My friend Johnny Carr, National Director of Church Partnerships for Bethany Christian Services, wrote this piece for the Q Ideas blog. I think he nails it. Johnny also lives it; he and his wife have two adopted children who are both deaf.
Is Adoption Missional?
I guess the first thing is to define missional. “Missional” is one of those junk drawer buzzwords that has become common in our Christian vocabulary with several definitions floating around. Wikipedia says that “missional” is a missionary-term that describes a missionary lifestyle, and I guess that is as good a definition as any. To live “missionally” is to express the Gospel holistically in the way you live – every day and in every thing. It is a way of life, not a program. It means living like Jesus lived. If you know much about Jesus you know that includes helping to meet the emotional, physical and spiritual needs of others. Living missionally means making a conscious decision to live each day with others in mind, rather than yourself.
In other words, YES – adoption is missional.
Recently, I was speaking with a lady who had asked her church for financial help for their adoption. The church leader responded that the church did not help with “optional” things like adoption. The pastor’s perspective seemingly saw adoption more like consumption than ministry. He saw adoption as a want – much like I want an iPhone. He was not viewing adoption from the perspective of the child.
When I meet with Pastors to discuss adoption ministries, I will often ask them, “Who does adoption help?” The typical response is “infertile couples.” That is when I lovingly explain that adoption primarily helps children. Whether the child is an orphan from war, genocide or disease in Africa; whether the child is an orphan due to abuse and neglect and the state has severed the rights of his/her birth parents, or whether it is a new born baby that was born due to an unplanned pregnancy – adoption is (or, at least, should be) always about the health and best interest of the child. Unfortunately, many Christians are focusing on adults (us) rather than the child (them).
When adoption is seen through a child’s eyes, it is easy to see the missional nature of adoption. In fact, this may be the ultimate missional decision because adoption is a lifetime commitment. Many people today are adopting children with special needs. Some of these children will never grow up to be independent. The people who are adopting these little ones know that they are making a decision today that will affect the rest of their lives. Instead of raising a couple of healthy kids, sending them off to college, and then sailing off in their motor home into retirement, they will be serving the least of these until one of them “retires” into eternity. That is truly missional.
Someone once said missional living was “religion without all the junk added,” I thought that was interesting in light of James 1:27, “Religion that God our father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (NIV)
There are many different perspectives on the best ways to care for orphans, but with 143,000,000 orphans in the world today, something must be done by followers of Jesus Christ. Only 1-2% of these children will be adopted. We need many strategies that will best fit the cultures, values, and
environments of the places where these orphans live, and adoption is a one great strategy.
Adoption is not the one-stop cure all for the orphan crisis, but it is a strategic and effective mode to care for the orphans of the world. It’s also a commitment of sacrifice, a holistic manifestation of the Gospel, a missional posture and a service to Christ.