This past weekend Laura and I traveled to the “Together for Adoption” conference at Christ Community Church in Tennessee. We joined 600 others in a weekend of reflecting on the gospel of Jesus Christ and how it empowers the church for orphan care.
Looking back over the weekend I am thoroughly refreshed and encouraged that the central theme of the weekend was the gospel of Jesus Christ- not that I expected anything less, but often times the gospel message is assumed at Christian conferences. The gospel was proclaimed and applied to orphan care in a way that glorified God.
Laura and I are in the process of adopting a baby from Ethiopia. (You can read about it here or here.) While listening to the speakers I wrote down some key thoughts, things to process and develop. Below I will try to summarize the truths that impacted me most. Obviously I cannot cover everything that was helpful…
1. Theological Foundation: Adoption brings to light the reality of a fallen world, and proclaims our hope in Christ.
Scotty Smith spoke about “The Freedom of Adoption” where he reflected on the doctrine of adoption and its implications on the Christian life. His main points were very helpful, 1.) The Freedom of Legal Rights: Adoption secures us in a state of objective blessings, 2.) The Freedom of Personal Delights: Adoption calls us into the realm of subjective wonder, 3.) The Freedom of a Missional Life: Adoption propels into the world with sacrificial hope.
At one point Smith developed the idea that ‘the very existence of orphans shows us that something has truly gone wrong in creation order.’ Exploring that thought he gave a powerful quote that is enough to drive one to worship;
“There is a day coming when the very word orphan will be eliminated from the human vocabulary.”
Is this not the point of Romans 8:18-25? That creation groans with the pains of childbirth. All of creation is, as Smith said, “pregnant with glory, and there is no possibility of miscarriage.”
2. Individual Implication: As a Christian, be careful not to find your identity or assurance in the ‘good work’ of orphan care, but in Christ alone.
Dan Cruver spoke from James 1:26-27 on the “3 Aspects of True Religion.” Those things being- 1.) Controlling the Tongue, 2.) Visiting Orphans and Widows, 3.) Being Unstained from the World. Dan did a great job of uncovering the heart issues of these three aspects, rather than focusing on the behavior that exposes them. He argued; “If the church is to be truly mobilized to care for orphans, the other two aspects cannot be neglected.”
Cruver’s message was very timely, and on point. I will not regurgitate the whole thing, but I did want to point out a very helpful warning that he gave to those of us who are adopting. From James 1 Dan argued that ‘worldliness’ is “performance based living.” This is key to understanding true religion. Because the religions of the world are based off performance. It is very easy for those who are adopting to find their identity in the great social cause of orphan care, which is very dangerous. So here is the question “where does your primary sense of identity come from?”
In many ways Kevin Twit’s (from Indelible Grace) breakout session on “Adoption and Assurance” built upon the main idea of Cruvers message. Too often Christians find their worth in what “they do.” He said, “the biggest problem Christians have with assurance comes from looking at your faith rather than looking at Jesus.” If you are always assessing what you “should do”, then you are condemned by your very definition of Christianity. Don’t get it twisted. God does not love you because you do ‘X’, you do ‘X’ because God loves you. This is something we must always fight as Christians.
3. Corporate Implication: As the body of Christ, the gospel calls us to be involved in social issues like adoption.
Scott Roley said “we holler loud against abortion,” so why aren’t we “standing up for orphan care.” In other words, how does the gospel inform our involvement in issues of social justice? Ed Stetzer pointed out that “even the un-churched know that Jesus was involved in social justice, and they often wonder why the church is not.” We cannot separate the great commission from the great commandment, these two help define the mission of the church- to proclaim Christ for salvation and to serve.
We must be careful not to separate the two. Many churches become renowned for their service, but never proclaim the message of salvation. Stetzer said, “if we loose the gospel we loose our mission.” We need to be careful because the outside world will resist one (gospel) and praise the other (social causes).
This will not be easy, as Russell Moore reminded us in the last session. “We can love the idea, but when it comes down to it” we need to follow through. He made an interesting point in closing, “we could learn much in the laboratory of orphan care how we ought to operate as the body of Christ.” There is a strong element of dying to self involved. Which will be hard for the American church because it means we must “love people more than we love stuff.”
Again, these are just some brief overarching thoughts, I would encourage you to go back and listen to these talks. The main sessions are now available from Together for Adoption;
- Dan Cruver, Adoption: Making Outsiders Insiders
- Scotty Smith, The Freedom of Adoption
- Scott Roley, Adoption and the Pursuit of Racial Reconciliation
- Ed Stetzer, The Gospel, Social Justice and the Missional Church
- Michael Easley, Orphan Care and Jesus, the Great Servant of the Poor
- Russell Moore, Adoption and the Renewal of Creation
Thank you Dan Cruver and Jason Kovacs for putting this conference together. To God be the glory.