The following is an excerpt from A Passion for the Fatherless: Developing a God-Centered Ministry to Orphans (Kregel, 2011). The author, Daniel Bennett, is currently the teaching pastor of Bethany Community Church in Washington, Illinois. He wrote the book while serving as a family pastor at Bethany Baptist Church in Peoria, Illinois, in order to help motivate and prepare families to care for orphans in a God-glorifying way. By God’s grace, families at Bethany Community Church have adopted 44 children and hosted numerous children through foster care and Safe Families. In the first chapter, Bennett discusses the unique motivation that drives Christian adoptions.
When we adopted Ellie, we stayed at a hotel that was right next to the U.S. embassy. There were about five other families staying at the same hotel, all of whom were adopting children. When we went to our embassy appointment, about twenty more families were there with the children they wished to bring back to the states.
As we talked with some of the families who were adopting, we encountered people from diverse walks of life. Some were from the Northeast, some from the Southwest, some were old, some were young, some were married, and some were single. Each had a desire to welcome a new child into their home. I am confident that they all intended to love that child and provide him or her with the necessities of life: food, clothing, shelter and a place to belong.
My point is that caring for orphans is not a strictly Christian phenomenon. There is nothing unique to Christianity about providing for orphaned children. Every day, unbelievers care for orphans. They visit orphanages. They donate to UNICEF. Every day, unbelievers bring children into their home. They provide for them, they care for them, and even love them as they commit to sacrificing of themselves for the benefit of their children.
The uniqueness of Christian orphan ministry flows from the uniqueness of the Christian’s understanding of the purpose of his or her life. In Ephesians 1:3-14, we see that God is the agent of grace, we are the recipients of grace, and—here is the crucial part—the purpose of all that he does is to magnify his glorious grace. Let me say this in a different way for greater clarity and emphasis: God’s ultimate purpose in saving you is not your redemption but his glory! Fortunately, the two are not mutually exclusive. The former is a means to the latter.
A mother holds her adopted baby in her arms for the first time and experiences profound joy. Imagine you were to try and analyze why she was so happy at that moment. You ask her: “Has the child done something for you? Did he promise to someday pay you back? Is he going to get back some of your attorney’s fees?”
“Of course not,” she replies. “I am filled with joy because he is my son.”
And then you look at the baby and you see that he too seems pretty happy. He coos and holds his new mother’s finger and giggles as she uses the index finger on her other hand to tickle a spot on his neck. Her smile grows wider. “Why are you more happy?” you ask the mother. “How does his happiness make you happy? Shouldn’t you just focus on your own happiness instead of his as well?”
“Of course not,” she replies again. “My joy is increased as he finds delight in me. Our joys are not incompatible with one another.”
The success of an orphan ministry in your life or in your church’s life hinges upon rightly understanding this purpose of life and seeing how an orphan care ministry fits into that framework.
I would encourage an individual or church to think very carefully about why you want to be involved in caring for orphans. We must scrutinize our motivations and identify wrong reasons that might compel us to care for a child. Ultimately, what makes a Christian orphan ministry unique is its focus on the glory of God. No unbeliever approaches an orphanage with the thought of how God will be glorified in that place. No unbeliever cares for an orphan by praying that the worship of God would someday burst forth from the lips of that child.
All proper motivation flows from an all-consuming passion for God’s glory. Consider the exhortation and motivation of Colossians 3:23-24: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Paul’s point is that we should get excited as we consider our reward. The inheritance of God seems a paltry compensation for the person who is not passionate about God. For those who are filled with an all-consuming passion for his glory, no reward could be greater!
© Kregel Publications, 2014