It was never God's intent for children to be left without a family. This is why Scripture says He assumes the role of "father of the fatherless" (Psalm 68:5) and “sets the lonely in families" (Psalm 68:6). This is the heart of God - a good, loving and gracious Father.
It is also the mandate on the Church. We simply cannot escape this fact in Scripture.
A consistent theme woven throughout the narrative of the Bible is that what particularly pains the heart of God must uniquely pain ours, and what subsequently drives His actions must passionately drive ours. We the Church - the rescued, adopted, accepted and eternally loved ones of God - are called to “give justice to the weak and fatherless” (Psalm 82:3) and to “correct oppression and bring justice to the fatherless” (Isaiah 1:16-17). We are told that of all the measures by which our faith can be demonstrated, caring for orphans in their plight ranks among the highest and purest (James 1:27). Why care for orphans? Because we have been greatly cared for through Jesus. This is how the Gospel works.
It's on us, Church. This is what we do for them because this is what God has done for us. While I am overwhelmingly grateful to see a movement in this direction rising up within so many churches of our generation, I'm also saddened by the number of conversations I have with people who on some level express to me this sentiment: We really want this to become a part of our church, but our pastor just doesn't "get it".
What to do then? Before you bail to another church, try to aggressively force the issue or just lose hope and give up, let me suggest 5 alternative ways to respond to the "my pastor doesn't get it" problem:
1. Be Prayerful
Your responsibility is to pray for a movement, not push an agenda. Pray for the heart of your pastor, that God would stir it in new ways towards the plight of orphans. Pray that he would continually be drawn to areas of scripture that specifically address the church's call to care for the helpless and hopeless. Pray for the culture of your church - that it would be defined more by what pains God's heart and drives His hands than by where it meets, what style music it has and how great the children's programs are.
2. Be Faithful
Demonstrate the necessity of an orphan care ministry to your pastor and your church through your actions, not just your words. Continue to be obedient to the call God has placed on your heart and be faithful to fulfill that. In other words, lead by example. Let those around you see the work you are doing, not in a self-promoting way but for the purpose of opening them up to it and engaging them in it. Your pastor is far more likely to receive a proven, faithful posture from you then a loud yet inconsistent, disjointed one.
3. Be Humble
Don't try to implement something good in your church by pointing out all that is bad in it. What gain is there if you get your way by being a jerk about it? Communicate with your words and demonstrate through your actions that you are there to serve the vision and mission of your church - and that you will both publicly and privately support it and your pastor. Don't be belligerent or derogatory. Rather, earn the ear and the respect of your leadership through humble submission and honorable engagement.
4. Be Helpful
You are likely far more versed in the world of orphan care than your pastor is. You've read the books and attended the conferences. It's a passion you have no doubt given many hours and much energy to. Don't use the information you have as ammunition against your pastor but rather as encouragement for him to become more engaged. Provide good biblical resources (books?), practical education opportunities (research? stats?) and arenas to connect with others who have a shared vision and heart (network groups? conferences?). The problem is likely not that your pastor doesn't care about orphans, but that he doesn't know how to care about orphans. Be helpful. Be informative. Help put kindling around his heart and ask God to light the fire.
5. Be Patient
Finally, be realistic. Don't expect things to change overnight. You are not talking about a peripheral ministry to the church that is easy to implement and a breeze to maintain. You are talking about eternally effecting change in the lives of children and families. This is no small task that requires much patience. Start slow and start small. Do what you can with what you have today then do what you can tomorrow with what you have tomorrow. In the end, these kids are worth the long, hard work it may require of you.
In the end, be less concerned about whether or not your pastor is behind you and trust that God is going before you working out all that is necessary to see a culture of orphan care established within your church - if you would remain prayerful, faithful, humble, helpful and patient in the process.
Watch a 9-minute "TED" style talk on this issue below:
- To Foster and Adoptive Parents: Reframing Your Season of Struggle
- Busyness, Obedience and the Perfect Time to Foster or Adopt
- The Best Thing You Can Do For Your Marriage in Foster Care
- Defining Success and Failure in Foster Care
- Foster Care: Loving a Child That Might Leave
- Foster Care and What I Fear Most For My Own Kids
- Raising the Next Generation of Foster and Adoptive Parents
- Ten Simple Ways Your Church Can Serve Foster Families
- (Re)Humanizing Foster Care
- Foster Care: Why the Church Can Stop Outsourcing Child Welfare
- Rethinking Some Common Foster Care Concerns
- The Sovereignty of God in Foster Care
- Six Things Foster Care Has Taught Me
- The Other Side of Foster Care
- The Beauty and Brokenness of Foster Care
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