Why the Church Can and Must Care for Orphans
Until Every Child Is Home: Why the Church Can and Must Care for Orphans
WHO: Todd Chipman, assistant professor of biblical studies at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and teaching pastor at The Master’s Community Church in Kansas City, Kansas.
HE SAYS: “Orphan care ministries do not suck the life out of a church. Rather, foster care, adoption, and support ministries enhance the general ministry of our local church.”
THE BIG IDEA: This book offers a vision of how orphan care strengthens local church ministry.
Part 1, “The Strategic Place of Orphan Care in My Story,” details the author’s personal relationship with adoption. In Part 2, “God’s Strategy for Orphan Care: Working Through We Who Have Experienced His Care,” he explains how orphan care ministries help the local church develop theological depth.
Part 3, “Orphan Care and the Great Commission,” surveys ways that foster-care and adoption ministries in a local church help the body to participate in the Great Commission. Part 4, “Orphan Care and the Ministry of the Local Church,” shows readers that for every family who opens their home to needy kids, multiple families are needed for support purposes.
Part 5, “Orphan Care and Race Relations,” shows how God has worked in and through several people to show the power of the gospel to humble and unify diverse races both in families and in local churches. “Orphan Care and the Sex-Trafficking Epidemic is Part 6, an in-depth look at how the Bible compels us to intervene for vulnerable children. The book concludes with “Orphan Care and Church Leadership,” which explores how Paul urges pastors to be examples for the churches under their care.
“The idea calls for the church to arrange its time and resources, even to the degree of sacrifice, for the sake of the vulnerable.”
A CONVERSATION WITH TODD CHIPMAN
How does foster care and adoption enhance the ministry of churches who participate?
I wrote this book because I want local churches to see that by coming together to meet the needs of vulnerable kids, we advance our church ministries. By doing good for kids we are doing good for ourselves. Orphan care ministries do not suck the life out of a church—as some might think they would. Rather, foster care, adoption, and support ministries enhance the general ministry of our local church. In Until Every Child is Home, I identify six spheres of local church ministry that benefit from the church’s orphan-care work. And I tell stories of folks who have experienced those benefits.
First, I write that by promoting foster care, adoption, and wrap-around support for families taking children into their homes, local churches develop theological depth. Second, churches that participate in foster care and adoption have a deep sense of what it means to participate in the Great Commission. Passages from the Gospels, Acts, and Paul’s letters show that proclaiming gospel truth and personally caring for the vulnerable—like orphans—are not contrary pursuits. Third, one of the most under-appreciated benefits of orphan-care ministries in the local church is the opportunity these ministries provide for those who are not taking children into their homes. Sometimes our churches fail to realize a deep sense of mutual commitment because we are not stepping out in ministries that stretch us to the point of realizing that we need each other. Foster care and adoption will do just that. Fourth, racial conflict is one of the most pressing issues in contemporary Western culture. Due to the disproportionately high number of minority children in foster care in the U.S. and the fact that many international adoptions are of children considered racial minorities in the U.S., churches called to foster and adopt can demonstrate the power of the gospel of Christ in combatting racial pride and injustice. Fifth, as Christians partner together to take in vulnerable kids and provide them with strong relational roots in the church, we disrupt the sex-trafficking pipeline. Finally, orphan-care ministries provide church leaders an opportunity to exemplify the gospel for their congregations and to the world.
In what ways does orphan care image the gospel and bring clarity to Scripture?
I see orphans through the lens of Scripture. At its core, the New Testament is God’s revelation of himself in Christ to forgive the sins of people from all ethnicities, establishing them as a special body, the church, to display to the world what he has done for them. In my definition, I did not use the word “adoption.” Yes, adoption is referenced in key doctrinal passages like Romans 8 and Ephesians 1. But my point here is that the idea of adoption (and let’s include foster care for the moment) is a ministry that squares with the very macro themes of the New Testament—even when the word “adoption” is not used. In fact, adoption was not invented by Paul. He employed it because it described what he was getting at: God’s revelation of himself in Christ to forgive the sins of people from all nations and by the Spirit bring them together in the church to give away what they have received. The idea of being taken in, receiving God’s hospitality—with the result that we take in, extending hospitality to those in need—is the fabric of the New Testament.
How is orphan care a step forward in the Great Commission?
Three months before my wife and I began pursuing our foster care license, I graduated with a Ph.D. in New Testament. My research compared language and imagery of the messiah in Second Temple Judaism with the Christology of Hebrews. Studying the work of Christ in the Epistle to the Hebrews motivated me to initiate adoption in my family. The author of Hebrews describes Jesus’s incarnation as a rescue mission: Jesus took up human flesh so that through his death he would defeat the one having the power of death, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held captive by the fear of death (Heb 2:14-15). For the author of Hebrews, Jesus’ atoning self-sacrifice was the very act that defeated the devil, robbing him of power to enslave humanity in fear of final condemnation. My Ph.D. research brought to the surface of my mind the fact that New Testament Christology is in many ways summarized in the phrase “rescue mission.”
For Christians, foster care and adoption is an extension of what we want for all of humanity: to be redeemed from the power of sin and the devil through the atoning death of Jesus Christ. Vulnerable kids are just one “people-group”—but a segment of society that is vulnerable and needy of other practical care as well. Like a family and church that can exemplify this message of cosmic rescue.
What are some ways that orphan care disrupts the sex-trafficking pipeline?
In writing a book, authors learn along the way. While doing research for Until Every Child is Home, I learned about the sex-trafficking pipeline. Multiple resources and experts noted the same six phenomena that connect the foster care system with sex-trafficking. First, these kids are born to parents whose lives are characterized by criminal behavior. Sometimes this criminal behavior includes sexual abuse by the parents or an extended family member. Second, besides sexual abuse, one other criminal behavior frequently surfaces in these families, creating a handle for sex-traffickers to latter lure these kids: drugs. In the family of origin and extended kin, illegal drugs are esteemed. Drugs = money, clout, esteem, and power. Drugs are thus seen as valuable, desirable, and necessary. Third, and as a result of these criminal activities in the immediate family, these kids are placed in foster care. Often the foster placements are with extended family, labeled “kinship placements.” The problem? These family members often practice the same dangerous activities as the biological parent(s) the children were originally removed from. Abuse—including further sexual abuse—and drugs follow these kids from one family member to another. Fourth, the stable factor developing in these kids’ lives is social media. Having begun an online presence, these kids begin to make connections and chat and reveal nuggets of personal information. Pimps are social media experts. Fifth, kids who become trafficked run away from their foster home placement or their group home. Kids on the run are vulnerable. So where might these kids find shelter? Yes, the trusted figure on the other end of that social media connection. Sixth, in this compromised state, kids become increasingly susceptible to two often-interrelated forces: pimps and drugs. As noted, the child on the run likely has a history that includes the idea that drugs are money, identity, and security. Pimps know this. The men, women, and organizations that traffic kids for money know that these kids are candidates for addiction. Drugs became an extremely persuasive force in the hands of criminals preying on former foster kids who have run away. Get the kids hooked on drugs and the promise of drugs will persuade the kids to give themselves away sexually.