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Aug 26, 2010

Thursday Is for Thinkers: Dan Cruver on Small Churches and Adoption

Thanks to Ray Ortlund for last week's post on Small Churches Planting Churches.

Next week will be a week full of guest posts from Monday through Friday as we lead up to the September 7 webcast of The Exchange. I am excited about this event and hope that you can join us, either in person or on the web.

In keeping with that theme, our post for the Thursday Is for Thinkers series will be contributed by Jack Lumanog, the Clergy Formation Advisor for the Anglican Mission in the Americas.

Today's post comes from Dan Cruver. Dan is Director of Together for Adoption. According to their mission statement, "Together for Adoption exists to mobilize the church to care for orphans by providing gospel-centered resources that explore our adoption in Christ and its profound implications for the global orphan crisis."

Just like Ray Ortlund discussed last week with respect to church planting, small churches often assume that due to limited resources, they have little to offer when it comes to tasks that seem as daunting as orphan care. But as Dan explains, this is an area in which all churches, regardless of size, can engage missionally.

Here is Dan's article:

Small Churches Doing Orphan Care

One of our desires at Together for Adoption is to facilitate serious, Spirit-led dialogue about how churches, whether they are large or small, can intentionally, strategically, and organically unite their missional engagement in the world with the mandate to care for orphans (James 1:27). Whatever the size of your church, orphan care can and should be an integral part of its missional engagement. One reason God visited us in our affliction and poverty (Exodus 4:31; Psalm 8:4 ; Hebrews 2:6; 2 Corinthians 8:9) is so that we would be free to visit orphans in theirs (James 1:27). There is a profound relationship between what God has done for his people and what we, in connection with what God has done for us, do for orphans.

I once heard a church-planting organization say that it tells its church plants not to get involved in orphan care because orphan care is a distraction from the church's mission, especially when the church is small or not yet well established. To be fair, I think I understand what they mean. But I would have a difficult time making that statement in front of "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ." I just do not think that James would let a statement like that go unchallenged. If the practice of true religion necessarily involves caring for orphans in their affliction, then it seems to me that orphan care must be an integral part of what the church is and does missionally, no matter the size of the church. Can you think of a better visible testimony to a watching world of what God has done for us in Christ than caring for orphans in their need and helplessness?

Over the past couple years I have been very encouraged by the fact that many church leaders see orphan care not as a missional add-on but as a vital aspect of what the church is to be and do missionally. Pastors are recognizing that if God has made orphan care a key component of the church's functional DNA (James 1:27), it will have an impact upon the church's practice. No longer is the-orphan-care-part of the church's spiritual DNA lying dormant. God is at work to awaken it.

If we are not careful, though, we may be tempted to think that orphan care is the work of larger churches. "After all," we may think, "large churches have the institutional infrastructure and resources necessary to successfully engage in this type of ministry." But if you look at what God is doing in the evangelical orphan care movement, you will quickly discover that large churches are not the only churches that God is awakening to the orphan care mandate. Just as God is not a respecter of persons, he's also not a respecter of church size when it comes to orphan care.

I have actually found that smaller churches are often more effective in caring for orphans before a watching world than larger churches are. In larger churches orphan care can simply become one ministry among many, many others. But in smaller churches orphan care is much more easily seen as an essential part of who they are and what they do. It's not as easily obscured by a forest of other ministries. As a result, smaller churches have the opportunity to lead the way by more visibly demonstrating that orphan care is not a missional add-on.

For example, Austin New Church's orphan care ministry really took off when it had only 150 people attending each week. They had a dozen families commit to adopt and an additional 18 people go through foster care training. That's a significant percentage of its people! Since then they have established an adoption fund and have teams of people who are raising money, running marathons for orphaned children, and partnering with other churches both locally and globally to bring hope to orphans. Pastor Brandon Hatmaker has done a great job of leading his people in this essential area of ministry. A pastor in another church in Austin told me that Brandon's church is very influential in Austin's orphan care movement.

Northpoint, another smaller church in Austin, Texas, is actively involved in orphan care ministry as well. Mick and Tracy Hooper, members at Northpoint, said that their church launched MOSAIC (their adoption | foster | orphan care ministry) this past February, right after their church plant turned a year old. Their pastor, Buck Giebelhaus, is committed to MOSAIC being an integral part of Northpoint's culture, and, as a result, Northpoint now participates in World Orphans' Church-to-Church Partnerships as covenant partners with Fountain of Life Church of Juja, Kenya (Fountain of Life has a small family-style orphan care home on the church property). Not only is Northpoint addressing the material needs of Kenya's orphans, they are also addressing their spiritual needs. Northpoint's orphan care ministry is an essential and visible aspect of its missional engagement.

Lakewood Christian (McAlester, OK) is another smaller church that participates in World Orphans' Church-to-Church Partnerships. They are active partners with a church in Haiti that has taken in children who were orphaned after the earthquake. With Lakewood's help, this Haitian church has provided homes within their own congregation for 20 orphaned children. They also provide these children's education, one meal per day, and basic medical care.

Berea Baptist Church is a small church in Augusta, Georgia that is actively involved in the ministry of adoption. Through the services of The ABBA Fund, Berea has provided over $10,000 toward adoption fees for members of its congregation. Several members of their church are also part of a larger group in Augusta that is working to bring Covenant Care Adoptions (from Macon, GA) to the Augusta area. They anticipate that their church will play a significant part in this work in the coming year.

If your church is small, let me encourage you to see your church's size as a serious strength in fulfilling the orphan mandate. Your church has the opportunity to more visibly demonstrate what it means for God in Christ to come to those who are without hope in this world (Ephesians 2:12-13, 19). Let me also encourage you to consider joining us at our upcoming October 1-2 national conference where we will consider "The Gospel, the Church, and the Global Orphan Crisis."

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Posted:August 26, 2010 at 12:00 am


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