The Christian Case Against the Orphanage

Children need a stable family, not institutional care.

In recent years, both The Guardian and The New York Times have featured lengthy exposés of orphanages in the majority world. It appears that many orphanages have been run for nefarious ends. There have been reports of children being trafficked into orphanages either in return for financial benefit to impoverished parents or merely on the promise of a better life for their children. There is also evidence that in some of the worst cases, children have then been sexually and physically abused in the orphanages or sold on to be exploited by others.

Cases like these have led Australian Senator Linda Reynolds to campaign from within the Australian government for action on orphanage tourism and to lobby for “orphanage trafficking” to be classed as a new crime under the legislative umbrella of Australia’s Modern Day Slavery Act. Christians have been implicated in these terrible abuses, as the exposés reveal that churchgoers worldwide have been financially and practically propping up the global orphanage system over many decades, potentially making children more vulnerable to exploitation.

Personally, I have found reading these articles incredibly tough—for a whole variety of reasons. My mother spent some of her childhood in an orphanage in India. My wife’s grandparents ran a well-respected children’s care home. I began fostering and adopting children 13 years ago. I am the founding director of a charity working specifically with vulnerable children and I regularly consult for large Christian NGOs.

Additionally, members of my local church and more than a couple of friends currently live in or have been raised in institutions. Many more friends and church family support orphanages around …

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Sometimes, God Wants You to Go with Your Gut

Our intuitions aren’t infallible. That doesn’t mean we should ignore them.

Watson Thornton was already serving as a missionary in Japan when he decided to join the Japan Evangelistic Band, an evangelistic mission founded in England in 1903. He decided to travel to the town where the organization’s headquarters were located and to introduce himself to its leader. But just as he was about to get on the train, he felt a tug in his spirit that he took to be the leading of the Lord telling him to wait. He was puzzled but thought he should obey.

When the next train rolled into the station, Watson started to board but again felt he should wait. When the same thing happened with the third train, Watson began to feel foolish. Finally, the last train arrived, and once more Watson felt a check. “Don’t get on the train,” it seemed to say. Shaking his head, he thought, I guess I was wrong about this. Watson thought he had wasted most of the day for no apparent reason. Yet as he turned to go, he heard a voice call out his name. It was the mission leader he had intended to see. He came to ask whether Watson would consider joining the Japan Evangelistic Band. If Watson had ignored the impulse and boarded the train, he would have missed the meeting.

What was this impulse? Watson believed it was the voice of the Lord. Despite this, he felt unsure of himself. His actions didn’t seem to make sense at the time. It felt more like a matter of intuition than anything else.

Coincidence or Guidance?

Jonas Salk called intuition the inner voice that tells the thinking mind where to look next. Intuition is that flash of insight that prompts us to act in the moment. We all have had some experience with this. You feel a strong urge to call someone you haven’t talked to in ages. When they answer …

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Jesus, Deliver Us from This Racist Evil Age

We believe in a Savior who redeems, a Spirit who reconciles, and a gospel that is the antithesis of white supremacy.

On August 3, 2019, a shooter entered a Wal-Mart shopping center in El Paso, Texas, and murdered 22 image-bearers and injured dozens of others. According to news reports, the gunman was a white supremacist, and he is rightly being identified as a domestic terrorist.

This massacre marks the latest overt example of white supremacist terror in the US. The shooter allegedly wrote an online racist “manifesto” in which he refers to Latino/a immigrants as invaders into Texas who could only be stopped by deadly force. The shooter’s statement castigates immigration, making racist verbal attacks about “the heavy Hispanic population” in Texas. Of the 22 he murdered, news sources reveal that the terrorist targeted Hispanics and killed eight Mexican image-bearers.

Recent attacks like this one remind us that racism is a reality. With the rise of 21st-century hate crimes over the past several years, racism enflames the souls of those who allow the embers to burn. Racism will always be a matter of life and death for any image-bearer adjudicated by the racist as an enemy of the state.

Certainly, legislation and policies are important responses to the dangers posed by racism and white supremacy. However, for Bible-believing Christians and our churches, the gospel of Jesus Christ gives us a supernatural weapon by which to take all racist ideologies and actions captive in Christ.

The gospel of Jesus Christ can help Christians, with ears to hear, courageously speak in love the truth against racism and white supremacy. Through the power of the Spirit, the gospel can help Christians, with willing hearts, engage in the spiritual battle against racism and white supremacy, even when doing so is unpopular.

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I’m a Shooting Survivor. If You’re Going to Pray for Us, Here’s How.

We need more than “thoughts and prayers” in the immediate aftermath.

I have a complicated relationship with “thoughts and prayers.”

The phrase has become the familiar refrain after each mass shooting, echoed in tweets and statements offering condolences to families and communities shaken by tragedy. Like many others affected by gun violence, I can’t help but feel frustrated and cynical when I hear another line about “thoughts and prayers.”

It has been six years since I was shot when a gunman opened fire at New River Community College in Virginia. With the news of each mass shooting, each child dead after finding a loaded weapon in their home, and each suicide or senseless gun death, I wonder if action from those in power will ever follow the thoughts and prayers.

As a shooting survivor, I believe in action. At the same time, I believe in the power of prayer. I know firsthand what living through a shooting does to a mind and what a bullet does to a body, and I believe that my recovery and healing is a direct result of prayers that were prayed for me.

It is easy to feel powerless in the aftermath of a mass shooting. As we mourn the lives lost in El Paso, Dayton, and every other community where gun violence is an everyday reality, it can seem impossible to find the words to pray.

Being a survivor doesn’t mean I can singlehandedly solve the crisis of gun violence. What I can offer, though, is insight into some specific ways to pray for survivors as one part of our response to gun violence.

Pray for physical wounds, pain, and future treatments.

Managing bullet wounds is often a process of trial and error, where it can take days for doctors to figure out how to provide comfort. Many survivors face years of recovery, including surgeries and physical rehabilitation. Pray …

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World Vision Helped Evangelicals Become Social Activists—Within Limits

A new history tracks the uneasy alliance between the organization and its core supporters.

When World Vision responded to the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa, it didn’t tell supporters. The work wasn’t secret, exactly, but the organization also didn’t publicize what it was doing. It didn’t know how to publicize it, how to get evangelical donors to care about this particular crisis, AIDS in Africa. AIDS meant sex. AIDS was icky. It was associated with homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, and drug use, and to talk about AIDS, you had to talk about needles and condoms.

“We’re a G-rated ministry,” the marketing team told Rich Stearns when he became president of World Vision US in 1998, “involved in an R-rated issue.”

AIDS education and prevention also reminded evangelicals of liberal social programs. It made them suspicious that the gospel message was being replaced with social action. This was always the challenge for World Vision, the small missionary agency that grew to be the largest Christian humanitarian aid organization in the world: How do you convince evangelicals that caring about social issues is part of the gospel? How do you persuade them that tending the sick and caring for the poor isn’t in conflict with sharing the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection?

The answer is the subject of God’s Internationalists: World Vision and the Age of Evangelical Humanitarianism, an insightful new book by David P. King, who directs the Lake Institute of Faith & Giving and teaches at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. King argues that the organization shows how American evangelicals came to understand themselves in a global context in the 20th century. Historians have been very interested in this subject in the last few years, …

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One-on-One with Greg Laurie on Evangelism, Culture and Crusades

“The primary way that God has chosen to reach unbelievers is through the verbal articulation of the gospel.”

Ed: What have you learned from 30 years of preaching the gospel?

Greg: You know, I once asked Billy Graham a similar question. I said, “Billy, if an older Billy could speak to a younger Billy, what would he say?” He answered, “I would tell him to preach more on the cross and the blood of Christ, because that is where the power is.”

After 30 years of preaching the gospel, I have come to understand Billy’s words. Too often, we are tempted to edit God’s word, especially in today’s culture when anybody at any point can be offended by anything you say. But any gospel that promises forgiveness without telling you that you must first repent is not the gospel. And any gospel that offers a hope of heaven without warning of the reality of hell is not the gospel. The gospel is Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead, and as Paul said in Romans 1:16, there is power in this message.

Now, what would an older Greg say to a younger Greg? I believe he would say, “Less is more, keep it simple.” So I try to make the message as simple and clear as possible without compromising the truth of the gospel.As Spurgeon said, I try to make “a bee-line to the cross.”

Ed: How has evangelism changed over the past 30 years and why is it still important today?

Greg: To understand how evangelism has changed in the past 30 years, we have to understand how culture has also changed. As I mentioned earlier, we live at a time when you get major pushback if you say anything critical. You know what the irony is? You can say whatever you want critically about followers of Jesus Christ, and that is acceptable in our culture.

English author and theologian G.K. Chesterton saw this coming in the early …

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Bonhoeffer Convinced Me to Abandon My Dream

His words challenged everything I had learned about pastoral vision.

In a seminary class on leadership, the professor gave us each the assignment of designing a church. We had to write out a mission statement, vision statement, values, and beliefs. I worked hard on it but received a B. Apparently, I overused the word gospel. The professor’s note explained that the word was not contextualized enough for the post-Christian city I had identified as the location for this imaginary church plant.

It bothered me because I had poured myself into that project. Sure, the church I had described was only theoretical, but the vision was real. Though it was just an assignment, it represented my highest pastoral aspirations, and it became the goal of my post-seminary imagination.

I thought my vision for that future church was genuinely innovative. We would meet in some industrial space with lots of wood beams, single-origin coffee, and a massive rear projector at the back of the stage. If that sounds to you like a Redeemer Presbyterian–Mars Hill mashup, minus a few pet peeves I had picked up from past church experiences, you’re not wrong. Our church visions are rarely as original as we think they are.

I didn’t get very far with that vision. After seminary, I spent two years leading a church’s college ministry. The results were disappointing. The church had plenty of college students, but few attended our college ministry events. I tried everything: “relevant” topical discussions, free donuts, V-neck T-shirts. Discouraged, I quit and took a marketing job at a local Christian university.

I didn’t completely abandon ministry though. I started hosting a Bible study on Sunday evenings in my in-laws’ basement. I needed some justification for the student loan payments …

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The Book of Ruth Can Transform the Way We Do Business Today

What companies might learn from the Old Testament practice of gleaning.

Gleaning, the Old Testament practice whereby farmers left an unharvested margin around their fields and the poor came and picked from it, was at the heart of the Book of Ruth. Was gleaning only an ancient agricultural regulation, Stumberg wondered, or did it also apply to how he should steward a modern-day tech business?

“I was contextualizing what Boaz did,” said Stumberg, who sees God as the ultimate owner of his business and its office space. “The story of Boaz helped me name something the Lord was moving in my heart.”

Stumberg’s growing company, TengoInternet, was in the process of enlarging its offices, and he had been wrestling with a question: How much space do you need? Even though he was not farming grain, Stumberg felt compelled to follow the example of Boaz and leave margin for others.

“It’s like hospitality,” he said. “When we expanded our space, we built a couple extra offices and deliberately set them aside for others to work.” Allies Against Slavery, a nonprofit startup working to stop human trafficking, moved into one office. An Anglican priest occupied the other. Stumberg did not charge rent or supervise them. He simply invited them in, and they set to work.

What Stumberg would eventually discover is a less-discussed side of gleaning. Scripture describes gleaners as the poor, widows, orphans, and foreigners (Lev. 19:9–10, Deut. 24:19–22)­—in other words, those society has relegated to a lower social status due to ethnicity, religion, gender, ability, or other economic disadvantage. At the most basic level, it was a practical way to help provide for those in need and to remind everyone of God’s own provision.

Yet these gleaning …

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Interview: A New Recipe for Ending Hunger

We have a crisis too large for any one church, nonprofit, or government agency to handle on its own, says food policy expert Jeremy Everett.

Around 40 million Americans don’t have enough food to eat, and Jeremy Everett is on a mission to make that number zero. Everett, who has served on the National Commission on Hunger, is the founder and executive director of the Texas Hunger Initiative, based at Baylor University. In his new book, I Was Hungry: Cultivating Common Ground to End an American Crisis, Everett argues that hunger in the United States can be eliminated in our lifetime. Drawing upon the experience and expertise gained from decades of anti-hunger advocacy, Everett outlines why a collective and coordinated response to hunger is needed—and why, as Christians, this is a call we can’t ignore. Katie Thompson of the Center for Public Justice spoke with Everett about the causes of and solutions to hunger in America.

When most Americans think about the current crises facing our nation, I’d wager that food insecurity isn’t at the top of the list. Why do you describe it as a crisis?

Approximately 40 million Americans experience food insecurity. My view is that this particular group bears the weight of all the brokenness in our social systems. Often, we look at Americans experiencing hunger or food insecurity and place them in different categories than Americans who, say, lack access to healthcare, live in poverty, or struggle to find good jobs. But the reality, on the local level, is that these groups are all part of the same family. Their struggles are interconnected.

In my book, I refer to the “trade-offs” people confront each month. “Do I pay rent? Do I buy food? Do I pay for medication? Do I pay my car payment? Do I pay the electric bill?” They have to decide to prioritize specific expenses, because they …

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The Apostles Never ‘Shared’ the Gospel, and Neither Should We

Why it’s time to retire our favorite evangelistic phrase.

For some time now, American Christians have conceived of their witness in terms of “sharing the gospel.” Read any book or listen to any talk on personal evangelism, and you’ll inevitably encounter the phrase. On one level, the terminology is positive, conveying the gracious act of giving others a treasure we possess. However, if by “sharing” we imply a kind of charity where we only give the gospel to willing recipients, then our Christian vernacular has become a problem.

I first awakened to this reality while doing language study in Central Asia. As I took a course in spiritual terminology, a missionary teacher bemoaned the fact that many Westerners had imported the idea of sharing the gospel into the vocabulary of the local church. He asserted that such a concept was completely foreign—to their context and the Bible. Scripture, instead, spoke primarily of preaching the gospel, declaring and proclaiming a message.

But what, you might ask, could be wrong with sharing the gospel? Isn’t the greater problem that people aren’t sharing it at all? However, I’ve come to wonder if these dual realities aren’t somehow related, with the way we speak about evangelism imperceptibly affecting the way we do evangelism.

More Than Semantics

Throughout the Book of Acts, we find repeated examples of authoritative witness—even in the face of suffering—from the apostles and early church. We find them proclaiming the gospel and speaking boldly. We read of them persuading others. We see them reasoning from Scripture, both expounding and applying it. We observe them testifying before rulers and governors, bearing witness before civil crowds and angry mobs. What we don’t find …

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