Johnny Carr, National Director of Church Partnerships for Bethany Christian Services, explores the intentionality and service of adoption. Johnny adopted his first son, James, a deaf child from China, in 2005.
I guess the first thing is to define missional. "Missional" is one of those junk drawer buzzwords that has become common in our Christian vocabulary with several definitions floating around. Wikipedia says that "missional" is a missionary-term that describes a missionary lifestyle, and I guess that is as good a definition as any. To live "missionally" is to express the Gospel holistically in the way you live - every day and in every thing. It is a way of life, not a program. It means living like Jesus lived. If you know much about Jesus you know that includes helping to meet the emotional, physical and spiritual needs of others. Living missionally means making a conscious decision to live each day with others in mind, rather than yourself.
In other words, YES - adoption is missional.
Recently, I was speaking with a lady who had asked her church for financial help for their adoption. The church leader responded that the church did not help with "optional" things like adoption. The pastorâ€™s perspective seemingly saw adoption more like consumption than ministry. He saw adoption as a want - much like I want an iPhone. He was not viewing adoption from the perspective of the child.
When I meet with Pastors to discuss adoption ministries, I will often ask them, "Who does adoption help?" The typical response is "infertile couples." That is when I lovingly explain that adoption primarily helps children. Whether the child is an orphan from war, genocide or disease in Africa; whether the child is an orphan due to abuse and neglect and the state has severed the rights of his/her birth parents, or whether it is a new born baby that was born due to an unplanned pregnancy - adoption is (or, at least, should be) always about the health and best interest of the child. Unfortunately, many Christians are focusing on adults (us) rather than the child (them).
When adoption is seen through a child's eyes, it is easy to see the missional nature of adoption. In fact, this may be the ultimate missional decision because adoption is a lifetime commitment. Many people today are adopting children with special needs. Some of these children will never grow up to be independent. The people who are adopting these little ones know that they are making a decision today that will affect the rest of their lives. Instead of raising a couple of healthy kids, sending them off to college, and then sailing off in their motor home into retirement, they will be serving the least of these until one of them "retires" into eternity. That is truly missional.
Someone once said missional living was "religion without all the junk added," I thought that was interesting in light of James 1:27, "Religion that God our father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (NIV)
There are many different perspectives on the best ways to care for orphans, but with 143,000,000 orphans in the world today, something must be done by followers of Jesus Christ. Only 1-2% of these children will be adopted. We need many strategies that will best fit the cultures, values, and environments of the places where these orphans live, and adoption is a one great strategy.
Adoption is not the one-stop cure all for the orphan crisis, but it is a strategic and effective mode to care for the orphans of the world. It's also a commitment of sacrifice, a holistic manifestation of the Gospel, a missional posture and a service to Christ.
Bethany is an international team of nearly 900 people actively involved in ministering to the needs of children, young people, and families. With over 75 offices nationwide and international ministries in 13 other countries, Bethany touches the lives of more than 30,000 people each year. Bethany is supported through fees and gifts received from individuals, churches, corporations, and foundations. Bethany is known by many as an adoption agency, but our family-focused ministries also reach people struggling with unplanned pregnancies, infertility, and a multitude of other human hurts.
Monday, December 01, 2008
Is Adoption Missional?
Posted at the Q Ideas blog: