By Rick Morton, Associate Pastor for Discipling and Equipping at Faith Baptist Church in Bartlett, TN
One of the most common conversations I find myself having with fellow pastors regards their struggle to balance justice ministries like “care for the fatherless” with the Church’s mission to make disciples. It seems like most of these pastors are wrestling with the tension of not losing a passion for or proper focus on the gospel as we care for “the least of these” in Jesus’ name.
The central question that I always come back to is, “Why?”
As I read the Gospels, Jesus never seemed to place any tension between seeking justice for those who are defenseless and extending the good news that He was bringing the long-awaited salvation that the world needed. In Matthew 25, Jesus went so far as to confront His disciples with the reality that those who follow Him will be people who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, welcome the estranged, and visit the imprisoned in His name. Being consistent with everything else Jesus taught, He could not possibly mean that those works were specific acts that merit salvation.
So, we are left with only one reasonable conclusion:
Those of us who are in Christ and are His disciples will do these things naturally as an outworking of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. As we go to the world to tell the gospel, we show the world the evidence of the gospel by bringing justice to the fatherless and the defenseless in Jesus name. If we fail to show this evidence, our telling of the gospel becomes really hollow.
It’s not as if this is a new idea either. Seeking justice has always been part of gospel proclamation. Look back at Deuteronomy 10. God called Israel to care for widows, sojourners, and the fatherless in the same way He had cared for the Israelites by bringing them out of Egypt: meeting their need when it could not be met on their own.
Why did He do it this way? Because He wanted Israel to be qualitatively different than all the peoples around them so they could testify to the nations of His character. Moreover, Israel was given the privilege to give the world a taste of what God was about to do to bring salvation through Jesus. They were giving a living object lesson of the coming Messiah and His gospel.
As pastors, God has entrusted us to care for His church.
We have the opportunity to lead His people to catch a bold vision to care for the fatherless as a way of pointing to the gospel not detracting from it. We can help our churches give evidence of the gospel as they care for the most vulnerable in our world. Further, we can help our churches to catch an even bolder vision to disciple a fatherless generation to know Christ and follow Him.
With God nothing is impossible. At Lifeline Children’s Services, we are committed to the vision of reaching this generation of fatherless children with the gospel and leading them to follow Him and to build His Kingdom. We would love the opportunity to partner with you, your family, and your church to accomplish this vision at home and around the world. Please visit Lifeline Children’s Services at lifelinechild.org if you are interested in helping make this vision a reality.
Rick Morton is the Associate Pastor for Discipling and Equipping at Faith Baptist Church in Bartlett, TN. Father to three transnationally adopted children, his dedication to orphans extends beyond his family. Rick is the author of Know Orphans and Coauthor of Orphanology: Awakening to Gospel-Centered Adoption and Orphan Care (www.newhopedigital.com). He 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.