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Orphan Care and the Great Commission Resurgence

  • Russell Moore

    Russell Mooreis president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. The ERLC is the moral and public policy entity of the nation’s largest Protestant…

  • Updated Jun 30, 2009

On Wednesday of last week, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted my resolution “On Adoption and Orphan Care,” while my sons stood on the platform watching. It was one of the most emotionally weighty experiences of my life.

The resolution by itself isn’t going to spark an orphan care movement among Southern Baptists. Neither is my book, and neither are a thousand manifestoes. Only the Holy Spirit can do that as local churches start to embrace a vision for orphan care.

The resolution though was meant to prompt some questions. If one messenger in the Convention hall is moved to simply pray, “Lord, how would you have me minister to orphans?” then the resolution is a success, in my view. If one pastor is prompted to ponder how he could preach on adoption, or lead a foster care ministry among his folks, then the work is starting.

I was overwhelmed with emotion on the platform to see my sons, two little ex-orphans, looking out on a sea of yellow ballots as thousands of Southern Baptists affirmed that we want to be the people who love fatherless children. I realized that, in an alternative story, my boys would still be in an orphanage, not knowing even the name of Christ Jesus. But here they are, at the Southern Baptist Convention, calling by their very presence the world’s largest Protestant denomination to recognize there are hundreds of thousands of children as helpless and alone as they once were.

There’s a long way to go. Literally one day after the resolution vote, I received correspondence from an employee of a Baptist agency saying that adoption and orphan care doesn’t fit under the “umbrella” of “evangelism and missions.” Tell that to the thousands of Southern Baptist children who know Christ today because they are growing up in Christian homes, rather than in institutions or on the streets. And tell it to Jesus who says something very different to us (James 1:27). A Great Commission Resurgence will mean moving beyond short-sighted definitions of “evangelism and missions” as rallies and revivals.

But something is afoot among Christian families and churches  of virtually every kind. God is calling the people of Christ to see the face of Jesus in the faces of orphans in North America and around the world. Southern Baptists have affirmed our belief in the authority of Scripture, and the Bible tells us pure religion is defined by care for the fatherless.

We’ve been defined by our commitment to evangelism, and there is no greater field as “white unto harvest” right now as children in orphanages, group homes, and the foster care system, children who don’t know a parent’s love and who don’t know the name of Jesus.

When Satan wars against children, we should be the ones who have compassion on them, even as Jesus did and does.

My prayer is that twenty years from now there are thousands of Southern Baptist pastors, missionaries, and church leaders who started their lives as orphans, now preaching the gospel of God their Father.