There are many ways that you can express your pastoral care for those considering adoption and those who have adopted already. As an adoptive father and former pastor, I offer a few thoughts on how to help adoption become a biblically based, heart-led, missional movement in your church and not merely another program on your church’s list.
Russel Moore shares this commentary on adoption:
Adoption is, on the one hand, gospel. In this, adoption tells us who we are as children of the Father. Adoption as gospel tells us about our identity, our inheritance, and our mission as sons of God. Adoption is also defined as mission. In this, adoption tells us our purpose in this age as the people of Christ. Missional adoption spurs us to join Christ in advocating for the helpless and the abandoned.
As soon as you peer into the truth of the one aspect, you fall headlong into the truth of the other, and vice-versa. That’s because it’s the way the gospel is. Jesus reconciles us to God–and to each other. As we love God, we love our neighbor; as we love our neighbor, we love our God. We believe Jesus in “heavenly things”–our adoption in Christ–so we follow him in “earthly things”–the adoption of children. Without the theological aspect, the emphasis on adoption too easily is seen as mere charity. Without the missional aspect, the doctrine of adoption too easily is seen as mere metaphor.
Also, we are excited to have Dr. Moore speak on ‘Adoption and the Renewal of Creation’ at Together for Adoption 2009. Click here for more details and other speakers.
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.
I’ve had a quote on the tip of my tongue this whole week and it’s been killing me. Yesterday, I finally found it in a Tim Keller sermon I listened to the other month.
Here it is quickly transcribed:
Julian, the last Roman emperor, tried to revive paganism, he built temples and spruced them up but Christianity was spreading faster than he could compete with. In the midst of this, he wrote to a friend, a pagan priest:
“Nothing has contributed to the progress of the superstition of these Christians as their charity to strangers, the impious Galileans provide not only for their own poor but for ours as well.”
The early Christians were promiscuous with their charity.