Today, around the country, churches of all denominations are taking serious God’s call to care for the fatherless and starting orphan care and adoption ministries. This is very exciting – for the sake of the gospel, for the sake of the millions of children that are waiting for a family, and for these churches!
Many of these churches are asking how they can serve the fatherless most effectively?
The best advice I can give is to not simply start an orphan care/adoption “ministry” but aim to see an orphan care/adoption culture established. What do I mean by that? It may be semantics but I see a difference that has great implications:
- Ministry tends be an optional program that a small group of interested individuals can take part in.
- Culture is something that the whole church community takes part in by virtue of being part of the church.
- Ministry does not necessitate the involvement or the vision casting of the church leadership.
- Culture will be sustained by the preaching of the gospel and the particular ways it is worked out.
- Ministry is not always clearly connected to the mission of the church.
- Culture is a means to work out the mission of the church.
Think of these statements in regards to other “ministries” that we find in our churches – evangelism, prayer, mercy. The extent to which these gospel-activities are seen as “ministries” or “programs”, as they so often are, they often struggle. I find churches that are most effective at evangelism are those churches that see evangelism as a non-negotiable for every member and have created a culture in which every member by virtue of their involvement in the church community is caught up into the activity of reaching the lost. I think the same ought to be true for orphan care/adoption.
The greatest thing you can do to establish a culture of adoption/orphan care in your church is to be gripped by the reality that God has adopted us as His children. The church is God’s great trans-racial adoptive family. As the gospel takes root in our hearts and we recognize that adoption is central to the heart and mission of God it also becomes something we care about. We will naturally begin to reflect our vertical adoption in our horizontal efforts. This is the foundation for creating a culture that believes that every Christian is called to care for the fatherless in some way. Not everyone is called to adopt but everyone is called to do something. The question for each Christian and each church is not “Should I care for orphans?” The question is “How can I care for orphans?”
One church aiming to create an adoption culture is Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, KY. They have committed to do all they can to adopt as many orphans from around the world as possible. Here is a statement from their website:
“Every member of the AABC family is challenged to be apart of rescuing children from around the world, by giving, praying, and adopting. Our commitment to adoption flows from our commitment to the gospel. All who know the grace of God found only in Jesus Christ, have been adopted by God. It only makes sense that those of us who have been adopted in this way display such grace in the world through a radical commitment to adoption.”
Would your church commit to the same? Imagine the potential if thousands of churches aimed for cultures in which the gospel led to this kind of radical commitment to do all we can care for the fatherless. May God continue to move in our hearts and the heart of His church!