It’s probably going to get worse before it gets better. But that’s not a problem for the missional church. Christianity was born into a society that was crueler, more heartless and more decadent than our minds may imagine.
Paganism ruled the day. The sick, the weak and the helpless were fodder for the cruel and powerful. Abortion, infanticide and child sacrifice were very common in the ancient world. In fact, children born with any defect or weakness were routinely left to die. Adultery, divorce and pornography were just an everyday part of life. The Romans had a concept called “Patria Potestas.” It allowed the fathers the right to kill their wives and children.
Christianity rose in this kind of broken world. Instead of killing infants, they rescued them. Instead of allowing the abandoned weak to die, they tended to them and healed them. Instead of treating their families as disposable things to be used, Christian husbands loved their wives as Christ loved the church. There was nothing more opposite they could have become. It would not go unnoticed.
Michael Craven wrote, “These early Christ-followers did not organize special interest groups or political parties. They never directly opposed Caesar; they didn’t picket or protest or attempt to overthrow the ruling powers. They didn’t publicly denounce or condemn the pagan world. Instead, they challenged the ruling powers by simply being a faithful, alternative presence, obedient to God. Their most distinguishing characteristic was not their ideology or their politics but their love for others.”
We still have Christ-followers doing this today. Some of them are church planters in Oklahoma. They are on a mission to rescue children through adoption and foster care, and they stand in good company with their spiritual ancestors of ancient Rome.
Four church planters with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma have adopted and fostered children. They are the Meyers and Giblets of Mustang, The Well; the Hiseys of Enid, Open Door; and the Gunns of Sand Springs, Church That Matters. Between them, there are four adoptions and 10 in foster care.
For these, the greatest obstacle to adoption and fostering was fear. We can always find excuses for not doing what we know we should.
Reaching the unreached and marginalized seems to be the theme of these missional church planters. “At Church that Matters, we want to reach into the marginalized and left out. It’s an example of doing whatever it takes. That is what Jesus did for us. We now have at least a dozen families who have fostered or adopted. It is a picture of the Gospel,” Pastor Rusty Gunn said.
Make no mistake about it. The journey of adoption and fostering is hard. There is heartbreak, pain, confusion and helplessness. But in the midst of it is joy and purpose and, most importantly, the heart of God. You are where God wants you, doing what God wants you to do.
What motivates these church planters to do this? Certainly they could have given themselves a pass, since starting a new church is hard. Adding fostering to the mix sounds a little insane. But the passion and drive to make a difference, which drew them to church planting also drew them to fostering.
“We can’t make a difference everywhere,” one foster family said, “but we can make a difference with this child right here right now.”
The last pagan emperor of Rome, Julian the Apostate understood the culture-changing power of the Gospel in action when he wrote, “Whilst the pagan priests neglect the poor, the hated Galileans devote themselves to works of charity, and by a display of false compassion have established and given effect to their pernicious errors.”
Julian couldn’t understand the Christians’ motivation, but he saw, over the years, how Christianity was exposing the bankrupt pagan culture by their good deeds. It awakened in the masses a desire for a better life. A life of purpose, love and hope. It changed the culture of the western world once before. Unleashing the power of the Gospel in our lives through obedience will change it once again.
The culture war is won, not with words alone, but with deeds that prove the reality of our words. That is why James could write, “Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27, CSB).