Why aren’t Australian Evangelical Churches helping orphans more?

Many assert that there is an established anti-adoption culture within Australia. Historically, our involvement in adoption and orphan care hasn’t always had a healthy or positive outcome for the children, their biological families or the adoptive families. Recent moves at federal level, supported by private initiatives such as National Adoption Awareness Week are seeking to improve upon this by promoting a positive approach to adoption. This not only provides education to adoptive parents to assist them in learning about the factors of abandonment, attachment and identity of the child but also extends to, where possible, support for the biological families of the children.

Adoption and orphan care is far to complex to resolve in a simple blog post. However what begs to question, for me at least, is why Australian Evangelical Churches and Christians are not more interested, involved and committed to orphan care. Perhaps, in part, it stems from a reaction to the efforts of various social and welfare groups, that due to their focus on serving the community by way of providing aid, comfort and assistance to alleviate temporal suffering, the gospel message of Jesus has been diluted and in many cases dissolved completely. After all, they reason, what good is accomplished if you provide a homeless person a bed for the night if they later die anyway and spend eternity in the torments of hell. I once had this exact attitude. When working in Africa as a Bible Teacher and Church Planter I became callous and cynical to the requests for medical aid, touting that, “I’d rather preach the gospel to them than give them chloroquine so they can be relieved of malaria symptoms and die later and go to hell.” Yet, as a wiser, older Christian pointed out to me when making my progress (!) reports later, “If you had given them medicine they might have lived longer to hear and respond to the gospel.” I had completely missed the point of mercy and welfare. I was the arrogant, unloving priest and Levite, that crossed to the other side of the road so I wouldn’t be tainted by those I esteemed worse off than I.

Attitudes like this also deaden our concern for children at risk, vulnerable to illness and disease and the orphaned in need of compassion, care, love, nurture, healing and restoration. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said that if you preach the gospel correctly you are going to be accused of heresy, licentiousness and lawlessness. (Commentary on Romans 6, ch1) Likewise, I would contend that a proper proclamation and application of the gospel by living a life of extravagant service and generosity, such as poverty relief and care of children, will result in accusations of diluting or neglecting the gospel in favour of social action.

So be it! If you have a genuine commitment to the gospel you will relish the opportunity to reenact the redemption and reconciliation found in Jesus Christ rather than be constrained by the taunts of legalistic, Pharisaical, fundamentalism.

Mistreatment of vulnerable children was tantamount to the grossest of sins in the Old Testament. It belied a selfish, hateful cruelty that contradicted God’s character, justice, mercy, love and compassion. Describing genuine faith in Christ in the New Testament, James says:

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

A fair-dinkum commitment to the gospel, one that is theologically robust and historically orthodox, will be evident in our Churches when we have Christians, who are confident in God’s love for them and are compelled to love others likewise. This is no more evident than when that love is manifest in the protection and nurture of orphans and vulnerable children.

Saddleback Orphan Care Initiative suggests 6 things Churches and Christians can begin to do immediately that will increase your involvement in helping orphans.

  1. Open your eyes both locally and globally. Pray for orphaned children, care for them, and make a place in your heart – and, Lord willing, in your home – for them. Study Scripture and know God’s heart for the orphan.
  2. Rely on the local church as God’s answer for the orphan. Create orphan care ministries in your church that give everyone the opportunity to engage.Create partnerships with churches worldwide, affirming solutions from indigenous churches.
  3. Prevent children from becoming orphaned through advocacy, HIV care and treatment, and general health and welfare efforts toward family reunification when appropriate.
  4. Help with relief, and focus on long-term solutions that are sustainable and wholistic emphasizing education and community development.
  5. Affirm the family as the best place for the healthy growth and development of a child and promote adoption as God’s idea for the health and healing of a child.
  6. Negotiate ways for mobilizing ordinary people to become part of the life of an orphan. Not everyone can or should adopt, and not every child is eligible for adoption, but every person can care for a child who is vulnerable or orphaned.

How, where and when will you respond?

Have you LOST the plot?

James Harleman summarises some of the parallel motifs and themes found throughout the LOST series and how they relate to the ultimate story of redemption.

“I don’t think I’m disappointed with the ending of LOST, but I am glad that there is a more certain hope.”

The Waiting City

A family formed and forged upon a foundation of love will have an advantage over any other. Often couples make the mistake of thinking a child will save their relationship. Inevitably, though, once the child arrives, the problems do not depart and the relationship continues to break down damaging all involved.

The Waiting City‘ is due for release in Australia July 15, 2010. It explores the relationship of a couple who travel to India to adopt a child. Regardless of the means used to form your family (biological or adoptive) if your relationship with each other is not secure then adding a family member isn’t going to solve anything.

One of the greatest gifts, any parent can give to any child is a secure loving relationship with their spouse. Aside from the stability and security it provides to the child, it also ensures that the couple are not relating to each other solely out of their mutual concern for their children. Rather, as you “cleave” to one another, the love that results generously nourishes the children and is sustained until death you do part.

The power of a well told story

Jesus knew the power of a good story. He frequently used parables as a means to illustrate and drive home the truth on his unsuspecting audience. Tolkien once said, regarding his own writing:

one object is “the elucidation of truth, and the encouragement of good morals in this real world, by the ancient device of exemplifying them in unfamiliar embodiments, that may tend to ‘bring them home'”

Taken from Letters by J.R.R. Tolkien quoted in the Introduction of Jim Ware’s Finding God in The Hobbit.

Jesus Yes Church No

People have always been drawn to Jesus more than they have to whatever form established Christian convention takes. Whether the “tax collectors and sinners” of the 1st century or the hippy “Jesus-people” of the 1960’s, Jesus has always been considered more desirable or attractive than the Church supposedly filled with his followers. Now pontificate all you want about this being a false dichotomy, there is an important lesson to learn.

Tim Keller in The Prodigal God explains:

Jesus’s [sic] teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can mean only one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did. If our churches aren’t appealing to [tax collectors and sinners], they must be more full of [pharisees and teachers of the law] than we’d like to think.

Ouch!