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.