Special Needs Boy Removed From Church

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Many churches focus on providing a compelling worship experience. The desire is to attract people to an excellent production where they can sing, learn, and leave feeling renewed. For decades we’ve called this approach “seeker-sensitive.” But does that sensitivity have limits?

News reports broke last week about a 12-year-old boy with cerebral palsy being removed from Elevation Church for being a “distraction” during the Easter service. The boy’s mother said, “Easter Sunday he got all dressed up, got ready to go, no small feat with a kiddo like him.” But, according to the report, after the opening prayer inside the sanctuary the boy voiced his own kind of “Amen.”

“We were very abruptly escorted out,” the mother said.

Following the incident, the boy’s mother contact church leaders with an offer to start a ministry for special needs children. She told reporters that the idea was “rejected.”

After the story was broadcast on the local news (you can watch the video here), Elevation Church issued a statement in which they clarified that “…this young man and his family were not removed from our church. They were escorted to a nearby section of our church where they watched the service in its entirety.”

The church also said, “It is our goal at Elevation to offer a distraction free environment for all our guests. We look forward to resolving any misunderstanding that has occurred.”

We certainly don’t want to jump on the pile and criticize Elevation Church for what may be a simple misunderstanding. But this incident does raise larger questions about what may be conflicting values in our churches. Specifically, the values of entertainment and hospitality.

Elevation, which probably represents the views of many churches, says they want to “offer a distraction free environment.” I’m assuming this means avoiding distractions from among the congregation, because in my experience there is plenty that happens on the stage that keep me distracted from God. Smoke machines and lasers, really? But I digress.

In our desire to be distraction free, must we remove individuals from our corporate worship whom God has called to himself? What are we communicating about the church, God’s Kingdom, and the character of God himself, if people with special needs are not fully welcomed? And we don’t have to focus on these extreme examples like the boy with cerebral palsy. In many of our congregations we don’t even want non-special needs children in our worship gatherings.

I’m not advocating a disorderly and chaotic form of worship, but I’m not sure Paul was arguing in 1 Corinthians 14:26-40 for an entirely distraction free gathering either. When I pay $10 at the cinema, I expect a distraction free experience. (I saw Super 8 this weekend…worth every penny.) When I shell out $100 to see a Broadway production, I expect a distraction free experience. But when I come freely to worship the Living God and gather with his people whom he describes as the foolish, weak, and despised in the world (1 Cor 1:26-28)–I do not expect a distraction free environment.

Remember blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10)? When Jesus came by he began shouting. The crowd wanted him to shut up. He was a distraction. But Jesus welcomed

the distraction of this blind beggar and healed him. Or what about the children in the marketplace found earlier in the same chapter? The disciple tried to stop people from bringing their children to Jesus. Again, they were a distraction. But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”

Those whom our culture labels a distraction, Jesus calls recipients of his kingdom. That should make us pause.

A few years ago I helped our church launch a new congregation. We started out meeting in a community center. There were only about 50 adults and a whole lot of kids. One of them was severely disabled. Like the boy described at Elevation Church, he often made loud outbursts in worship…sometimes during my sermon or the prayer of a worship leader.

But our congregation began with a high value placed on hospitality. When this boy was in attendance a worship leader would often let the congregation know at the beginning our time together. And he’d inform visitors that, “If he makes any loud noises during our time, rather than allowing it to frustrate you, use it as an opportunity. His presence with us, and the noises, remind us that we are all welcomed by God no matter who we are.”

Some Sundays it was difficult. Some Sundays it was beautiful. Every Sunday it was the Church.

  • http://casadeblundell.com/jonathan Jonathan Blundell

    I don’t want to harp on a church when I wasn’t there and don’t know all the details – but I feel like the response your church plant had was a much finer example of The Kingdom of God than many others I’ve encountered.

    It reminds me of a song Allen Levi sings…Who’s to say they don’t belong

    He’s posted the story behind the song, lyrics and the track itself here:

  • Deborah Seeley

    Jesus died for all!! He accepts us all, why shouldn’t we accept others too?

  • donna may

    it may suprise you that that boy may be the only one God heard during that service. God loves all voices, even the ones with cerebral palsy. they are special to God too. when my son was an infant, he cried out in church during a revival, a guset speaker said get that disturbance out of here. i was not gonna go back , but my pastor called me after i got home. and apologized over it. but that didn’t help the hurt i felt. i did go back after that guest speaker left. you just don’t throw people out of a service over noise. maybe that boy was making a joyful noise to God the only way he knew how. be careful what you do to Gods children, it may come back on you. just saying!

  • Michael

    If you saw the video—they mentioned the church “focuses on worship, not ministry.” That may one of the most disturbing things I have ever heard a church say, on multiple levels.

  • http://3dchristianity.wordpress.com/ Shiao Chong

    Excellent post! Thank you so much for this! As a father of a Down Syndrome daughter, I believe that people with disabilities can teach us to be better Christians.

    You contrasted Entertainment vs. Hospitality. May I suggest an overlapping and also relevant polarity for this situation: Consumerism vs. Community. We have turned the worship service into an individualistic consumer event rather than an individual-in-community transforming event. We see it as satisfying individual wants/needs rather than as transforming us into more like Christ. If we took the latter lens seriously, hospitality will be a higher value, and growing our patience by welcoming and learning from people such as the boy with CP will be more central.

  • Marva

    I wonder how many followers Jesus would have had if he had focused “on worship, not ministry”.

  • Jim

    Thank God the Lord saw fit to rescue this young man from a congregation of anally fixated putzes.

  • Brett

    We have a young man in our church who is very distracting. He is loud, boisterous, shakes his hands in the air, dances around, laughs at the jokes too hard, and generally doesn’t care what anyone else thinks as he experiences the worship at a level beyond anything I could imagine. He distracts me from my self-focus, my desire not to stand out, my devotion to “proper” decorum in worship.

    I look forward to the day when I will worship God with no inhibitions! Until then, I too will try not to “distract” anyone around me, which probably means I, at some level, worship others’ comfort – and my own – more than God.

    But some day, all that will leave me. What a great day that will be, and every day after that…

    Forget Elevation. This story isn’t about them, it’s about us. It’s about me.

  • http://scottemery.wordpress.com/ Scott E

    As a Special Education Teaching Assistant and pastor/church planter, I thank you very much for this article. Working with the population that I do day in and day out, it has opened my eyes to the realities of life on a much deeper level. The faith community we’re leading/participating in is one built on hospitality and simplicity. We meet in a house and nearly everyone has 2 kids under 3 years old. It’s crazy, but beautiful. I could go on, but I just wanted to say thank you and I pray for the day when we include everyone within the church, especially those who are beautifully different.

  • http://faithwarming.blogspot.com April Terry

    We do a ministry to senior facilities and when someone tries to remove their wheelchair seatbelts, a loud alarm goes off. We wouldn’t have a ministry if we couldn’t handle distractions and sometimes the distractions are heaven sent! I recall a particularly moving song when suddenly one of my seniors shouted, “That was just beautiful!” I welcome distractions of all kinds because I welcome people of all kinds. For me, it seems to illustrate the obstacle we Christians face in trying to achieve some measure of unconditional love. If we don’t achieve that, what are we there for?

  • http://deetsjohn.blogspot.com deets

    First, this article made me more excited for class for special needs children, and the value we have placed on ministry to special needs children. Second, I want to clarify, we don’t have that class to keep these people from being a distraction. Third, the concept that the people weren’t escorted but led to a place where the “watched the whole service” is ridiculous in a church. People shouldn’t watch church, they should be the church.

  • Al

    I hear the Holy Spirit can be quite distracting when he turns up.
    Maybe we should put him in a box too.

  • http://www.susiefinkbeiner.wordpress.com Susie Finkbeiner

    I think that this congregation has lost the meaning of the Body of Christ. The boy was praising God. If anything, that should have brought people great joy. So very sad.

  • John M

    Luke 14 is all there is to say

  • http://www.alise-write.com Alise

    Is this the church that Steven Furtick pastors? Has he made any statement about this incident?

    I admit, I attend a big church that does the spectacle and I love it. But the second that we put ANY show over the needs of people, we have FAILED.

    My heart aches for this family.

  • Rick Blinn

    Ministry IS worship.

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  • http://divandmama.blogspot.com Jenn

    Amen! Thank you for this post….from a mom who has spent 2 of the last three years sequestered to a special room for parents with babies and as a result have realized I feel completely cut off from any part of our community. My children are generally accepted in public….my heart aches for a this family who should be able to find in church what society likely doesn’t do for them. This makes my heart hurt ,but yearn for something bigger, it may have taken me 3 years to speak up but I refuse now to be part of any church that treats children, or anybody this way.

  • Carol Theis

    Thankful that the church I am part of has a special needs ministry for wonderful people like that young man. Read the book “No Disabled Souls”..an awesome reminder of who God made us to be. Pray for Elevation church to be aware of the need and awake to what real worship is..Are we at church to lift up ourselves or our GOD? There is nothing more beautiful than hearing words/sounds of praise and worship coming from the mouths of His Special People.

  • John Finkelde

    That appears to be a lot of commentary from people who were not in that service. I pastor a church (not a mega church & not in USA) & i’d be loathe to criticize these ushers who removed the family before I heard the whole story from their side.

  • http://janbalch.com.itworks.net Jan Balch

    This post makes me very grateful for my Pastors and congregation. We are a small church filled with wonderful people. Small as we are we welcome everyone who enters into God’s house. Our children are allowed to worship in their own way, they are allowed to dance in the front of the church during worship, they are allowed to march around the congregation during worship, they are called upon to pray with the Pastor at times… Pastor calls them his army of Prayer Warriors. THIS is how you help children understand their role in God’s Kingdom! I find it hard to imagine that God is going to put His children in different rooms in Heaven depending on their distractabilities. No, He is going to open up His arms and draw EVERY one of us in to experience His undivided love and attention! HE IS A GREAT AND LOVING GOD!!

  • Bob Ford

    A contrast to Elevation:

    I have a missionary birthday email ministry. Yesterday, June 13, 3011, I received this reply:

    Thanks for the encouragement and the reminder, God has blessed me with Cerebral Palsy since birth (63 years and still running with His leadership and power)

    In Him (Philippians 4:13),
    Chaplain Neil

  • Bob Ford

    p.s. date correction, my previous response obviously has the wrong year: 6/13/3011 should read 6/14/2011, ooops!

  • Bob Ford

    again should read 6/13/2011, ooops again

  • Mark Hunter

    Having read this out of interest because one of my church friends posted it on Facebook and I saw all the complaining Churchies having their say, I have only one thing to say: when i saw it, I was glad I don’t go to Church any more, and you certainly don’t attract non-believers to Christ with all the religious bickering!

    Maybe the boy was making an infernal racket and possessed by Satan who was trying to disrupt the service. I have seen parents of horrible spoilt little mutts delighting in the disruptive bellows of their intractible offspring, to the chagrin of everyone else too – specially in PC churches. It wouldn’t be tolerable in a musical concert or in a Parliament, so why should the church have a responsibility to put up with raucous behaviour…?

    Anyway, people in pubs and such places are a lot more honest and sometimes nicer… :D

  • http://FaceBook Tom Entrican

    I have no comment, but I found this in a book that our church uses.

    But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.
    1 John 2:11

  • Wayne Martin

    We spend too much time pleasing each other. That is to say (What will they think of me) and not pleasing GOD. The greatest command is LOVE. I see no love in what that church did. Well except for the love of man. Every one that calls on the name of Jesus will be in heaven not just the quite ones.

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  • http://www.cpcbarn.org Sean Martin

    As a father of multiple children with special needs, I appreciate this article. As a pastor who desires to have all children in worship, I appreciate this article. We need to stop dividing the church. There is no where in the scriptures where this was done.

    And another question I am wrestling with…Jesus tells us we will worship in Spirit and in Truth. Can we be “seeker sensitive,” sensitive to those who do not have the Spirit of God, and still worship in Spirit? I wish I had a clear and simple answer.

  • Dan

    My personal opinion is that the only one that made any sense was Mark Hunter who professes to not go to church because of all the people (christians) who had such a religious response to something they didn’t personally experience. Too bad many may end up in eternity a part from God because of the critical and religious christians in churches who need to learn to keep their opinions to themselves.

  • Ron Monroe

    So many churches in this country have crossed that line between worship and entertainment. Regardless of the this specific situation, I see a huge problem with their attitude. Who can say what an ultimate worship experience is supposed to be? Worship is where we go to honor, serve, respect and worship GOD! NOT to go to look cool or adhere to somebody’s personal parochial sense of what is acceptable. Someone tell me just how it can be that removing that boy from the service was worshipful act? Are we churches or privat social clubs?

  • http://drgrcevich.wordpress.com Stephen Grcevich, MD

    Thanks for using your platform for calling attention to the needs of families of kids with disabilities. While I don’t want to pile on the folks at Elevation Church…not every church can excel in every area of ministry or meet the needs of every person in their community, and I’ve heard that their church has done lots of cool things…there are a number of outstanding ministries that offer training, consultation and resources to churches at low cost or no cost to help meet the needs of families of kids with disabilities.


  • http://leftcoastdad2two.wordpress.com Left Coast Jeff

    This is truly a conversation in which we as Christians must engage. As a dad of 2 with special needs (an 11-year-old on the autism spectrum that looks “normal”, and a 12-year-old with physical and developmental delays and the label of Down syndrom), we struggle mightily in our search for a Spirit-filled, on-fire-for-Christ church home that is accepting of our family. When my son “coo’s” during the sermon, or my daughter tears a page from her notebook during a prayer and the glances from congregants wither our will, I thank God for the determination to advocate for families like mine. We continue our search because we are called to do so, and we will praise God, blessing those that do not “get” it, and seeking His will in our journey.

  • Patrick

    “Too bad many may end up in eternity a part from God because of the critical and religious christians in churches who need to learn to keep their opinions to themselves.”

    Dan, thanks for sharing your opinion! Oh, wait…. oops.

  • Patrick

    @.Dan, I have to say you’re way off base with your statement. If anyone spends an eternity apart from God, it is because they did not accept the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for their sins and repent of those sins….NOT because some Christians disagree on some random topic. Seems to me you’ve placed to much emphasis on the “human aspect” of salvation.

    As far as Elevation and Steven Furtick go….all I have to say is google the church and google the pastor. You’ll see that this situation is just the tip of the iceberg.

  • Kathy L.

    I belong to a mainline church (ELCA) in San Francisco which has a lovely traditional service at 11:00 am. We get “special needs” people in our worship services all the time, the same ones, repeatedly. I think the service is calming for them. We know their names, we accommodate their foibles. Actually, only once has has our security guard had to escort someone out, a woman clearly off her meds, who would not stop shouting incvoherently at the top of her lungs at the beginning of the service. We all felt *terrible* when this happened, but at the same time, we really had no choice. (I was there.) Six months later, she was back, last Sunday, on her meds this time, sat in the back, with only a couple of inappropriate giggles, and seemed to enjoy the service. She did not come up for communion.

    We are very grateful to our unobtrusive, un-uniformed security guard who usually only has to enforce the rule that nobody gets to go through the “coffee hour” (lunch) line until the service is over. :-) Free food is a magnet, and word gets around. Our unofficial church tagline is “There’d better be food, and it’d better be good!”

    And kids are welcome to make noise, we’re happy to have them.

    We’re rank rookies at dealing with people more out on the edge, compared to Glide Memorial Church, a few blocks from us,

  • Alan

    There are many comments here about whether or not people heard ‘both sides of the story’, or something along those lines. Can I just as gently as possible remind everyone that worship is supposed to be something we do to and for God, not us? Worship is spoken of in the Bible as something properly directed from us to God. It’s not required to be entertaining for us, or comfortable for us, or anything else for us. It’s supposed to be God-focussed, not man-focussed.

    Bearing that in mind, I have a question; If we were to transport that particular church service back in time to when Jesus walked among us, what do you think He would say? About any of the behaviours mentioned?

    I believe James 2:1-4 gives us a part of the answer. These verses are quite well applicable to the reported situation and the who, or what, or how, or why, really doesn’t matter does it?
    The fact is that someone was moved from where they were to another place, which is clearly forbidden by this passage.
    Whether it was done gracefully, gently, respectfully, etc, is irrelevant.
    Jesus’ words about children in Matthew 19:14 also spring to mind here, also Matthew 18:5 & 6.

    Please let’s not have any nonsense about not being judgemental, Jesus, Paul, Peter, James, John, all spoke out against unbiblical behaviour, which is what this was, although it may have been well-intentioned, even kindly done. This is not said with superiority, we all do things that are unbiblical and we all need to be alerted to the fact when we do. It’s very easy to become slaves to convention, or decorum, or tradition and forget what the Word of God actually says.
    Brothers & sisters, such things ought not to be. Let’s not be offended by correction, but search the scriptures like the Bereans did to find out what God thinks, rather than argue from our own agendas and biases.

  • Andy J. Funk

    Our society leaves little room for people of all ages living with disabilities. We have almost come to expect this reality. What we do NOT normally expect is that any Christian church would practice the same patterns of segregation and react out of fear or lack of understanding. I have worked as a direct support worker with adults living with disabilities for years, and am now pastoring a church. I have been saddened that I have needed to advocate for an individual due to mistreatment from their church. Since when must we protect a person from the church?! This is deplorable! Even without hearing the “whole” story of the Elevation church, one gets the sense that this young man was NOT “elevated” in the worship service, as a crucial piece which makes up his worshipping community. Someone already noted that Jesus is open to the weak, foolish…etc. I would contend much more strongly that Jesus FAVOURED those on the margins of society and church! We think that people with a disability must learn something from US…It is precisely US who must learn from them, if we are to even scratch the surface of the character of God and his coming Kingdom…remember in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus tells the religious leaders that the “tax collectors and prostitutes are going into the kingdom ahead of you”. Jesus baffles his listeners with who he says will be included and who will find themselves “ushered” to the back to watch from a distance. The church MUST be more inclusive than it is most of the time. It must welcome, not just put up with, those who are strange to most people. If we don’t, then we miss the point of what Christ has called us to. Mainly, to care for the poor ie: the weak, insignificant in society, widows and orphans…all those on the margins; the church must work at restoring the humanity to those people, because that is what Jesus did time and again.

  • http://www.mustardseedyear.com Jason

    First, to be up front, a lot of this is the same comment I posted at Ministry Matters on their post defending Elevation. But I would have said the same things here and it saves me a bit of typing. ;)

    As a father of a son with autism, let me explain why I’m not cutting Elevation much of a break in this situation.

    There is a serious problem in the church community when it comes to dealing with families that have special needs children. Most churches just aren’t equipped or ready to handle a family walking through the door with a child that isn’t “normal.” Most children’s ministries can’t handle it because the children don’t react in the “right way.”

    I know this because our family has seen it first hand. We’ve had a pastor tell us that “God doesn’t want us” in their church after my autistic son came to a service. The worst crime he committed during that church’s service? He danced during the worship songs.

    Families with special needs children are more often than not made to feel like second class human beings within churches. They’re shoved to the side because it’s not “cool” to have a special needs child seen in the church. You wrote “The mother and child weren’t asked to leave the church–they were taken to an overflow area where there were other people.” Yeah…they were shoved out of the way of the cameras. Shoved out of the way of the main room of people. Made to feel like second class Christians again.

    Sure, it’s likely the result of an overzealous usher. But that doesn’t excuse what happened.

    Walk in our shoes for a while and be repeatedly dismissed not only by the church establishment but society in general for having a child that’s not “perfect.” Read stories like the one I shared on my blog of the time we went to a restaurant and had to put up with a woman repeatedly calling my son a “retard.”

    Why go to the news media? Because when you’re shoved to the side by a church that aggressively promotes itself in the community and then is dismissed when you approach them about starting a ministry for special needs children like yours, you feel like you’re once again being dismissed and marginalized because you don’t fit the right Christian image. You feel you need someone with a little more pull to get answers or action.

    Honestly…had the TV station not been contacted…would Elevation Church have done a darn thing to prepare for the next special needs child that walked through the door?

    I doubt it.

    And I base that on churches we once attended where we still have friends who say those churches have done nothing to prepare for special needs children in their church.

    And as for canceling the meeting with this woman after they found out she went to the TV station? Absolutely shameful. Once again, they are marginalizing this woman because after being dismissed by the church she reached in desperation to someone she hoped could get her answers. Honestly, after being rejected outright in her first attempt to contact the church, how optimistic do you think she would have been about a second meeting?

  • Laura

    This is sad, and unbelievable. Unfortunately, though, our mega churches have come to this sort of thing.
    Not being able to exit to use the restroom, is just one thing that is often encountered. I know a lot of people with IBS and they need to be able to exit and quietly come back in.
    Not being able to serve if you have a chronic illness or handicap is another issue I have run into.
    Jesus welcomes all people, and would never have shown them to their own section of the building.
    I never felt quite right about Furtick and his latest book, and now I don’t feel very good about his church either.


    When Jesus was ministering to the people, He faced many interruptions. But they didn’t bother Him. ( Opening the roof & lowering a lame man just in the middle of the room. The woman with infirmities interupting by touching the end of Jesus’s garment in order to get well, while Jesus was on His way to raise Jairus’s daughter from the dead). I wonder, how could these churches be able to minister in the 3rd world countries?

  • Sam

    The saddest thing is that they don’t seem to be a bit remorseful about the way they made this family feel. The statements “we focus on worship, not ministries” and “distraction-free environment” are from the church themselves. I would indeed love to hear some sort of response from Furtick or Elevation Church. Just an apology would be a nice start. Sure, it is likely that we are only seeing one side of the story, but this was two months ago, and there isn’t any sort of statement on their website — and apparently the mother doesn’t feel like any apology has been given. What a shame.

    Every Sunday at church, we sit in front of a disabled woman, who doesn’t know when to say “Amen” (but does so anyway — quite frequently). She even does so at completely WRONG times (I sometimes have to stifle my laughter at the irony of an “amen” to something sinful or inappropriate. And the truth is that she probably should have been taught somewhere along the way not to create a distraction to others in the church (it is quite excessive, and it is obvious she is doing it to try and “fit in”). But each of these is a reminder to me that we are all imperfect. I try to “fit in” in worship by singing on-key, or clapping “correctly”. I try to “fit in” by looking nice, or wearing a Christian smile. I try to “say the right things” like “I”m blessed” when asked “how are you?” We all do these things. The mentally challenged probably have a keener grasp on the kingdom of God than those of us who profess to be intellectual. What right have we to assume that our form of worship, or response, or behavior is somehow more “appropriate” than theirs.

    Luke 18:14 instructs us to receive the Kingdom of God like a “little child”. Those with mental disabilities are a prime example of just that. His disciples tried to turn them away, but Christ said “let them come”.

    P.S. To those who call this discussion “critical” and “bickering” may feel they are justified in doing so. However, I don’t see much bickering — just grieved people who desire nothing more than for the church to exhibit the spirit of God. I do think it is important that we all walk away having learned something. God will judge the hearts of those involved in this particular incident, and certainly it’s not worth becoming bitter over. But we all can learn from this, and keep a soft heart toward God and toward others. After all, Jesus said about people who offend children that “it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea”. Not something I am eager to have happen to me, so perhaps I would rather learn from others mistakes and help others to do the same.

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  • Elise

    This story made me cry. My daughter has severe cerebral palsy and cannot speak, or walk etc. etc. She does however make lots of strange and loud vocalisations and we get lots of ‘looks’ from people. I have been at my church for about 12 years and my husband and I have positions of leadership. I’m sure that this gives us more grace from people within the church towards my daughter than perhaps another family may experience in a similar situation. However I am still very conscious of disrupting others and I feel sad that there isn’t more love and acceptance. I can understand how people want to ‘enter in’ to the presence of God and that outside stuff can distract, but I also believe that there is another level of experiencing God in the beautiful mess of distractions and life. To want any child (especially one that is incapable of behaving a certain way) to shut up, so as to not interfere with our intimacy with God, is to perhaps miss what God is about.

  • John

    Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to read all the comments, but in short, I’m sort of disappointed in this post Skye. I ate up Divine Commodity and am looking forward to With. But, I’m not sure you entirely thought through this post.

    I agree, to remove a child with special needs because of distraction is a tough one. BUT, the reason I don’t love this post is because you are highlighting another reason for Christians and non-Christians to pile on one another.

    I don’t go to Elevation, but I do know there church is reaching lots and lots of people in love and truth with the Gospel of Jesus. So, why write this post? Do you want to elevate yourself and thus get others to bag on a church that may/may not have made a mistake?

    As the world turns, I was in seminary today in St. Paul as a student made the comment that “Elevation does not allow special needs children to be in worship.” To which our seminary professor replied: I know churches like Elevation. I hate them.

    I don’t know where they got their info (from here or somewhere else), but see how blog articles like this span further hatred and dissent, and continue the process of dogging on churches WHO ARE ACTUALLY REACHING PEOPLE!

    Please please, with your influence, consider not writing and highlighting subjects like this. We don’t need any more reason to turn on one another.

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  • http://bricksandmortar.wordpress.com Rukshan Fernando


    Thanks for this. I attend a small episcopal church in Indiana. The second part of our service is when the children join us. Most of the kids are under the age of 3. Kids cry, scream and repeat the Lord’s prayer LOUDLY. :) I’ve found such joy in seeing all of our “seasoned” members enjoy this “new life” in an otherwise elderly church. I need to learn from their gracious spirits. Wisdom in action…

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  • Frank

    There is a great irony in the comment “a distraction free worship experience” as the church actually passes out ear plugs as you walk into the sanctuary.

  • Kate

    Wow, are you trying to drive people away from going to a place of worship?? If I was a leader of a church, I wouldn’t post something like this unless my church was perfect, and I don’t think any church is. Just like Mark Hunter posted (#25), comments like these against fellow Christians are why he no longer goes to church! We need to realize that we (Christians) and how we act are the reason non-Christians come and go from churches so quickly. Elevation has thousands of people in attendance every week, probably a higher percentage of non-Christians than most churches. They focus more on reaching those far from Christ than ministering to those who are already Christians, but they have groups for spiritual growth, etc. The contemporary atmosphere and louder music is to draw non-Christians in and make them more comfortable. It is really really sad to see all of these comments from people basically bashing brothers and sisters in Christ. Now, do you think Christ would do that? That answer is obvious. NO. And writing a story like this in the first place, where nobody was there to see what happened, of course everyone would comment along these lines. Very poor taste all the way around. And Frank, the earplugs are there to use in case the music is too loud, not to use during the sermon, when distractions would be hard to deal with. I don’t know how I’d hear a sermon with earplugs in. So, I don’t see the irony there. See how the “bashing” can get out of hand? Someone even brings up the earplugs! May God bless us all. We need to stick together and worship the Lord, not do things that could potentially turn anyone away from Him or cause friction between congregations.

  • Roseann

    Reading this article made me think of all the times our family would sit behind the group of mentally challenged adults who worshiped with us once a month. The church denomination we were a part of while our children were small was affiliated with a place for adults with disabilities called Bethesda Lutheran Community and each week their caregivers would attend a different Lutheran Church in the area. When they came to ours, we all knew who they were and everyone made sure that they felt welcomed. One man I recall always held a small picture of Jesus to his face and would often say his name very loudly while singing hymns/songs and the Lord’s Prayer. And the highlight for them was when they were all able to get up with the rest of us to go to the communion table! And for children they came to the altar for a short children’s sermon read by an adult leader before the pastor stood to preach. While the pastor preached,the younger children would sit and color the leaflet given to them. Child care was only offered up to age 3,after that,children always sat with their families. Since families were not separated,hearing children noises was pretty normal. I enjoy reading your articles!

  • Stephen St.James

    In a brief response to some of the comments Kate #51 made relative to Elevation church. From the very being of the Christianity in the 1st century, it has always been the purpose and function of the Christian Church to be a place of worship, fellowship and most importantly the “breaking of bread” (Communion)Acts 20:7) for “believers” not “non-believers. The church was never meant to be the primary platform for the conversion of non-believers. The non-believers were usually catechized or “instructed” prior to being accepted into the community. It seems many of the modern evangelical Christians have it the other way around, serve the non believers at church to the neglect of the believers. They always have their small groups for spiritual growth and fellowship, right?

  • Stephen St.James

    I’m just curious … when did the main focus of ‘church’ become about having popular and almost celebrity /pop star status preachers, loud rock music and marketing gimmicks to fill the seats with the unsaved?? Where is Jesus in all this? I’m not an ol’ foggy by any stretch .. I love loud rock music! I just think there’s such a lackadaisical and irreverent attitude about God, and His standard of Holiness in our worship; or in Him (he’s more a Buddy than GOD). We like to use the cliche WWJD or WWJ Say often times. I truly think he would say many have lost their way, and have become seduced by the world with it’s blandishments in their relevant-ism, cultural based and modern theology and worship.

    I’m of the opinion, for many evangelicals, they believe singing a series of songs while raising theirs hands in the air and such is worship! It can’t be further from the truth! (John MacArthur had a great study on this) I think one should reappraise his church if the focus in mainly on the pastor ( I attend Ft. Lauderdale Calvary Chapel for a number of years .. it always made me cringe /blow my mind when Bob would walk out (or whatever the occasion) to preach or he would talk about certain things he’s doing, going or whatever … people would burst out in raucous whistles, hoots and applause … it was like a bunch of groupies!) .. maybe you know what I mean .. certainly the ‘cult of personality’. If this is the atmosphere in your church .. then brother/sister find another ! Jesus should be the One and Only celebrity in the house! As John the Baptist said … “I must diminish so He may Increase ..”

  • Stephen St.James

    BTW Skye … I was recently introduced to you by while listening to Greg Wheatly … I was very impressed with your discourse … you’re doing a good job … keep up the good work!

  • Pingback: Are Crying Babies and Noisy Kids in Church from The Devil? « Thinking Out Loud

  • john

    Elevation church is a grey church. They have brought so many people to learn about Christ. I think that people Should get their facts checked out before they post stuff. My little brother has downs syndrome and loves elevation. And elevation has partnered with down syndrome association and have brought so much to them. And no elevation church doesn’t have ministries but its not that we don’t care we partner with other ministries a do so much other stuff.

  • Susan

    I’d just like to tell mine and my now adult daughters story. We too were removed from the regular worship service of a big church where we attended for a few years. I was actually called into the church office and presented with legal papers stating that my child could no longer attend children’s services. She was somewhat aggressive and would sometimes pinch other children. The church was afraid that someone might sue the church over this. As if life wasnt hard enough for us at the time, I was devastated because no one even tried to help with my child. But something I held onto that helped my find my faith after leaving that church was a word spoken to me by God Himself at that time. He said,”I have a place for —–..” I knew it was God because He always speaks truth, and sure enough a few years later we had a church that welcomed my daughter. Maybe not into children’s ministry, but the pastor counted her as part of the church no matter how disruptive or distracting she was. I’ve learned and gleaned a lot from my time being —–’s Mom, and now I work as a TA in a class of preschool autistic children. I must admit that at first I was very mad at God but then I realized that it wasn’t God who let me down it was people. People who were ignorant. Forgiveness is huge when ‘life’ happens to us. My daughter, who now lives in a group home with 3 other young ladies, still to this day can testify as to how much God loves her and will speak and tell others how much God loves them. She doesn’t know she’s disabled and I’m grateful that to God she is precious. And to me and all who truly looked beyond her seizures, mental retardation, and schizophrenia. God bless you all! And praying that any other family who had similar things happen to them and they’re children finds a good Spirited church who loves each of us in our own uniqueness. Grace be with us!!

  • tom

    I was a volunteer at Elevation. no longer. The church does not tolerate any distractions. If someone leaves for the bathroom, they are not allowed back into their seat. They care more about the production than they do about the needs or feelings of the congregation. Steven Furtick is an egomniac. He could care less about what individual people think. His does care what the masses think, because he is interested in the masses and more importantly the offerings from the masses. This situation is just an example of many other misguided priorities within this Church…

  • jaime northcraft

    Children like this young man are about the closest thing to Jesus as you can get. Do you know of a purer soul than that of a child with a disability? You look in these children’s eyes and you see God. I wouldn’t mess with God like that!!!