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FIRST-PERSON: Orphan Sunday

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Orphan Sunday is Nov. 8. Your church should recognize it, which I hate to say — not because I don’t believe in the mission of Orphan Sunday, when churches from every denomination and tradition call us to orphan care and adoption. I do, enthusiastically, support that.

I hate to say it because I know the probable reaction of many of my fellow preachers and church leaders when they see another special emphasis Sunday, especially one that’s part of para-church ministry: slack jaws and glazed eyes. After all, our church calendars are marked up enough as it is, such that our “special emphasis” days are so usual that they’re neither special nor particularly emphatic.

But this one’s different.

Orphan Sunday isn’t an emphasis on a program or a “cause” or a special interest group. It’s not an offering or a volunteer recruitment tool. Orphan Sunday could be the Pearl Harbor for spiritual warfare in your church.

Orphan Sunday reminds us that orphan care isn’t a special emphasis at all. Every Christian is called to care for the fatherless (James 1:27), in different ways to be sure. No one is exempt from this mark of Christ’s followers. Orphan Sunday carves out a space for us all to encourage one another, together, toward that end.

You don’t have to have a huge program in place for Orphan Sunday. Go to the website, www.orphansunday.org, and pray through some of the ideas there to see which, if any, would work in your context.

For some of you pastors, Orphan Sunday might be the first time you preach about our adoption in Christ (Romans 8; Galatians 4) and our task to rescue orphans and widows. It might be an opportunity for you to ask some families in your congregation to pray about whether God is calling them to foster or adopt a child or children. Or to ask others in the church if God is calling them to financially empower an adoption or to take a mission trip to an overseas orphanage or to a local group home.

For some of your worship leaders, it might be a time to build up the body in song with some of the recent hymnody about orphan care and our adopted identity in Jesus.

For some of you Sunday School teachers or deacons or women’s ministry leaders or “regular” members, Orphan Sunday might be a time to encourage your fellow members to pray for God’s heart for orphans to pierce through your church, to just start asking the question of where you fit in orphan care ministry.

For some of you, Orphan Sunday might just be a time to confess you don’t know how to care for orphans. It might just be a time to pray, perhaps with groanings too deep for words, for fatherless children in North America and around the world and for Christians missing the joy of obedience in finding Jesus in His little brothers and sisters.

Whatever it is your church can do, however broad or limited, don’t miss the chance to join with the household of God everywhere in highlighting orphan ministry, foster care and adoption.

God honors His Word, you know. He loves to hear prayers and to answer them. Take the time to recognize orphans on Nov. 8. You might find next year some extra children in the pew next to you, or maybe on your own pew. And you might find that the next great preacher or missionary or evangelist comes to faith in Christ through a ministry started in some little way on Nov. 8.

Whatever Orphan Sunday looks like in your church, I pray it will spark something for you. And I pray it will start something that makes the emphasis on orphan care less and less “special” and more and more “normal” in your congregation and in mine.
Russell D. Moore is dean of the school of theology and senior vice president for academic administration at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Moore is the author of “Adopted for Life.” He and his wife adopted two boys from Russia several years ago.

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  • Russell D. Moore