10 Things That Will Kill Your Church's Orphan Ministry: #1 Disconnect From The Gospel

Today’s post begins the series entitled “10 Things That Will Kill Your Church’s Orphan Ministry.” This series is born out of several years of consulting with and observing many churches across America develop orphan care ministries. Over time, I have noticed some common mistakes that cause these ministries to struggle and even fail. Over the next few weeks, I want to share those observations with you in an effort to help and to stir a discussion about the good things being done to minister well in orphan care.

So, the first thing thing that will kill your orphan ministry is:

Disconnection From The Gospel

"The Gospel is the news that Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, died for our sins and rose again, eternally triumphant over all his enemies, so that there is now no condemnation for those who believe, but only everlasting joy.” 

—John Piper “The Gospel in 6 Minutes”

The Gospel is the Answer for the Orphan Crisis
God entered human history to destroy the power of death, hell, and sin, and to restore what has been broken by the curse of sin. We can’t ever lose sight of the fact that children are orphaned because we live under the effects of the curse of sin. This world is broken, and sin and death still reign, but the reign of sin is temporary.

There is a King who has come and has done the good work that brings hope, and, that King is coming again. One day, He will return and establish His Kingdom and complete the work He has begun. He will restore what has been broken. Sickness, death, and indifference will be gone. Our work will be over. There will be no more orphans!

We Live in a Great Paradox
Right now, we are living in a great paradox. It’s what I remember my New Testament professor in seminary calling the “already but not yet” tension of the Kingdom of God. On the one hand, as Christians we are already citizens of the Kingdom. On the other hand, we are citizens living in an alien land. We are living in a broken world struggling with sin and death until Jesus completes the establishment of His Kingdom. It’s that tension that defines orphan ministry. 

Here’s the thing, in our urgency to deal with the very real and pressing suffering of the millions of orphans across the world, we mustn’t be satisfied to only deal with their earthly suffering. We have to remember that they like the rest of the world suffer at a much greater level. They suffer in their need for the gospel and its ultimate promise of rescue. The gospel demands that we not forget their spirits as we try to care for them as people. 

Jesus Met Physical & Spiritual Needs
The moment we take care of their material needs without regard for the spiritual, we have ceased to be like Jesus. Jesus was concerned with both and gave rescue both physically and spiritually. To go in the name of Jesus, we too should not dichotomize the two. 

Meeting only physical needs will draw us away from God and His power. Meeting only spiritual needs lacks compassion and credibility and gives an inaccurate picture of who Jesus really is. We can afford neither. Disconnecting from the gospel will kill our orphan ministries in effectiveness and ultimately in substance.

At some point without the power of God, the crisis is too large. It is just too overwhelming, and without the gospel as a mission and a “true north,” we can expect that our efforts will dissipate. 

Far too often, mercy ministries “jump the tracks” by gravitating toward an extreme. We can afford neither the extreme of gospel proclamation without meeting physical needs or meeting physical needs without gospel proclamation. Our only extreme should be the extent we are willing to sacrifice to do both together. In that, we will follow the example of Jesus.

Do you find it challenging to keep the gospel in focus? What steps are you taking to keep the gospel at the center of your orphan ministries? Post your comments here so we can share and discuss.

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Rick Morton

Father to three transnationally adopted children, Rick Morton’s dedication to orphans extends beyond his family. Coauthor of Orphanology: Awakening to Gospel-Centered Adoption and Orphan Care, Rick and his wife are cofounders of international orphan-hosting ministry Promise 139, based in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. An inspiring speaker, Rick shares God’s heart for the fatherless at many conferences for pastors as well as orphan-care conferences. He and his family live in the Greater Memphis area.