I am the result of a teen pregnancy that predates Roe v. Wade by just over one year. God placed me in a loving family and church where I was influenced by the gospel. God gave me a wife who is concerned for the gospel, the church, and the needs of vulnerable kids. God called me to lead a church that is concerned for practicing its faith by heeding his Word and caring for his reputation in the world. I’m living proof that God’s reputation through the church is magnified as we partner together—leaders and congregation—to do good works that reflect God’s love for us.
The Church, the Orphan, and the Pastor’s Home
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. And this is the business of the church.
I suggest that pastors are uniquely positioned to set an example for the church to meet the needs of orphans. Who in the church would be better qualified than pastors to handle the behaviors orphans might exhibit? As a leader in a local church congregation, the pastor is naturally be able to connect family-less children with the family of God, a true forever family. Indeed, the combination of skilled family leadership and hospitality noted as qualifications for pastoral leadership in 1 Tim 3:1–7 and Titus 1:5–9 supply what orphans need.
Pastors and their families feel maxed-out by the routines of ministry—establishing their vision in the church, helping the congregation take the gospel to the world, fighting cultural sins like racism, abortion, and the sexual perversion. But herein lies the irony. As pastors welcome orphans into their homes, they progress in these very tasks. Pastoral orphan care demonstrates exemplary leadership, takes the gospel to the lost, counters the argument for abortion rights, reduces the possibility that orphans might become victims of sex trafficking, and frequently demonstrates how the gospel breaks racial divisions.
Expanding Pastoral Leadership through the Home
And time devoted to orphan-care ministries is time invested in the congregation. As the church sees the pastor enduring in love to kids with physical, behavioral, or emotional challenges, believers receive a pattern for practicing their faith (Heb 13:7). They know they have church leaders who can sympathize with them when the going gets tough. The pastor’s example can actually multiply the effect the church might have on both orphans and the culture.
I wrote Until Every Child Is Home: Why the Church Can and Must Care for Orphans (Moody Publishers, 2019) because I have seen that by doing good for kids, we are doing good for ourselves. As local churches come together to meet the needs of vulnerable kids, we advance our church ministries. Orphan care is strategic, compelling work—a means and not just a goal. Orphan care ministries do not suck the life out of a church or a pastor. Rather, foster-care, adoption, and support ministries enhance the general ministry of our local churches and help pastors to shepherd the flock God has entrusted to them.
TODD R. CHIPMAN (B.S. University of Nebraska; MA-BL, M.Div., PhD, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) is assistant professor of Biblical Studies at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of ScriptureStoryline, a Biblical Theology commentary available at his website www.scripturestoryline.com. He and his wife have seven children and advocate for foster/adoption ministry.