A young couple in our church recently approached me about their adoption from India. Over coffee, we talked about things like fundraising and timing and prayer. We discussed Russell Moore’s excellent book Adopted For Life (2009). They opened up about the agony of re-starting the adoption process after Ethiopia halted its foreign adoptions. But they also talked about the joy of trusting their family to a sovereign God who invites orphans into His heavenly kingdom. As the pastor of a church that promotes adoption, and as a father to adopted twins, these kinds of Gospel-saturated conversations are exciting. These young professionals have two children biologically, promising healthcare careers, and an All-American future ahead of them. Now they’re asking our church to come alongside them in this process and to encourage them in their calling from the Lord. They also want to serve as a catalyst for other adoptions and to help build an “adoption culture” at The Church at Haynes Creek. They’re asking us to share this journey with them. And we will. Recently, we hosted a Wednesday night adoption dinner. A few Sundays ago, at the conclusion of our baby dedication, we prayed for their child, the son or daughter whom God foreknew before the foundation of the world. These are important steps on the way to building a culture of adoption in a church. However, the very first step was taken long before that cup of coffee.
In a world of despotic governments and corrupt leaders stonewalling the safe delivery of orphans into godly homes, Scripture presents another kind of leader: a crucified King who willingly endured a barbaric and torturous death so that He could turn rebels into relatives. (Rom. 8:15, Heb. 2:11, 1 John 3:1) This is the Gospel, and this is precisely why the first step toward an “adoption culture” is taken long before a family adopts. In light of God’s great love for sinners, a church’s passion for the precious truth of adoption is never predicated upon foreign diplomacy or personal finances. It’s not even dependent on the particular child. Ultimately, the Gospel creates the culture, not families. The Gospel creates the hunger for love and grace, not families. That’s why a real “adoption culture” will never precede a “reaching” culture that values people. Before churches can expect nuclear families to look outside themselves, they must first preach a Gospel that compels them to deny themselves.
Dr. Willie Parker, one of the most outspoken abortionists in America and the author of the new book Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice (2017), summarizes well the American dream when he boasts, “As a free human being, you are allowed to change your mind, to find yourself in different circumstances, to make mistakes. You are allowed to want your own future.” In some sense, the difference between a culture of death and a culture of life is the power of perspective: one lives for itself, another for others. Whereas abortion is founded on the idea that freedom is its own end, adoption thrives on the fact that true freedom is always for someone else. (Gal. 4:6-7) As long as Christians believe their future belongs only to themselves, adoption will continue to be relegated to the higher life of the “super Christian” instead of becoming another expression by which born again sinners worship their adopting Father.
The first step toward building an adoption culture is orienting every ministry of the church toward the reality that Jesus has shed His own blood for that particular ministry. No business meeting or cookout is exempt. This is Gospel culture. Without it, adopting families are simply noble, exemplary Christians with little support, encouragement, or effect upon the church at large. But with it, adoption culture is but one spectacular ministry contributing to a larger culture of evangelism, service, and grace to a broken, enslaved world. At The Church at Haynes Creek, it is utterly inconceivable that God would call us to adopt orphans without also leading us to support and pray for our local teen pregnancy center, the reborn for the unborn. Likewise, next month we will host a local conference on racial reconciliation because an “adoption culture” inevitably celebrates every human life, regardless of age or color. In our quest to build an “adoption culture,” we want nothing less than the love of Jesus shining forth across every inch of our church – not just in our young families. We offer our prayers and our homes for the orphan by fixing our eyes first on the risen Christ. (Heb. 12:2) Through the love of the church faithfully embodying the Gospel, Jesus still speaks to the orphan and the widow and the sojourner. (James 1:27, Heb. 11:3) That’s Gospel culture.