While adoption has been going on for a long time it has enjoyed a recent spike in attention within Evangelical circles. The accompanying wave of recent books on adoption has been good for both to-be adoptive parents and families as well as the children whom they adopt. Parents can be better equipped and children can be better cared for with their varying needs.
In 2011 Daniel J. Bennett wrote A Passion for the Fatherless: Developing a God-Centered Ministry to Orphans. Now in its 2nd printing, the book seeks to provide a robust theology of adoption along with many practical applications, specifically as it pertains to families considering adoption and churches having adoption ministries. Bennett writes from the perspective and heart of a pastor and adoptive father. This enables him to write in such a way as to reach ministry leaders and adoptive families.
Being an adoptive father myself, I have read numerous books on adoption by both secular and Christian authors. While all of these books have their benefits, there are several reasons why A Passion for the Fatherless is the best book on adoption that I have read yet.
Theology of adoption
First, Bennett’s book has some of the best theology of adoption in print. He treats aspects that other books simply do not. He roots adoption in the glory of God saying, “What makes a Christian orphan ministry unique is its focus on the glory of God” (p. 37). He continues, “Our primary desire for orphans is to see them burst forth in worship of God” (p. 53). While acknowledging that many non-Christians adopt, he stresses that they do not do so for the purpose of seeing God glorified in the process and the life of the adopted child. It is because of what the gospel has done for us that we adopt and it is for what the gospel can do for the orphan that we adopt.
On page after page Bennett dives into Scripture and applies it to adoption. He draws attention to the compassion of God for the orphan as the source of our compassion, he explores the aspects of suffering, reliance on God, good and bad reasons for adopting, the role of the family and church in adoption and wise decision making in adoption.
The “Great Commission” and adoption
Second, Bennett rightly roots the logic for adoption, especially international adoption, within the Great Commission. “Both proclaim the gospel” (p. 91). This is one thing I keep returning to in my mind every time someone asks me why we adopted internationally and not domestically (in the US). The answer is the same answer we give for overseas missions – because the spread of the gospel calls us to it. When we take the gospel to the world we bring their needs back home with us. God is not color blind when it comes to evangelism and neither is He when it comes to adoption. Through our salvation God adopts people from every tongue, tribe and nation into His family. If we properly root our theology of adoption in the adoption we receive in salvation then we will come out with the same thoughts towards adoption.
Suffering and adoption
Third, Bennett brings to the forefront the reality of suffering that is involved in adoption. While it is good to talk about the joys, blessings and rewards of adoption, there needs to be more discussion on the suffering and heartache in adoption. We need discussion on the suffering of the orphan as well as discussion on the suffering experienced by families who do adopt. That’s right, there is suffering on the other side of adoption. It is the reality of loving anyone, especially those who have had to live for years without a loving father and mother. Just like a spouse who brings baggage into a marriage, orphans come into your home with baggage that will take years to unpack.
Bennett points out that it is our “worship of the idol of ease [that] prevents us from caring for the orphan” (p. 115). For Americans who believe they need to give their kids everything, buy them a new car when they go to college, give them an extravagant wedding, take expensive family vacations and subject them to as little suffering and hardship as possible, they will have a very hard time being convinced that they should consider adoption. But adoption involves suffering. This is no less than what Christ did for us on the cross. He suffered that we would live in Him. When you adopt you bring suffering and hardship into your family for the sake of giving life to another. This is what God did for us in Christ.
Starting an orphan ministry
Finally, Bennett gives great detailed advice on the aspects of an orphan ministry for your church. Here is one place where his role as a pastor shines. He discusses how to approach your church with the ministry idea, how to use parachurch ministries and how to structure the ministry itself. There are several helpful outlines of forms for churches and prospective adoptive parents to use for things like applying for aid and figuring out the projected costs of adoption. I have filled out many of these myself and Bennett’s content is up to date.
A Passion for the Fatherless is the best book I know of for prospective adoptive families and churches looking to start an orphan ministry in their church. The theology is rich and deep and the application is real and relevant. The end of each chapter has a complete study guide to lead a group through the book. Bennett gets adoption, its rooting in the gospel and the role of the family and church in adoption. I cannot recommend this book enough.
About the Author
Daniel Bennett is the Senior Pastor at Bethany Community Church in central Illinois. It was while serving as a family pastor that he became convinced of the need to equip the local church to care for the fatherless with a God-centered focus. He and his wife, Whitney, have four children.
Craig Hurst received his BA in Church Ministries from Clearwater Christian College and his MA in theology at Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary in Lansdale, PA. He currently lives outside of Grand Rapids, MI and attends Grace Community Church, where he serves as a volunteer youth worker (along with his wife), and teaches some elective classes. He blogs at Theology for the Road.