5 Ways adoption fosters a healthy church
A few years ago, I visited a neighboring church on a Wednesday night and heard a particularly riveting sermon on the doctrine of sin and human inability. That night has remained vivid in my memory for a couple reasons. Nowadays, messages on human sinfulness appear to have gone the way of the church dodo; so I absorbed its grace-filled message with appreciation and delight.
However, it wasn’t simply what I heard that Wednesday night that captured my attention; it was also what I saw. In the pews and in the hallways after the service, numerous white families were filled with children of different ethnicities. The sermon was indeed one to remember, but I’ll certainly never forget the sight of a church that actively embraced adoption and foster care.
James reminds us that orphan care is one of the fruits of a church seeking “pure and undefiled religion” (James 1:27). Therefore when a church cultivates a sincere heart for adoption, it’s not only fulfilling the Great Commission, it’s demonstrating that discipleship and evangelism, activism and faith, personal worship and corporate cannot be partitioned into dual Christian spheres.
Adoption is the gospel (Rom. 8:15).
Therefore, when a church proactively encourages and sponsors adoptions, it testifies to the transforming power of the cross and to the grace of our Father who calls spiritual orphans into his eternal kingdom. Adoption is worship. The following are five ways that Christian adoptions positively affect the culture and identity of a church in its pursuit of “pure and undefiled religion.”
1. Adopting families witness to the spirit of adoption in the gospel.
The apostle John explains that, to all who receive his Son, the Father gives the right to become children of God (John 1:12). Likewise there is perhaps no easier way to explain the message of Christ’s redeeming love today than through the imagery of adoption. The sight of a child born not of their parents’ flesh is a visible reminder of God’s eternal plan to unite every tongue, tribe, and nation under one Father.
As a result, adoption helps a church to see faith as much more than a one-time decision; it’s a daily crying for our Father (Gal. 4:6). Adoption is a tangible picture of the gospel that spurs on a church as it seeks the kingdom and his righteousness (Matt. 6:33). An adopted child is a blessing from God, testifying that the Father’s love transcends bloodline and nationality. Therefore, adoption is both an act of kindness and a personal testimony.
2. Adopting families press the pro-life movement beyond the political.
The cause of the church springs from what is biblically revealed, not whatever is politically expedient. Despite the seemingly ironclad oppression of Roe v. Wade, the church stands firm in its defense of the sanctity of every human life. However, churches don’t simply confess the value and worth of every image-bearing human; they speak out in defense of the helpless.
Adoption is more than the church’s answer to abortion. It’s one more way we show the world just how valuable sinners are in the eyes of God our Father. Secular culture says mothers have the “right” to murder their unborn children. The gospel replies that we surrender those “rights” to save as many as possible (1 Cor. 9:22). Adoption is a shot to the heart of abortion culture. For the church, being “pro-life” is more than just a platform or a candidate. Adoption demonstrates to the world—and to our churches—just how deep the Father’s love extends for “the least of these” (Matt. 25:40). Evangelical activism begins with piety and conviction in the home.
3. Adopting families bring prayerful unity to a church.
One of the richest blessings adoption can bring to a local body is the unity it achieves for a people who have waited together, prayed together, even shed tears together for the sake of a child who desperately needed a home. It takes more than a village; it takes a praying and giving church willing to sacrifice their time, effort, and money in order to see Christ’s love transform a child and a family.
When this happens, a church grows in unity and knowledge of the gospel (Eph. 4:13). Thousands of churches across America are willing and able to walk this journey alongside a couple who desire to adopt, if only given the chance. In many cases, an adopting family even serves as a godly inspiration and catalyst to other couples considering adoption themselves. A church that adopts together worships together as it basks in the mercy of God.
4. Adopting families extinguish the dangerous myth of the “Super Christian.”
When international missionaries return from the field and speak at local stateside churches, what often ensues is adoration on the part of some churchgoers who view missionaries as “super Christians.” However, missionaries aren’t clothed in capes. They’re wrapped in calling, and adoption is the very same way.
God uniquely calls families to adopt, and often this can only take place through a community that gathers together to cultivate a church culture that encourages and supports adoption. The myth of the “super Christian,” on the other hand, actually discourages adoption as something relegated to a select few instead of an opportunity available to all through the reality of the gospel. Adoption doesn’t make someone a better Christian. It actually does the exact opposite by actively recognizing the grace by which we stand as sons of God in Christ. Adoption fosters a church culture of humility by pointing us to the gospel that saved us and gave us a home.
5. Adopting families reflect the diversity of God’s kingdom and expose the evil of racism.
Should someone feel out of place or uncomfortable in a church full of different ethnicities and colors, perhaps their idea of God’s kingdom needs revision. An adopting church is not only a church that actively exhibits the love of Christ; it also stands as a witness to the multiracial kingdom of God.
The Father’s love extends well beyond color, and so should ours. Adoption is a tangible representation of God’s unifying purposes in Christ. As such, it serves as a powerful deterrent to the endemic racism that often festers in the corners of a church that absorbs the ill effects of worldly culture. There’s no weapon against a racist church quite like a child of another ethnicity to draw the affection of a church and whose adoption serves as a testimony to the reality of the gospel.
“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Rom. 8:15)
Obbie Todd serves as associate pastor of students at Zoar Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He holds a Master of Divinity and Master of Theology from Southern Seminary and is a Ph.D. candidate in theology at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Obbie and his wife, Kelly, recently adopted twins. You can follow him on Twitter @ObbieTyler.