical churches and more specifically within their practices of mission and evangelism.

First, in noting that “Evangelicalism originated in the womb of democratic individualism and the American frontier” David Fitch observes that “evangelicals naturally feel comfortable with the forms of justice canonized within democracy and American capitalism.”61 Capitalism, he reminds us, fosters competitiveness, consumerism, and liberal individualism, shaping us to be consumers and accumulators. With our focus turned inward on our own (and our children’s) growth and development, the result is that the church does not have time to be the church, which turns the church into a distributor of religious goods and services.62 And with this, Fitch notes, social reform, charity, and justice take place outside of the church rather than within it. Since evangelicals focus on saving individuals souls, the church is largely the incubator for creating and equipping individual Christians who then go out into the world to do good works.63 By moving this work outside of the church, recipients of justice are rarely invited into congregations or homes in large part due to the othering and ostracization they experience.64

When evangelical churches engage in justice ministry, Fitch observes that their starting point is often to seek a target that is outside the church.65 This corresponds with Richard Kauffman’s suggestion that Christian volunteerism be directed toward needs and hurts in the world. What this highlights, however, is a one-sided movement from us to you, from the abled to the disabled. Fitch surmises, “Doing isolated acts of generosity to the poor is always easier than inviting them into our house to be wholly redeemed.”66 Reynolds suggests such unidirectional mission is one means of “romanticizing” disability by “reducing persons with disabilities to objects upon which non-disabled persons act as benefactors.”67 This one-way movement assumes people with disabilities have little to offer and much to gain from benevolence. And with this, people with disabilities are totalized in their disability and even moved into anonymity as someone who is simply “disabled,” unseen and unheard for their uniqueness and gifts, and able only to receive, not give. Only with an able (i.e., whole, healed, fixed) body or mind does one move from recipient to benefactor. It is considered an exception when someone “overcomes” their disability to contribute in ways seen as “normal” by others. This produces perpetual surprise at the contributions of people with disabilities rather than expectation.

A second reason that people with disabilities are largely absent in evangelical churches and their missions strategies is found in the intersection between evangelical distinctives and Western economics. The emphasis on individual salvations and activism combines with capitalist ideals like productivity, efficiency, and return on investment to produce evangelical missionary strategies that emphasize numerical growth and rapid expansion. One unintended consequence of capitalist-driven strategy is that it often excludes people with disabilities. This is illustrated well within the unreached people group idea, a hallmark of evangelical mission strategy introduced by missiologist Ralph Winter68 and among the “major gifts to the world Church” from the first Lausanne Congress on world evangelization.69 Rochelle Scheuermann argues that the unreached people group idea, with its reliance on the E-scale,70 considers boundaries between people to be distinct and given and has not sufficiently questioned whether such boundaries should be upheld or demolished.71 What is more, this strategy so mixes concerns for conversion with the virtues of efficiency and productivity that it upholds comfort for the sake of expedience which inevitably excludes people with disabilities who challenge a group’s comfort and sense of normalcy.72 Winter’s pessimism toward the ability for churches to become inclusive spaces across social barriers naturally results in the planting of churches with deficiencies. Either the church inherits a distorted view of inclusion that assimilates by “imposing conformity on differences” and “at best [is] a paternalistic gesture of charity, helping ‘those others’ get along ‘like us’ ”73 or it eliminates difference altogether. Malcolm Gill’s reflection in 2017 on contemporary church-planting movements—a natural outgrowth of the unreached people group idea—reveals a significant absence of the aged, poor, and disenfranchised.74 In line with many of the managerial missiology critiques first raised by Samuel Escobar,75 Gill places the blame of exclusion on pragmatism and church-planting organizations’ intense focus on leadership and communication skills over theological convictions and ecclesiological understanding.76 The result is that when anyone is considered unable to meaningfully contribute to numerical growth they are dismissed as being nonessential.77

Though these are just two examples, many other evangelical strategies for planting and growing churches, reaching the unreached, participating in justice, and engaging in discipleship follow in these same patterns. What the medical model reveals for evangelicals are the many ways in which evangelical values and distinguishing marks, when left unexamined or critiqued, problematize individual bodies and make disability a thing to be fixed, healed, overcome, or eliminated, rarely celebrated or embraced.

Social Model of Disability and the Evangelical Church

In and of itself, the medical model is deficient in explaining and responding to disability, in large part because it does not consider anything but the individual body. The social model of disability asks us to recognize how certain attitudes, assumptions, practices, and physical spaces turn impairment into disability. This is a matter of justice and Deborah Creamer argues the social model inherently calls us to address unjust social structures, bias, and exclusion.78 But addressing unjust social structures is not something that his- torically evangelicals have done well. To understand why, we must look at another prominent social issue in the United States to understand evangelical response: race.

In their seminal study Divided by Faith, Michael Emerson and Christian Smith examine white American evangelicalism in order to understand why racial division remains a prominent feature of evangelicalism despite calls for racial reconciliation.79 Some of their overall observations about evangelicals are not surprising in light of the study we have already undertaken with regard to evangelicals and the medical model of disability. They note:

Because evangelicals view their primary task as evangelism and discipleship, they tend to avoid issues that hinder these activities. Thus, they are generally not counter-cultural. . . . So despite having the subcultural tools to call for radical changes in race relations, they most consistently call for changes in persons that leave the dominant social structures, institutions, and culture intact. . . . They share the Protestant work ethic, support laissez-faire economics, and sometimes fail to evaluate whether the social system is consistent with their Christianity.80

Significant within their study is the identification of three key “cultural tools in the white evangelical tool kit” used to address race: accountable freewill indi- vidualism, relationalism, and antistructuralism.81

Having traversed reformation, Free Church traditions, awakenings and revivals in America’s frontier, spiritual pietism, and anti-social gospel fundamentalism, white evangelicals are the most individualistic of any Americans. Evangelicals believe that individuals are autonomous, able to exercise free will and existing apart from institutions and structures.82 Emerson and Smith note that this freewill is still accountable to God and others and, thus, relationships which foster right choices are paramount. One’s personal relationship with Christ is the most central relationship, but as Emerson and Smith observe, this gets transposed onto other relationships as well so that evangelicals view most social problems as relational problems.83 If racism, for example, is a problem of poor relationships, then this must be the result of an individual’s sin. By assigning relational problems to the condition of the individual heart, evangelicals struggle to consider how systems and structures contribute to poor relationships.84 This is understandable when one considers how strongly white evangelicals hold to accountable freewill individualism. Since individuals are accountable for their own actions, any attempt to shift blame (onto a social structure, for example) is chalked up to denying personal sin and culpability.85 This pushes evangelicals to be antistructural since guilt lays squarely on the accountable individual, not systems and social structures.86

These cultural tools are often legitimized by the racial isolation of most white evangelicals. Emerson and Smith recount that with a few notable exceptions the daily life experience of the people they interviewed was in worlds that were at least ninety percent white.87 Living in such racially homogenous spaces limits the ability of white evangelicals to observe racialization as a wide-spread social problem and not something merely exaggerated by the media.88 The solution, therefore, is to stop focusing on race. If people quit focusing on race, many evangelicals believe race and the problems that stem from it, would disappear.89

What we learn about white evangelicals from Emerson and Smith’s study is instructive for how we understand (white) evangelical response to disabilities. The social model of disability calls people to move beyond seeing individual bodies as the sole location for disability and to recognize that prejudice and exclusion from physical and social spaces in many ways cause impairments to become disabilities. However, evangelicals are concerned, almost exclusively, with fixing bodies (i.e., the medical model of disability) because their cultural tool kit does not equip them to consider social structures as causes for limitation. Limitation is personal in nature, whether one is talking about sin or talking about impairment. When a body or mind cannot function independently, it is assumed that overcoming the limitation through medicine or healing is necessary for the person to function as the autonomous, freewill individualist that God designed. The goal becomes normalization or assimilation. Anything less than this is seen as a lack of effort on the part of the person with the disability or a tragedy. In this, established structures and social constructs are affirmed and rarely faulted.

One place where this is seen is in evangelical conversion narratives, a key part of evangelical mission and evangelism. Because evangelicals so emphasize the need for personal conversion, testimonies of a dramatic shift from darkness to light, from sinner to sanctified are prominent within evangelical circles and function to reiterate the regenerating power of the Spirit to draw sinners to God and bring about transformation that sets lives on new trajectories of kingdom work. Key components of evangelical conversion narratives include admission of personal guilt and failure, God’s irresistible pursuit, a moment of surrender, and evidence of new creation through a transformed heart and changed attitudes/actions.90

In this vein, Brock notes that “Churches are often attracted to the testimony of a person with a physical disability whose story fits comfortably within the narrative that Jesus has saved them and helped them to overcome adversity.”91 When people with disabilities conform to the traditional evangelical conversion narrative, they affirm many of the virtues that evangelicals hold dear. While it is God alone who saves, it is not lost on listeners that, with the Holy Spirit’s help, the person with disabilities has worked hard (i.e., Protestant work ethic), pulled themselves up by the bootstraps (i.e., individual effort leads to upward mobility), and overcome their disability (i.e., achieves a “normal” body). In this way, they uphold current evangelical social and physical structures by assimilating and confirming what Brock calls normate assumptions.92

However, not everyone with disabilities will have this kind of conversion narrative, especially those that deal with ongoing mental illnesses. When people do not or cannot conform to this overcoming hardship script, they challenge the conversion narrative that salvation produces successful performance.93 Evangelicals are not sure what to do with these narratives (and the lives they represent) and often, rather than considering how social constructs contribute to ongoing disability, they fault the individuals. When a person cannot be fixed or helped to function in accountable freewill individualist ways, they are either not working hard enough or must somehow be deficient. For those not working hard enough, the fault is entirely their own. For those who work hard and still cannot achieve normate assumptions, their deficiency becomes something to pity, disregard, or relieve. When limitation is the focus, not only is reciprocity annulled,94 reciprocity is considered impossible because people with disabilities are viewed as dependent non-participants whose lack of autonomy signifies them as having nothing to offer. And without anything to offer, how can structures and systems and social attitudes be at fault? Does not the fault remain in the broken body or mind rather than the system?

The social model of disability exposes the fact that “Christians are often so busy wanting to be successful, to be part of growing and therefore desirable churches that within the terms of our gospel those who seem not to be able to achieve those objectives become a problem.”95 When people with disabilities become problems, they cease to be people first and this affects the ways in which we consider, value, and treat them. We fix problems. And when people are regarded as problems, we can easily turn from seeing them as fellow human beings with whom we experience mutuality to objects of dependency on which we act.

This is why Brock notes that “Churches can imagine ministering to people with disabilities but find it much harder to understand themselves as worshiping with people with disabilities—especially intellectual disabilities.”96 This is why Erik Carter’s research shows that even with some physical space accommodation, many churches neglect “the primacy of relationships, which can still be limited or altogether absent even when people with and without disabilities navigate the same spaces.”97 And this is why Eiesland concludes that “Rather than being a structure for empowerment, the church has more often supported the societal structures and attitudes that have treated people with disabilities as objects of pity and paternalism. For many disabled persons the church has been a ‘city on a hill’—physically inaccessible and socially inhospitable.”98

Where Do We Go from Here?

The marks of evangelicalism (biblicism, crucicentrism, conversionism, and activism) support the inclusion of people with disabilities; however, our study has revealed that the ways in which evangelicals’ practice of this quadrilateral can, if unexamined, be the very things that also prevent inclusion. The influence of the “eighteenth-century twist” set evangelicalism (at least in the United States) on a very specific trajectory that has elevated the place of individualism. And it is on this point that the many threads we have uncovered in our study converge.

Leanne Van Dyk notes that evangelicalism’s emphasis on personal experience and testimony gave way to individualism and experientialism as essential markers of evangelical ethos, leading to a model of church as voluntary society.99 Such radical individualism, George Hunsberger suggests, can overwhelm or obliterate our communal understanding of church, turning the church into a “voluntary organization grounded in the collective exercise of rational choice by its members rather than the form of a communion of saints that is made such by the will of the Spirit of God.”100 And this impacts the welcome and inclusion of people with disabilities in our churches and our practices of mission and evangelism.

First, radical individualism places the focus on bodies and their ability to contribute productively to the whole. When bodies are in focus, the natural re- sponse to disability is remediation, through hard work, healing, medicine, and/ or technology. A healed body is best and only when disability is fixed can people contribute meaningfully to and through a “normal” way of life.

Second, radical individualism problematizes the broken body or mind. Evangelicals’ cultural tool kit does not equip them to consider social structures as causes for limitation. If someone cannot achieve “normal” through hard work or aid, the problem resides in them, not the system. Such tunnel vision prevents many evangelicals from seeing how their own prejudices and attitudes, coupled with social environments and physical spaces, in many ways turn impairments into disability.

Third, radical individualism perpetuates the othering of those with disabilities. When a disability cannot be fixed, overcome, or improved, it becomes the perceived sum total of a person’s ability and worth. Once a person is determined to be unable to participate or contribute, they are relegated to the perpetual position of beneficiary and object, never benefactor or contributor.

Finally, radical individualism in combination with the emphasis on conversionism and activism gives way to practices that focus on saving as many individual souls as quickly as possible. This easily leads to church growth strategies that marginalize those that are perceived as hindering this process. People with disabilities are rarely the “target” of evangelism, and those in the church are rarely considered meaningful contributors to church mission and evangelism.

So, what is the way forward? Van Dyk, speaking specifically of evangelical ecclesiology (and not disabilities per se) suggests the creation of an evangelical ecclesiology that is centered in the Word of God, and will both overcome deficits and celebrate unique strengths of the evangelical tradition.101 Her proposal calls for an evangelical ecclesiology that is incarnational, Trinitarian, sacramental, proclamatory and eschatological. In practice, she says, this would engage the evangelical congregation in (a) ministries of justice and mercy and prophetic resistance to deeply entrenched “-isms” in church and society, (b) concern for a diversity in worship that is reflective of the divine community, (c) frequent reaffirmations of our communal commitments to each other (our baptismal promises) and celebration of the gifts of God for the people of God (Lord’s Supper), (d) commitment to receiving the Word in the global community and to preaching and communicating the gospel, and (e) eschatological witness to the world in faithful reflection of God’s kingdom.102 Such an ecclesiology is hopeful as we consider disability because, when the Word of God holds our ecclesiology together, evangelical evangelism and mission practice ceases to be just another outgrowth of individualism. “As the Father has sent me,” Jesus says, “so I send you” (John 20:21, NRSV). And in this, we are invited, not into our mission, but God’s.

Missio Dei as the Way Forward

The use of John 20:21 as the basis for mission has not historically been the evangelical go-to. Matthew 28:18–20 has dominated much of evangelical mission activity, providing a mandate or “commission” to complete. D. J. Konz argues that as “a stand-alone, first-order framework for mission,” the Great Commission can produce, among other things, an “overreliance on human capacities, strategies, and initiatives” and “a sense of wide-ranging divine license, risking an ethos of ends justifying the means” such that there is “a loss of the profound sense of the continuing redemptive divine action to outwork the reconciliation of the world wrought in Christ.”103 When individualism features strongly in the center of evangelical practice, the concerns that Konz raises merit consideration. However, evangelicals have begun to recognize that mission is not ultimately ours.104 In embracing the idea of missio Dei, evangelicals are forced to consider that individuals are not in the center of mission. And this fundamentally impacts how evangelicals view the church and their role in it.

One of Fitch’s greatest criticisms of the evangelical church is that its complicity with modernity has fostered such an individualist experience that we can do without the church. Our focus on personal salvation and personal experiences turns the church into a service provider for individuals seeking information, goods, and services.105 In this way, the church becomes tangential to what God is doing for and through individuals.106 Missio Dei reorders priorities, by repositioning God as the “precedent Subject, Agent, and Lord, of God’s mission, specifically, in the Son and Spirit by the will of the Father” and by moving human agency and the sending of the church to “secondary and subsequent” roles in God’s divine mission.107 Our participation in God’s mission is a participation of grace, grounded in God’s work of reconciliation and redemption.108 This throws the evangelical idea of voluntary society on its head: God is the one who calls people to himself, and he alone fashions them together as his people, his body.

If God, then, is the one who is on mission and if the church is his instrument of mission, how might individual people participate in God’s divine activity? Drawing on Barth’s notion of dual agency, Konz says the Christian’s role is one of diakonia—service or ministry to Christ and his work of reconciliation as wrought through the Spirit.109 What this suggests is that

It is only in and by the superior and precedent agency of God in Christ that a creature is granted the agency, capability, and freedom to undertake truly missional activity as a free human act, for there is no inherent human capacity to do so. Indeed, it is by miracle and grace in the event of God’s own action that the inherent and absolute human incapacity—that is, its human finitude and fallenness— can be overcome and its actions exalted to a cooperation in God’s own divine actions (Barth, 1975: 93–95).110

What Konz says here is paramount. No human being has the capacity to par- ticipate in God’s mission in and of themselves. In fact, it is our “inherent and absolute human incapacity” that prevents us from freely choosing to participate in and cooperate in God’s divine actions. It is only by the indwelling of the Spirit that this becomes possible. And this opens wide the door for us to rethink how we value people within the body of Christ.

Missio Dei moves us from understanding church as a human organization and place of activity to church as a living body, temple, and people who are called and knit together by God and sent together on mission to show and share the riches and power and wisdom of God’s kingdom through Jesus Christ and in the power of the Spirit. Missio Dei pushes us toward communal understandings of the church in which we are made into a people by the calling and work of the Holy Spirit and through the being in relationship with one another. 1 Peter 2:9–12 reminds us that we have been made into a people. Ephesians 2:14–18 says that Christ has made us into one new humanity within himself. We are now “a holy temple” (Ephesians 2:21), the “body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). It is Christ who knits us together in himself so that we “become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22, NIV). Missio Dei honors the necessity of interdependence by suggesting that mission is not a task entrusted solely to individuals, but is also the tangible, visible witness of an eschatological community in which unity in diversity and embodied presence gives verbal and iconic witness to the saving work of Christ and the kingdom of God.111

This idea of interdependence cannot be over emphasized. The evangelical propensity for individualism often leads to the impression that church is “simply code for Christians considered all together, en masse, as an aggregate.”112 When this is true, the gathering together as a church is seen as perhaps helpful for growing in faith, but not fundamental to one’s salvation or relationship with God.113 This moves Christian identity, faith, and responsibility to bear witness to the individual and in so doing, also implicitly elevates independence. It is no wonder, then, that when the entirety of a Christian’s faith is so individualized, people with disabilities are discounted for failures to achieve normalcy in what they contribute and what they produce. But missio Dei properly situates individualism by emphasizing the corporate reality that we—as a collective, a people, a body, a temple—are on mission because God, through his church, is on mission in the world. Such a corporate witness challenges the ways in which we value individuals and their contributions to others.

First, corporate witness recognizes that we only become a people by and through other people. Our individual personhood and our collective personhood are recognized only in relation to other people which means we are not persons without other persons. This interdependence gives people with disabilities just as much import in the creation of “a people” as those without disabilities; and it gives them just as much personhood as others through their being made into a people by their relationships with others in the church. Even though people with disabilities may, perhaps, be unable to achieve a society’s expectations of “independence, productivity, intellectual prowess, and social position,”114 this does not negate the gifts and contributions they are called and enabled by the Holy Spirit to share, nor does it exclude them from being made and making others into the people of God.

Second, corporate witness challenges worldly notions of hierarchy and value. Brock argues that Paul’s representation of church as the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12 is deployed to show “the deleterious effects of trying to arrange the social body on their own terms, so overlooking and resisting the composition of the body the Trinitarian God has already bestowed.”115 Paul’s central point, says Brock, is to challenge the mistaken ways we often equate divine gifting synonymously with worldly assessments of status, power, skill, and talent. When this happens, he says, the church becomes nothing more than another human community organized on assumptions about what we think we know about others.116 Instead, he says, our being the body of Christ requires us to acknowledge and embrace that we are woven and interwoven into Christ: we are quite literally Christ’s body.117 Central in this interwovenness is simultaneously receiving from one another by “learning to perceive the spiritual communication of the charismata” and rejecting worldly social hierarchies into the church by practicing empathetic “caring for one another,” something Brock says “will certainly include working to compensate for people’s physical and intellectual challenges.”118 The vision here is robust.

Third, corporate witness reorients us to anticipate being “surprised by the activity and witness of God in the world.”119 It is our dependence on the Holy Spirit rather than humanly derived programs, initiatives, strategies, or abilities that determines mission. Anyone can participate in God’s mission because anyone—regardless of culture, intelligence, skills, or bodily makeup—can be indwelled and used by the Holy Spirit. If we really believe God’s mission envisions pante ta ethne (“all the nations,” Matthew 28:19), then we should expect the witness that reaches all the nations to display the same diversity and pluriformity.120 The only way in which this does not happen is if we do not afford a place for people with disabilities within our congregations.121

The idea of missio Dei is becoming more and more at home in evangelical language; however, as Hunsberger reminds us, “the full impact of this shift [toward a missional ecclesiology] is still waiting to settle into the consciousness and self-understanding of churches in North America” because we remain beholden to our past (e.g., Christendom heritage, Enlightenment worldview, capitalist impulses, etc.).122 However, following Van Dyk’s concern for an evangelical ecclesiology that overcomes evangelicalism’s deficits while also celebrating its unique contributions,123 Hunsberger suggests that a renewal within evangelicalism’s distinctive traits can turn hinderances within these into promising ways forward.124

An expanded vision of conversion will embrace the dynamic path of continual (and not just momentary) transformation for both individual and society, leading people and communities to live in the reign of God (and not just a concern for individually moral lives).125 A renewed evangelical missiology (activism) will lead to humble listening and receiving and not just giving.126 In recognizing that everyone has “socially constructed and historically transmitted ways of knowing, believing, and behaving that are the unique perspective through which they experience and interpret the world and everything in it,”127 evangelicals will be open to receiving from others and to having their own understandings of the gospel tested and revised. Since our unique perspectives give us the ability to see certain truths and not others, we have to depend on others to help us see what we have missed. A renewed commitment to Scripture would draw us into the narrative form of the Bible and, thus, would “cultivate the church to be a storied community” living in and living out the Cross-shaped, resurrection-voiced, gospeled community.128 And finally, a renewed sense of the gospel would emphasize how God’s reign is connected to the Cross in such a way that we are not just personally saved and sent to bear witness, but also shaped into a community that corporately lives out the gospel and lives in the reign of God.129 Hunsberger concludes, “Living its own conversion, mission, Bible, and gospel more completely and being more converted to its own convictions give promise for the renewal of an evangelical ecclesiology and the church’s recovery of its missional character.”130

Living in this way also gives promise for the rightful place of people with disabilities within this evangelical body and solves the dilemmas raised in this study. An expanded vision of conversion will cause evangelicals to attend to social transformation as much as the transformation of bodies. A renewed missiology will give place to the often-overlooked people within our churches and consider that they not only need to receive but also have much to give in helping the church see Christ more clearly and in participating in the church’s work of proclaiming Christ to the ends of the earth. A renewed commitment to Scripture will consider the narrative voice of disability within Scripture and how that reshapes our own stories. And a renewed sense of the gospel will recognize that only with the full inclusion and participation of people with disabilities in the church and its gospel witness both locally and globally will we “become more credible as a foretaste of the unity of all mankind.”131

Ultimately what this paper calls for is a renewed sense of church. Even as we discuss missio Dei it is hard for evangelicals to break out of the mindset that we are individual people on mission with God. A true understanding of missio Dei underscores God’s work in forming and releasing a people to live and embody his kingdom reign without abandoning the evangelical emphasis on individual salvation, transformation, and witness. By recapturing the church as an alternative community that models reconciliation and is a witness to the world through its alternate values and quality of life, we are forced to reconsider our valuation of individual people and the contributions they bring. And in this, we make space for people with disabilities to be welcomed, included, and necessary participants in the church and in God’s mission of seeking and saving the lost. Capturing the Cape Town Commitment’s vision, we will begin to “think not only of mission among those with a disability, but to recognize, affirm, and facilitate the missional calling of believers with disabilities as part of the Body of Christ.”132 It is only when people with disabilities find welcome to participate in and contribute to the communal life of the church that “the church becomes itself—that is, a place of redemption for all.”133 Without the witness of people with disabilities, the church cannot fulfill its mission to embody the hospitality that God extends to us through Christ.134 Reynolds concludes his own work on Vulnerable Communion by suggesting that

This is why disability is redemptively fundamental: by welcoming people with disabilities in our church communities, our churches become communions bearing witness to God’s creative-redemptive power, a strange power that works not through strength but weakness and vulnerability to give life. And when our church communities traffic in such power, they cannot help but spill outward to transform the world in a God-ward direction.135

Bringing the world to Christ is the evangelical vision. By welcoming people with disabilities to find their place as participants in the Church’s God-ward mission, evangelicals will more fully live into their calling—reaching the ends of the earth with a gospel that includes every people, tribe, nation, language, and ability.

Cite this article
Rochelle Scheuermann, “Enabling Evangelicalism: How a Renewed Vision of Church as an Alternative Community of Reconciliation Necessitates the Inclusion of People with Disabilities”, Christian Scholar’s Review, 52:3 , 79 – 101


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  2. Timothy Larsen, “Defining and Locating Evangelicalism,” in The Cambridge Companion to Evangelical Theology eds. Timothy Larsen and Daniel J. Treier (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 1.
  3. Ed Stetzer, “An Evangelical Kingdom Community Approach,” in The Mission of the Church: Five Views in Conversation, ed. Craig Ott (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016), 92.
  4. “The Lausanne Covenant,” The Lausanne Movement, accessed January 10, 2020,
  5. Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1989), 123–124.
  6. Erik W. Carter, Elizabeth E. Biggs, and Thomas L. Boehm. “Being Present Versus Having a Presence: Dimensions of Belonging for Young People with Disabilities and Their Families,” Christian Education Journal 13, no. 1 (2016): 128–129.
  7. Donna Jennings, “Those Who Seem to be Weak: The Role of Disability within a Missional Framework,” Missional Round Table 12, no. 3 (September-December 2017): 30.
  8. Benjamin Conner, Disabling Mission, Enabling Witness: Exploring Missiology Through the Lens of Disability Studies (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press Academic, 2018), 13 (italics added).
  9. Benjamin Conner, “Enabling Witness: Disability in Missiological Perspective,” Journal of Disability & Religion 19, no. 1 (2015): 14.
  10. Deborah Beth Creamer, Disability and Christian Theology: Embodied Limits and Constructive Possibilities (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 36–72; Nancy L. Eiesland, The Disabled God: Toward a Liberatory Theology of Disability (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1994), 70–75; Amos Yong, The Bible, Disability, and the Church: A New Vision of the People of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2011).
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  14. Excellent resources for churches in understanding disabilities and moving toward full inclusion and welcome within the church can be found at
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  18. Thomas Reynolds, Vulnerable Communion: A Theology of Disability and Hospitality (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2008), 25.
  19. Creamer, Disability and Christian Theology, 25.
  20. Berger, Introducing Disability Studies, 14.
  21. C.f., Berger, Introducing Disability Studies, 28; Reynolds, Vulnerable Communion, 26; Creamer, Disability and Christian Theology, 28.
  22. I mention the cultural model here because it brings out important points on how disability plays out in complex ways within specific cultural and social locations. Because this model is newer and still gaining traction, and because it still closely intersects with the most dominant models of disability (medical and social), I focus my paper on the interplay between evangelicalism and the medical and social models of disability. For more on the cultural model, see Berger, Introducing Disability Studies, 29–30; Patrick J. Devlieger, “Generating A Cultural Model of Disability,” Paper presented at the 19th Congress of the European Federation of Associations of Teachers of the Deaf (FEAPDA), October 14–16, 2005, erating_a_cultural_model_of_disability/links/5434004f0cf2dc341daf2bc1/Generating-a-cultural-model-of-disability.pdf.; Simi Linton, Claiming Disability: Knowledge and Identity (New York: New York University Press, 1998); Marno Retief and Rantoa Letšosa, “Models of Disability: A Brief Overview,” HTS Teologiese Stuides/Theological Studies 74, no. 1 (2018): 1–8,; and Sharon L. Snyder and David T. Mitchell, Cultural Locations of Disability (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006).
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  24. Jana M. Bennett and Medi Ann Volpe, “Models of Disability from Religious Tradition: Introductory Editorial,” Journal of Disability & Religion 22, no. 2 (2018): 122, https://
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  26. Bennett and Volpe, “Models of Disability,” 123.
  27. Devlieger, “Generating A Cultural Model of Disability,” 8.
  28. Reynolds, Vulnerable Communion, 27.
  29. Reynolds, Vulnerable Communion, 27.
  30. Reynolds, Vulnerable Communion, 27.
  31. Brian Brock, Wondrously Wounded: Theology, Disability, and the Body of Christ (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press), 18.
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  33. Sweeney, American Evangelical Story, 24.
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  36. Benjamin M. Friedman, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2021), 389.
  37. Friedman, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, xiii.
  38. Friedman, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, xiii.
  39. Friedman, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, 391.
  40. Friedman, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, 401.
  41. Friedman, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, 406.
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  44. Friedman, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, 407–408.
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  52. Fitch, The Great Giveaway, 154; cf. Michael Oliver and Colin Barnes, The New Politics of Disablement (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).
  53. Reynolds, Vulnerable Communion, 89; cf. Oliver and Barnes, The New Politics of Disablement.
  54. Reynolds, Vulnerable Communion, 96.
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  56. Brock, Disability, 26.
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  58. Brock, Disability, 45.
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  60. Reynolds, Vulnerable Communion, 27.
  61. Fitch, The Great Giveaway, 161.
  62. Fitch, The Great Giveaway, 161, cf. Stetzer, “Evangelical Kingdom Community Approach,” 113.
  63. Fitch, The Great Giveaway, 156.
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  65. Fitch, The Great Giveaway, 156.
  66. Fitch, The Great Giveaway, 161.
  67. Reynolds, Vulnerable Communion, 38.
  68. Ralph Winter, “The Highest Priority: Cross-Cultural Evangelism,” in Let the Earth Hear His Voice: Selected Addresses from the International Congress on World Evangelization, Lausanne, Switzerland, 1974 (Minneapolis, MN: World Wide Publishers, 1975), 213–275.
  69. “The Cape Town Commitment: A Confession of Faith and a Call to Action,” The Lausanne Movement, accessed January 10, 2020, ctcommitment#capetown.
  70. The E-scale identifies the cultural distance (e.g., the number of social, linguistic, ethnic, or other barriers) between an evangelist and the unreached. E-1 signifies negligible differences. E-2 denotes two barriers (the barrier between the church and world and a barrier marked by language or culture). E-3 requires crossing such significant barriers that everything between the evangelist and the hearer is deemed significantly different.
  71. Rochelle Scheuermann, “Missiology through the Lens of Disability: Assessing the Unreached People Group Idea,” in Advancing Models of Mission: Evaluating the Past and Looking to the Future, eds. Kenneth Nehrbass, Arminta Arrington, and Narry Santos (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Publishing, 2021), 120–121.
  72. Scheuermann, “Missiology through the Lens of Disability,” 121.
  73. Reynolds, Vulnerable Communion, 46–47.
  74. Malcolm Gill, “Missing in Action: Theological Reflection on the Absence of the Aged, Poor, and Disenfranchised in Contemporary Church Planting Movements,” Journal of Disability & Religion, 21, no. 1 (2017), 90,
  75. Samuel Escobar, “Evangelical Missiology: Peering into the Future at the Turn of the Century,” in Global Missiology for the 21st Century: The Iguassu Dialogue, ed. William D. Taylor, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2000), 101–122.
  76. Gill, “Mission in Action,” 90.
  77. Rochelle Scheuermann, “Not Whole Without Us: Including People with Disabilities in our Understanding of the Church, the Gospel, and the World,” Missiology: An International Review 50, no. 3 (2022): 299,
  78. Creamer, Disability and Christian Theology, 25.
  79. Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith. Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000).
  80. Emerson and Smith, Divided by Faith, 20–21.
  81. Emerson and Smith, Divided by Faith, 76–77.
  82. Emerson and Smith, Divided by Faith, 76–77.
  83. Emerson and Smith, Divided by Faith, 77–78.
  84. Emerson and Smith, Divided by Faith, 78.
  85. Emerson and Smith, Divided by Faith, 79.
  86. Emerson and Smith, Divided by Faith, 79. Emerson and Smith do note, however, that “evangelicals are selectively aware of social institutions—they see those that both impact them in their own social location and tend to undermine accountable freewill individualism. For instance, they are aware of affirmative action because such programs can impact them in their social location, and they tend to oppose such programs because they go against evangelical understanding of accountable freewill individualism.”
  87. Emerson and Smith, Divided by Faith, 80.
  88. Emerson and Smith, Divided by Faith, 81.
  89. Emerson and Smith, Divided by Faith, 83.
  90. Cf. Larsen, “Defining and Locating Evangelicalism,” 11; Gordon T. Smith, Beginning Well: Christian Conversion & Authentic Transformation (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press).
  91. Brock, Disability, 22.
  92. Brock, Disability, 20.
  93. Brock, Disability, 22.
  94. Reynolds, Vulnerable Communion, 25.
  95. Brock, Disability, 22.
  96. Brock, Disability, 39.
  97. Erik W. Carter, “A Place of Belonging: Research at the Intersection of Faith and Disability” Review and Expositor 113, no. 2 (2016): 169.
  98. Eiesland, The Disabled God, 20.
  99. Leanne Van Dyk, “The Church in Evangelical Theology and Practice,” in The Cambridge Companion to Evangelical Theology, eds. Timothy Larsen and Daniel J. Treier (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 126.
  100. George Hunsberger, “Evangelical Conversion toward a Missional Ecclesiology,” in Evangelical Ecclesiology: Reality or Illusion? ed. John G. Stackhouse, Jr. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 118.
  101. Van Dyk, “The Church in Evangelical Theology and Practice,” 135.
  102. Van Dyk, “The Church in Evangelical Theology and Practice,” 135–138.
  103. D. J. Konz, “The Even Greater Commission: Relating the Great Commission to the Missio Dei, and Human Agency to Divine Activity, in Mission,” Missiology: An International Review 46, no. 4 (2016): 335.
  104. See Craig Ott and Stephen J. Strauss, Encountering Theology of Mission: Biblical Foundations, Historical Developments, and Contemporary Issues (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2010); A. Scott Moreau, Gary R. Corwin, and Gary B. McGee, Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2020); Christopher J. H. Wright, The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 2010); Stetzer, “An Evangelical Kingdom Community Approach”; “The Lausanne Covenant”; “The Cape Town Commitment.”
  105. Fitch, The Great Giveaway, 18.
  106. Fitch, The Great Giveaway, 18.
  107. Konz, “The Even Greater Commission,” 338.
  108. Konz, “The Even Greater Commission,” 338.
  109. Konz, “The Even Greater Commission,” 340.
  110. Konz, “The Even Greater Commission,” 338 (italics added).
  111. Scheuermann, “Not Whole Without Us,” 4.
  112. Hunsberger, “Evangelical Conversion toward a Missional Ecclesiology,” 120.
  113. Hunsberger, “Evangelical Conversion toward a Missional Ecclesiology,” 119.
  114. John Swinton, “The Body of Christ has Down Syndrome: Theological Reflections on Vulnerability, Disability, and Graceful Communities,” The Journal of Pastoral Theology 13, no. 2 (Fall 2003): 67.
  115. Brian Brock, “Theologizing Inclusion: 1 Corinthians 12 and the Politics of the Body of Christ,” Journal of Religion, Disability & Health 15, no. 4 (2011): 354, 10.1080/15228967.2011.620389.
  116. Brock, “Theologizing Inclusion,” 367.
  117. Brock, “Theologizing Inclusion,” 362.
  118. Brock, “Theologizing Inclusion,” 367.
  119. Conner, “Enabling Witness,” 19.
  120. Conner, “Enabling Witness,” 19–20.
  121. Conner, “Enabling Witness,” 26.
  122. Hunsberger, “Evangelical Conversion toward a Missional Ecclesiology,” 109.
  123. Van Dyk, “The Church in Evangelical Theology and Practice,” 135.
  124. Hunsberger, “Evangelical Conversion toward a Missional Ecclesiology,” 122–132.
  125. Hunsberger, “Evangelical Conversion toward a Missional Ecclesiology,” 123–126.
  126. Hunsberger, “Evangelical Conversion toward a Missional Ecclesiology,” 127.
  127. Hunsberger, “Evangelical Conversion toward a Missional Ecclesiology,” 128.
  128. Hunsberger, “Evangelical Conversion toward a Missional Ecclesiology,” 128–130.
  129. Hunsberger, “Evangelical Conversion toward a Missional Ecclesiology,” 130–132.
  130. Hunsberger, “Evangelical Conversion toward a Missional Ecclesiology,” 132.
  131. Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, 123–124.
  132. “The Cape Town Commitment,” sec. II-B.4.
  133. Reynolds, Vulnerable Communion, 245.
  134. Reynolds, Vulnerable Communion, 245.
  135. Reynolds, Vulnerable Communion, 249.

Rochelle Scheuermann

Rochelle Scheuermann is associate professor of evangelism and leadership at Wheaton College where she directs three master’s programs.