Then the king will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I . . . was a stranger, and you invited me in” (Mt 25.34, 35c).
A recent Tennessee Baptist & Reflector article provoked me to consider whether or not the church takes Jesus seriously. It seems the 118-year-old Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes (TCBH) was forced to cut ministry staff (14 positions) due to a budget shortfall of $700,000. I make no concessions about the particulars of this decision or those making them. It’s one being made by hundreds of social ministries nationwide.
My argument is as follows. (1) There is a systemic problem that would lead to such a decision at all. I’ll assume Tennessee Southern Baptists represent at least a national Southern Baptist trend. (2) This systemic problem cripples the church’s pro-life efforts. And (3) churches should facilitate fostering/adoption as a far better pro-life strategy than political lobbying.
First, there is a systemic problem or spiritual blind spot that would lead Tennessee Baptist churches to cut ministry to estranged children. Tennessee Baptist churches undoubtedly and collectively spent billions of dollars on new facilities, technology and equipment in 2008. Yet, they cannot seem to find a (comparatively) mere $700,000 to take care of orphans. Jesus never commanded his people to manage property but did command the care of widows and orphans (cf. Jas 1.27).
Ironically, dozens of churches spent tens of thousands of dollars on unnecessary flat-screens, playground sets, summer camps, children’s wings, and classroom amenities all in the name of “children’s ministry.” Yet, they neglect responsibility to the “least of these” in the name of the Cooperative Program, which is supposed to care of “those” people.
Jesus regularly passed by all the pretty people to get to the ugly people. He is not impressed with our Vatican-like compounds, despite how much of God’s “glory” we attach to them. He welcomes those who share their lives with hungry, thirsty, strange, naked, sick, imprisoned people (Mt 25.31-46). Jesus doesn’t suggest “social” ministry is necessarily gospel ministry. Jesus does suggest Kingdom people are not proud, nose-thumbing, money-tossing people but are humble, merciful, compassionate people who feel more at home with the homeless. In fact, he goes so far as to say the difference between them equals that between heaven and hell.
I’m afraid Jesus might very well pass by most of our churches to embrace the very folks our churches keep at arm’s length. I’m sure he’d pass by our children’s “ministry” complexes to find the children we don’t want.
Second, this systemic cancer hinders the church’s pro-life effort. Jesus and the world have something in common. Neither takes kindly to hypocrisy.
We parade around with our well-funded powerful pro-life agenda. We publish our videos, pamphlets and voter’s guides. We hassle our congressmen and boast that we’re “doing our part” to save the unborn. Then we cut funding and attention from the very sort of children we’re attempting to save!
Why would an abortion-minded mother bring her child into a world when the church who convinced her to do so will just turn its back on them? How can we boast of “saving” otherwise aborted children if we’re going to later restrain our support of them? It’s far easier to throw a few dollars at and spend a little time on a cause than to commit 18 years to a child. It’s easier being pro-life as long it doesn’t infringe on my life.
This leads me to the third argument.
Jesus does not prepare heaven for those who contributed money to organizations who feed, clothe, house, heal and care. He reserves heaven for those who – in his name – fed, clothed, housed, healed and cared themselves. You fed me. You gave me a drink. You invited me in. You clothed me. You visisted me. You came to me. He does not commend those who lobbied government toward better services. He commends those who assumed those services to themselves as expressions of the God of all grace and mercy. The church doesn’t farm mercy ministry out. It is the world’s mercy ministry!
I fear many will say when Jesus confronts them about their care for “these brothers of mine” (Mt 25.40), “Jesus, as soon as I saw that unwanted child I went straight to my computer and wrote a letter to my senator. Then I ordered an armband to prove my solidarity with the cause. And, I didn’t stop there, Jesus. I even passed out flyers for the pro-life candidate.”
Churches will say collectively, “Oh Jesus, when we heard about the TBCH’s need we immediately budgeted an extra $5,000 for better games in our children’s annex. We knew you ‘called’ us to do our part for needy kids so we stepped up to the plate.”
And I fear Jesus will say, “Depart from Me, accursed ones” (v41).
I submit the church’s dollars and attention are not well spent on political lobbying. It’s better spent on equipping its members for foster care and adoption. We may moderately impress the world with our protests and pamphlets. But we will get the world’s attention when we commit to fostering/adopting otherwise aborted, abandoned and/or estranged children.
We’ll prove how committed we are to the pro-life worldview when we go beyond platitudes and protests to the proactive long-term care for the children we strive to save at birth. We just don’t want children to be born, but to thrive and grow in the knowledge of the Life-giving God. What’s the point of saving their life if we’re not committed to helping them live?
If Tennessee Baptist churches don’t want to fund the TCBH then then Tennessee Baptists should show up at their doorstep ready to take one of the children home. You invite them in. Don’t expect someone else to do it. Don’t boast of your pro-life position when caring for that life long-term is an imposition. Otherwise, don’t complain about “kids these days.”
So rather than spending untold millions of dollars on pseudo-children’s ministry and pious political lobbying, churches’ dollars are better spent investing in parents seeking to foster and adopt. Hassle your pastors, not your congressmen. Lobby parents, not senators. Don’t budget any more money for goofy gadgets and powerless paraphernalia. Put your money where your mouth is and bring children home. Show the world that the church doesn’t have an abstract, lifeless agenda to push but a life-giving Jesus to share.
Jesus put his life on the line for the children God gave him (Heb 2.10-15). How can we not do the same?
13 thoughts on “Foster/Adoption a Better Strategy than Pro-Life Lobbying”
This is a worthy post. Words well spent. Mine was not so eloquent; I was just mad.
Perhaps I’m not mad enough, my brother.
I discuss politics and religion regularly with a man who often takes the passionate arguments, while I take a more “logical” aproach. Together we make a good team. Maybe that is the way it is with you and Preston. You’re not much alike, but maybe complementary.
On the subject which you wrote, I am very thankful to have finally heard this from a man in a pulpit. I long ago quit supporting the likes of “right to life” and their ilk, who spend their time thinking up (and even teaching seminars on) how to engage in the most bloodthirsty speach possible.
I don’t recall Jesus (or any Apostle) telling us to incite the masses, or to ridicule them, or to tell the government to pass laws to force the lost to live by the laws of the Bible.
I am thankful for those like you and Preston, who actually adopt children and work compassionately with those in need. I do think some of us must spend our energy working to pay for the food and clothing that we give to the hungary and the homeless, but I suspect you are right, that there is greater reward for the person who works in the homeless shelter than the one who brings the food to the homeless shelter.
Thanks again, for all you do.
Thanks again, Rex, for your always thoughtful & undeserved encouragement. Keep up the good fight, my brother.
Wow! What do we need to do to have this published on the front page of the Baptist Reflector? Scott and I are printing this out to hang on our church bulletin board. Very convicting.
Blessings, Angela. I’m afraid this will not be front page news! But I’ll be glad to tell folks the BBC picked it up (wink, wink).
Wow…. wretched man that I am! My wife and I have alwasy intended to adopt, but this,,,, this even convicts me! My heart aches for the real children of God to express His passion for the rejected and despised of this Earth. Oh that we would shut our mouths and speak so much louder with our actions……
Blessings to you, Greg. May God fan the flame of adoption in your home and church. It never makes sense on paper, but grace never does.
Risking conceit, perhaps the other posts in the “Adoption” category might encourage you further.
All grace to you, my friend.
Wow! BJ; knocking over tables in his own living room. Glad to see the temple still gets a cleansing. I commend your vigor bro. My heart has been pricked.
“It never makes sense on paper, but grace never does.”
Yes! Oh, the stories that could (maybe should) be told of how the grace of God triumphs over the balance sheets of men when we seek first the Kingdom of God. Then all the things that are added are worth so much more than the things that we had originally planned for.