Go beyond ‘at church’ ministry comfort zone

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By Brian Owens

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27)
First century orphans were typically the children of widows; they were among the downtrodden of society.
Today the term “orphan” has expanded to include those who have lost their parents, not just to death, but to drug and alcohol addiction, abuse and neglect.
There are private and state-funded institutions that can provide food, clothing, shelter and an education to these children. They can provide a measure of structure and safety. What they cannot provide is the love of a forever family. They cannot provide the example of Ephesians 5:25-30 being lived out practically, albeit imperfectly, in the home. They cannot provide the godly discipline and instruction of a father (Ephesians. 6:4). They cannot provide example of a godly mother (Proverbs 31:26-28).  
According to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, more than 6,800 children are currently foster care in the state of Kentucky. The U.S. Department for Health and Human Services reports that as of September 2011, there were over 400,000 children in foster care.
According to a recent UNICEF report, there are anywhere from 143 million to 210 million orphans globally. This does not include the millions of children who have been abandoned, sold and trafficked.
The question I have for us is this: what are God’s people doing to create a culture of orphan care within our churches?
If we are going to practice true, Christ-exalting religion, we must go beyond doing ministry “at” the church, and start doing ministry “as” the church, since this is the fruit of true religion.
 Religion that is grounded in grace gives grace; religion that comes from mercy gives mercy; religion that is Christ-centered seeks to be Christ to the least of these (Matthew 25:40).
The gospel is that the Holy Son of God took the place of unholy man. Jesus Christ took our sins upon himself on the cross and in exchange we receive his righteousness by faith; all we bring to the relationship is our sin. We were helpless, hopeless, marginalized, and broken –yet Christ redeemed us by his free and sovereign grace.
This gospel works itself out practically as pure religion: we are to go to the helpless, hopeless, marginalized, and the broken. We are to come down to them and lift them up to us. In exchange for this we get all their issues – mental, emotional, and physical – and they acquire our love.
Not every Christian is called to adopt, but every Christian is expected to be involved in alleviating the plight of the orphan. John Piper writes that “the Gospel is not a picture of adoption; adoption is a picture of the Gospel.”
If we believe this is true, let us strive to paint the most beautiful picture we can of God’s free and adoptive grace! Millions are waiting; will you help at least one?

Brian Owens is an associate pastor with youth and children emphasis at Farmdale Baptist Church. He can be reached via e-mail at brian@farmdalebaptist.com.