I stood outside my pastor’s office as he told me with a sense of disgust the story his friend Dr. Russell Moore had just recounted to him about the woman asking if his two sons who were just adopted were ‘really’ brothers. While I would have never had the courage to ask it, the question made sense to me. I probably shook my head in disbelief and walked away pretending to be disgusted as well. But, for several days I remember trying to figure out why the story did not make sense to me.
I eventually figured it out. When I did, it hit me like a freight train and I have never been the same. I had to come to terms with the fact that I had never really understood the doctrine of adoption.
I was raised in a context where adoption was something you only whispered about. While I knew families who had adopted, no one ever talked about it publicly. There was always the fear of embarrassing these families and their kids. Adoption was something for infertile couples and families who really loved children in need. So I never made any connection between the act of adoption and my existence in the church.
I needed someone to connect these theological dots for me. Once this happened I no longer thought about adoption as some sort of reality happening in a realm of the universe light years away. It’s real! I’ve seen it! I’ve experienced it!
This happened primarily through the preaching of two men, David Prince and Dr. Russell Moore. Preaching is what God used to connect the dots between my adoption in Christ and adopting children. My family and I have never been the same. Both of these men continue to help connect the dots for others. Their preaching is helping to cultivate a culture of adoption in my church and the church in general, a culture that understands why in Christ we ‘really’ are brothers.
If you are a pastor, I realize that the last thing you need to add to your recycle bin full of conference invitations and sample small group curriculum is another sales pitch. I promise that I won’t send you any junk mail. However, I would like to tell you how to improve your preaching in a way that will radically transform your church. I simply want to encourage you to connect the dots for your people.
All you have to do is tweak your sermon outlines to make sure your folks understand that adoption is central to their life as the family of God. Every now and then, point out that you are a former orphan leading a group of former orphans. Let your people in on the truth that every time you stand at the front and ask sinners to repent and come to faith in Christ you are attempting to care for orphans. Then start encouraging church members to rescue orphans in the same way they were rescued in Christ. This doesn’t even require a new sermons series. If you are already preaching the gospel, you should be able to look back through some of your most recent sermons and find places where you could have already done these things.
Maybe you were thinking that I was going to try and sell you on starting an orphan care ministry in your church or starting an adoption fund. I just did!
My point is that when you start connecting the dots between adoption and life in the church a whole new culture will begin to emerge, a culture that will cause your members to set out on rescue missions of their own. Adoption and orphan care will begin to take place and all you have to do is preach.
I am not saying that you can establish a culture of adoption through preaching and never need any sort of strategies or ministry machinery to help it along. I am saying that these things will be more effective if they grow from your preaching. Furthermore, your preaching will call to the surface the people in your congregation who are gifted to lead such ministries.
Hopefully, you understand that I am only encouraging you to lead your congregation to experience in some specific ways what you have already been preaching. You have declared with authority that God’s love for the world has nothing to do skin color. Walking by fathers in church hallways with children they committed to sacrifice for before they ever met, proves that this unconditional love is living and real. Looking over at a family with one kid from Kentucky and another from Kyrgyzstan concretizes the reality that the gospel transcends bloodlines and makes Christian unity possible. When families show up with children of different skin color, who have various former cultures, we are reminded of our mission to declare the manifold wisdom of God to the ends of the earth.
I am not asking you to simply be a distant voice on these issues. I am sure that, while you may never personally sort through stacks of notarized paperwork or organize an adoption fundraising banquet, your preaching will lead many others to do so. As a matter of fact, as much as you reflect the wisdom of Christ revealed in the gospel, it will be your voice that all former orphans in congregation hear each time they answer the misinformed, as well as, the forces of darkness by saying, “Yes we are all brothers!”
This post is part of a three part series titled The Orphan Advocate, The Pastor, and The Local Church. Check out PART ONE The Orphan Advocate and The Pastor