Thinking About Orphancare: More than a Resolution or Special Sunday

Posted: November 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

  Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:27)

If you are a Christian that has spent much time in God’s Word then you are familiar with this passage in James. This focus that God has a heart to help the otherwise “helpless” is echoed throughout scripture (Psalm 10:14, Psalm 68:5, Psalm 82:3, Proverbs 31:8).

While we know the commands and we are burdened with compassion we can quickly become overwhelmed and not know how to began to help practically care for the needs of orphans. I would like to point toward some help in practically moving from just being overwhelmed by the need to being the “hands and feet” of Christ.

1. Know that the need is great. It is estimated that there are more than 17.5 million orphans worldwide; and there are more than 100,000 children and youth in need of permanent adoptive families in the United States. In my state of South Carolina  there are more than 1,400 children and youth in need of permanent adoptive families.

2. Be Gospel-Motivated. While knowing the need is important and understanding our biblical call to orphancare should motivate us; we should also have the Gospel-motivation that we are adopted! If you have repented of your sins and trusted in Jesus Christ then you have been adopted as a child of God (Romans 8:15-23, 9:26, Galatians 4:4-7, Ephesians 1:3-6) and our adoption of orphans is symbolic of this in the eyes of the world and real in the eyes of the children we seek to provide care for.

3. Understand “Orphancare.” Understand that when it comes to our call to help care for orphans (as we see in James 1:27) this does not only mean adopting or being a foster family. I am excited to be a part of a movement of churches in our city called Come Closer that is part of a bigger movement in our region coming together known as Mission Upstate.  God is doing an incredible work through them(that would require a whole series of posts); but our efforts in the area of orphancare and beyond is termed: Every Child Initiative(ECI). The “Every Child Initiative” is an effort to join God in reaching out to, caring for, and representing gospel transformation to vulnerable children in our community and around our world.  In this focus it is been helpful to describe varying ways to provide care from Adoption Care, Foster Care, to Mentoring Care, Global Orphan Care and Wrap-Around Care.  Check out the ECI webpage for explanations of these different types of cares.

Beyond the Mission Upstate ECI webpage that points to a variety of resources there are some great books to help be better informed:

“Adopted for Life” by Russell Moore
“Orphanology” by Tony Merida & Rick Morton
“Reclaiming Adoption” by Dan Cruver
“Heirs with Christ” by Joel Beeke
What will we do as the church? Let’s “Be the Church!” Hear David Platt’s plea to us:
In obedience to Scripture, we have decided that we can not and will not sit idly by while children are in need of a home to care and provide for their deepest needs in difficult times, whether that is for a short time or for a lifetime. We long to show God’s love and honor the Father of the fatherless (Psalm 68:5)

The church must do something. If you are a church leader out there, how do you see your church becoming more involved? If you are pastor like me I realize just the demands of shepherding God’s flock faithfully takes all your time (and then some). Start by visiting FamilyLife’s ministry called Hope for Orphans.  [Just an aside, FamilyLife is a great gospel-centered ministry with tons of resources and events to strengthen marriages and families -even a cruise that maybe I can take my wife on one day:)]  Hope for Orphans is a ministry focused on serving churches to equip them for orphan care. It is a great place to start with a variety of resources (like this video below).

Pastors, take the opportunity to preach on orphancare during a special emphasis (I did so last Father’s Day). If you are not familiar with Together for Adoption, they are a gospel-motivated ministry that helps equip churches for orphancare and has a ton of resources. Together for Adoption has conferences (national and regional) aimed to equip ministry leaders. Check out their most recent Pastors’ Conference held last month at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

November has been designated as National Adoption month by our President with November 17 as National Adoption Day. Earlier this month was designated as Orphan Sunday. In South Carolina I am grateful that our denomination  just passed a resolution earlier this week to draw more needed focus to adoption. But we need more than just special Sunday emphases and resolutions to begin to fulfill what scripture tells us in being the body of Christ to orphans. We need a movement of the Spirit that will continue to awaken the church, so let’s pray to that end! I do not know all the answers and I am still wrestling through my specific calling in how to obey but we can all pray. Will you do that? So don’t be overwhelmed by the need, don’t be deceived into thinking you can’t help (for whatever reason the enemy whispers to you), to use these practical helps to get started. Here are some ways we can pray together:

* Please pray for individuals and families in churches to be motivated primarily by the gospel as they engage in caring for vulnerable children in our communities and churches.

* Please pray that the collective body of Christ (all who are faithfully committed to the gospel and motivated by God’s rescuing love in our own lives) would move in obedience to this command from God’s heart to care and provide for the unprotected and fatherless in our midst.

* Please pray that churches will participate.

* Please pray for lasting gospel influence in the area of orphancare.
* Please pray for the families who are participating, those who will participate, and the children in need of a forever home. (these requests & some information used from Mission Upstate-ECI).
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