My Concern with the Adoption Movement

Since the title of this post is sure to lead to assumptions and possible misunderstandings let me begin with my affirmation of adoption.  Adoption is central to understanding the gospel.  Christ died, not simply to secure my ticket to heaven, but to reconcile me to God; that is to restore my relationship to God through adoption.  In Christ I am a son and as a son a co-heir with Christ.  The adoption of orphans is a beautiful picture of this, much like marriage is a picture of our relationship with Christ.

Furthermore, though I did not grow up in a Christian home my parents were foster parents and provided a safe home for many children over the years.  They eventually adopted both of my brothers out of foster care and provided them the same upbringing and opportunities they provided their biological children.  For this reason I have financially contributed to friends who are seeking to adopt.  As you can see, I am a fan of adoption.

After reading the above you may be thinking, “What possibly could this guy be concerned about rescuing orphans he’s seen the need and fruit first hand?”  This is true, but I have seen something else firsthand.  You see, I lead a ministry that plants churches among the global poor.  I’ve seen poverty up close and personal; desperate poverty.  The type of poverty that leads, primarily women, to do the unthinkable; to abandon or even sell their children.  Our immediate response to this is shock and horror because we’ve never been that desperate.  Rest assured, if you spend enough nights listening to the children you love so dearly crying from hunger and seeing other children die of hunger, as a mother, you might gain a different perspective.  You might begin to see this as the height of sacrificial love.

This brings us to my concern.  Maybe I have just missed it but I don’t hear enough talk from adoption advocates (primarily international adoption) regarding the building up of poor families among the global poor so that we can reduce the need for adoption.  I hear much about the need to make great sacrifices to rescue children, including the great financial cost, but I don’t hear much about making the same sacrifices, including financial, to aid poverty stricken mothers and families so they can raise their children.  I won’t speculate as to why.

Please don’t misunderstand, there is and will continue to be great need for the Western church to adopt children.  The AIDS epidemic and other diseases as well as wars and natural disasters will always create orphans.  I praise the efforts of those championing the cause of orphans globally.  I’m just asking the leaders of the movement to consider two things.

  1. Take a balanced approach and advocate for poor mothers and families to care for their children.  Call on the Western church to take this aspect of the orphan problem seriously and to demonstrate their seriousness with financial investment.
  2. Consider the importance of indigenous Christians in confronting this humanitarian tragedy.  The church is growing by leaps and bounds in the global south and they too care about orphans.  We have realized the significance of working with indigenous pastors as we seek to expand the kingdom of God globally.  We need to consider the potential of unleashing the church in the global south to care for the orphans among them.  It has been my experience that the willingness is there but what is often lacking is the financial resources.  We can help with that.  What if we began to equip indigenous Christians with the necessary discipleship and financial resources to care for the orphans among them.

After we have done these two things the numbers of children needing to be adopted by Westerners might be drastically reduced and, long term, far more children could be helped.  Maybe I’m out of touch and we are already doing what I have described above.  Do you think my concern is valid or am I just worrying for no reason?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

Wrestling with God Interview

Below is an interview I did with Scott Blair from Grapplers Church.  We discuss church planting, missions, discipleship, getting punched in the face, and much more.  I hope you find it helpful as you seek to serve King Jesus.

To learn more check out Living Bread Ministries.

 

Why Worry? Luke 12:22-34

In a culture paralyzed by fear and worry the idea that we can live a life free from the bondage of worry is a foreign concept.  Yet, Jesus says we have no need to worry because our Father desires to give us the kingdom.

Why Worry? – Luke 12:22-34

(Due to a technical error the audio for the first few minutes is low so you will need to turn up the volume.)

A Thought on Sovereignty and Cosmic Warfare

For several months I have been thinking, off and on, about the theme of cosmic warfare in scripture and how it is reconciled to the sovereignty of God.  Below is a concise statement I have written.  I’m not yet settled in my view, but this is a possibility.

In God’s original ordering of creation he gave humanity great freedom in their role as vice-regents mediating his kingdom reign on earth.  He likewise gave the angelic beings (Son’s of God) great freedom to execute their role in administering his kingdom.  After the fall, God chose not to completely rescind the freedom he had given, but rather has determined to demonstrate his sovereignty and power by achieving his ends in spite of the free choices of sinful creatures to oppose his kingdom rule.  He is redeeming the fallen world under the original parameters of his design.

I think this understanding avoids the extremes of both open theism and meticulous control.  It rightly maintains the tension between an all-knowing sovereign God and the reality of a powerful enemy and fallen image bearers whose kingdom legitimately opposes the kingdom of God.  What do you think?

Please keep the discussion civil.

Church Planting Among the Global Poor

In this video Barbara and I discuss Living Bread Ministries and our vision for missional church planting among the global poor.

To invest in missional church planting among the global poor, click here.

 

Portrait of a Christian

What does a Christian look like?  This is a question all of us must answer as we seek to follow Christ.  The short answer of course is we are to look like Jesus.  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers (Romans 8:29).  In Jesus, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us ( John 1:14).  He manifested himself to us and revealed his image, thus showing us what our lives as Christians should look like.

He made himself our model (John 13:34-35, 20:21).  However, it is often hard to translate the life of Christ into our context.  Recently I was reading a biography on John Wesley, who is one of my heroes in the faith.  While I disagree with him on some secondary issues of theology I greatly respect him as a practical theologian.  As such, he was very much concerned with living out what we believe.

In light of this, the book I was reading dedicated the entire first chapter to a tract that Wesley had written in the mid 1700s which I have found to be exceedingly relevant today.  It is entitled The Character of a Methodist.  The term Methodist was given to the group Wesley founded as a derogatory name mocking the methodical way in which they approached life and Bible study.  Thus Wesley is not writing a denominational statement, but is simply making it clear that a Methodist, indeed all Christians should look like Jesus.

I encourage you to read this tract and meditate on what it really means to be conformed to the image of Christ.

Why must I join a local church?

When we come to know Christ as Lord and Savior we become a child of God.  As such we are members of the body of Christ, part of the temple of the Holy Spirit, and Christ’s bride (Rom 12:4-5, 1 Cor 12:12-13, 27, Eph 3:6, 4:4-6, 11-16, Col 1:18, 1 Peter 2:4-5, Rev 21:9).  Each of these descriptions of the Church describe it in its global corporate sense.  In truth there is only one church of Christ.  Every true believer is a member of the Church and therefore is united to Christ and to one another.  As members of the body (the Church) we each have a function which contributes to the whole; just as each member of the human body contributes to its proper functioning.  We have been gifted by the Holy Spirit to fulfill our function within the body of Christ and thus contribute to the work of the whole.  So, if we are members of the Church and function within it, why must we join a church?

Many people have this mindset.  They love Christ and even the global Church, but they have marginalized the local church.  Likewise many have exalted their local church and seemingly divorced it from the global Church.  Both of these practices are unbiblical.  There is only one church, but there are many local expressions of it.  Just as each individual believer is one contributing member of the body of Christ, likewise each local expression of the church is contributing to the work of the whole.

The local church is the expression of the body of Christ in a given community.  It does not replace the global church nor become more significant than the global church, but it is how the global church is expressed and represented in that community.  We cannot function in the body of Christ and willfully bypass the local church anymore than the foot can function in the human body and bypass the leg.  If the local church is the local expression of the body of Christ, then our membership in the body necessitates membership in its local expression.

In our present state it is impossible for the global church to gather together for worship, yet the writer of Hebrews says its essential for the stirring up of love and good works both of which the Church is called to (Heb 10:25).  One day the Church (the full body of Christ) will gather together to worship Christ (Rev 19:6-8); however, until that day we each gather in our local churches to worship Christ and encourage one another to love and good works.  More than simply gathering to worship and encouraging one another we must be members of a local church.

Membership involves commitment and accountability.  Culturally we are individualistic and value our privacy.  Thus, we want to avoid the commitment and vulnerability that biblical church membership requires.  We like the idea of being part of a global entity that is distant with no perceived tangible involvement in our lives.  A local expression that requires things from us and holds us accountable is undesirable for many of us.  However, our role as members in the body of Christ cannot properly be fulfilled apart from the local expression of the body, that is the local church.