(Part 4) The rich soil of the Great Commission
Imagine this: your favorite worship or music artist reaches out and asks you to host a dinner party and intimate worship session in your own home. Mind blown, right? Well, I definitely need my best friend, my sister in Christ, to help me pull off this epic event. Let the preparations begin!
I swiftly kicked all the kids out, ensuring a clean and pristine environment as if royalty was imminent. Not only did I conquer the task of grocery shopping with utmost efficiency, but I also assigned my bestie to take charge of the delectable hors d'oeuvres. And then, as if the anticipation couldn't get any more fabulous, the big moment finally arrives. The artist, a true embodiment of casual coolness, gracefully waltzes into my front door, radiating an aura of artistic brilliance.
As people started to fill my home, I quickly realized that my best friend, who was supposed to help me, didn't have a chance to finish the food. Feeling a sense of responsibility, I quietly excused myself and went to the bustling kitchen. The aroma of freshly prepared crabcakes filled the air, and I knew it was up to me to ensure that these delectable treats were served to perfection.
Determined, I took charge of the kitchen, ensuring everything ran smoothly. I attended to the guests' drink orders, ensuring they had their preferred beverages in hand. I assured the coffee was piping hot, ready to invigorate tired souls. My mission was to create an atmosphere where everyone could truly enjoy themselves.
Amidst the hustle and bustle, I stood, diligently washing dishes and tidying up. While my so-called best friend seemed to be having the time of her life, engrossed in the artist's heartfelt stories and harmonizing beautifully with the band, I couldn't help but feel a twinge of bitterness. It seemed unfair that I was hidden away in the kitchen, missing out on the magical moments unfolding before me.
The steam from the tea kettle wasn't the only thing that was heating up at this point. Mixed emotions swirled within me - a combination of pride for the successful event I was helping to create, yet also a tinge of longing to be part of the joyous celebration happening just a few steps away.
If this story sounds familiar, it is because we see it play out in Luke 10: 38-42,
"Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her."
Can anyone else relate to Martha's story? I certainly do. Not only is Martha incredibly productive, but she's also incredibly bold. Just imagine having the audacity to approach the Son of God, the Alpha and Omega, and tell Jesus what he should be doing. In response, Jesus kindly reminds Martha that busyness can wait. It's always better to pause, fix our gaze upon him, and let everything else fall into place.
Martha misunderstood the assignment.
In many ways, I misunderstood the assignment in Family Advocacy Ministry for the first several years. I was busy doing all the things. I delivered the meals, dropped the car seats, and served the families. All this work was good and a blessing to others, so how could it be wrong?
The messaging surrounding foster care and adoption often follows a similar pattern. It emphasizes the staggering numbers and the undeniable need. We hear calls for more foster families, adoptive parents, increased support, and additional funding. These pleas are undeniably valid. However, have we unintentionally centered our goals around the crisis rather than keeping our focus on Jesus?
While it is true that children are in desperate need, and the church must step up to address this pressing issue, we should also consider whether our approach and language are aligned with our ultimate purpose. Can we find a way to highlight the importance of Jesus while still acknowledging the crisis at hand? Let's ensure that our messaging reflects both the urgency of the situation and the unwavering love and grace of our Savior.
The true goal of family advocacy, or any ministry for that matter, is for those who do not know Jesus to discover who he is and why they need him and for those who know him to deepen their relationship with him.
Family Advocacy Ministry is grounded in discipleship.
By grasping this understanding, we realize that our focus should not solely be on how to meet the need but instead on why we meet the need. It is a journey of discipleship, where every individual becomes a priority as we embrace this vision.
What exactly is a disciple? By definition, a "disciple" is someone who wholeheartedly embraces and follows the teachings of another. They are both a dedicated follower and a lifelong learner.
We do family advocacy ministry responding to Jesus's command to make disciples.
While our calling may not lead us to the farthest corners of the globe, we do urge others to consider the profound impact of opening their homes and hearts to the mission field of foster care, adoption, and support for the most vulnerable children and families in our communities. There is a genuine desire to help; our responsibility is to guide and equip individuals to serve in whatever capacity God calls them to.
As a follower of Christ, you are expected to actively engage in making disciples. However, this process doesn't have to be daunting or complex. You can effectively fulfill your calling by sharing your knowledge and experiences as you delve into the Scriptures and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you. Additionally, when volunteers join you in this journey, it is crucial to help them comprehend the significance of caring for others, as emphasized by Jesus in the Bible.
"Ministry sounds intimidating until you develop a realistic view of what ministry is really about. Maybe you're not gifted to preach sermons, start a rehabilitation clinic, or lead a marriage retreat. But do you know people who struggle with sin? Do you know people who are carrying burdens? If so, then your first steps toward ministry are easy: help them."
― Francis Chan, Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples
To maintain a ministry rooted in discipleship, we must stay grounded in these three principles:
Does our work bring glory to God?
Does our work proclaim the Gospel?
Does our work serve others and foster meaningful relationships?
It is crucial to distinguish between a program and a ministry. When called to establish a church ministry, we recognize that our members generously contribute their time, working toward a common goal of deepening others' knowledge of Jesus through meaningful relationships. While an annual drive or donation is commendable, we must ask ourselves: can our members engage in this work without sharing the message of Jesus or growing in their faith? Are we simply outsourcing this responsibility while finding solace in our efforts to help those in need? Continuously evaluate how your ministry fulfills all three principles, as it is possible to create an exceptional program that positively impacts your community without explicitly proclaiming the name of Jesus.
The soil, with its nutrients and support, plays a vital role in nourishing a tree and facilitating its growth. Similarly, the concept of discipleship holds immense significance for this ministry. As we strive to assist children who are facing challenges, it is crucial not to overlook the very individuals we are leading. By being mindful of discipleship, we recognize that everyone involved in our work, including the children, their families, and the volunteers who support us, is on their unique discipleship journey. As leaders, we must value and prioritize each individual's journey, understanding the profound impact it can have on their growth and development.
Family Advocacy Ministry is Pro-Life
I have spoken to many foster parents who are deeply hurt by their church's lack of response to foster care compared to the church's great concern for the unborn.
We often hear skeptics challenge the church, saying, "The Church only cares for the child before it is born but does nothing for it after." My immediate response is, "That's simply not true!" Yet, we must pause and genuinely listen to what others say about us. Let us prayerfully consider if there is even a grain of truth that we should confront. After all, we should all care deeply for children in need and those who yearn for a loving home.
James 1:22 tells us: But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
We must go beyond mere words and be active in living out our faith, lest we deceive ourselves. If our actions and how we minister to hurting children and families in our communities were one of the sole criteria for judging The Church, would we measure up?
Your church might already engage in a family advocacy ministry by supporting the unborn, even if it hasn't been explicitly labeled as such. By recognizing and appreciating the existing efforts, you can easily extend the same care and support to the biological parents, taking a significant step towards nurturing vulnerable children and families.
According to a 2017 Barna poll, 41% say the church is better known for the things it is against.
The Family Advocacy Ministry proudly announces its commitment to celebrating every precious unborn child in our community. Furthermore, we take proactive measures to provide care and support to at-risk and struggling families, both within our church and through collaborative efforts with other organizations. The specific actions taken by your church will be guided by God's calling, aligned with our mission, and tailored to meet the unique needs of your community.
Family Advocacy Ministry is Pro-Family
Jesus tells us in Matthew 22: 37-40 to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
The Bible contains numerous incredible and profoundly moving verses that specifically address the importance of children. However, it is worth noting that sometimes well-meaning churches may focus solely on being pro-child without necessarily considering the broader concept of being pro-family. This narrow perspective can inadvertently lead to people asking inappropriate and misguided questions to foster parents, such as, "When are you planning to legally adopt these children?" or "The parents must have been truly awful if the children had to be removed. What did they do wrong?" It is crucial to approach the topic of children and family dynamics with sensitivity and understanding, recognizing that each situation is unique and complex.
Family Advocacy recognizes that God is the architect of the family and values its preservation whenever possible.
Being Pro-Family means we care about the child from conception until early adulthood, and we support all caregivers during that time, including biological parents, relative or non-relative caregivers, foster families, and adoptive families. There are many ways to carry out this work in our community, but it could look like one of the following:
We support unborn children and parents through mentoring and parenting education.
Our church takes care of children at risk of entering the foster care system by providing short-term hosting at no cost to the parents. This allows them time to stabilize and create a safe home environment.
We stand with foster parents and understand the importance of reunification with biological parents.
We invest in the lives of young adults who are transitioning out of the foster care system.
Our church's foster closet meets the practical needs of children in foster care and provides support for biological families during the reunification process.
We offer assistance and support to children and young adults who are vulnerable to the horrific crime of human trafficking.
And many more possibilities
Throughout history, the church has occasionally found itself in conflict with state organizations when it comes to determining what is truly in the best interest of children. Embracing a pro-family stance, however, can foster productive and honest discussions about everyone's roles and how to collaborate more effectively. We can strive for better outcomes and stronger family units by doing so.
By keeping the commandment to love all people at heart, we gain the ability to view the struggles of a father or the pain of a mother whose children are in foster care or at risk through the lens of the Gospel. We all have our own sins and challenges, and it is through the grace and compassion freely given by our Savior that we find solace.
For a seed to flourish, it requires the fertile soil of the Great Commission.
Jesus tells us in Mark 4:3-9:
"Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold." And he said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
In Family Advocacy Ministry, it is often tempting to forgo taking the time to assess the current season, conditions, or soil and instead simply start sowing seeds indiscriminately, hoping that something will stick. However, this hasty approach can result in a significant expenditure of effort and resources on your and your church's part. Ultimately, it may lead to a ministry that fails to grow or sustain itself in the long run. Therefore, it is crucial to pause and carefully evaluate the unique circumstances, needs, and opportunities before embarking on any initiatives. By doing so, you can ensure a more strategic and intentional approach, maximizing the impact of your ministry and achieving sustainable growth in the long term.
The soil Jesus describes is made up of people who have a heart that is open to listen, accept, and respond to his teachings. These individuals embody the qualities of a true disciple, eager to learn and grow in their faith. When we plant this ministry in the fertile soil of discipleship, it takes root and begins to flourish.