About This Blog

Monday, November 17, 2014

"A Passion for the Fatherless" (Daniel J. Bennett)

TITLE: A Passion for the Fatherless: Developing a God-Centered Ministry to Orphans
AUTHOR: Daniel J. Bennett
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2014, (240 pages).

Experts estimate the number of orphans globally stands at 163 million. In the United States alone, there are 425,000 of which 115,000 are waiting to be adopted. We may shudder at the numbers or be horrified at the huge quantity of fatherless. What about our compassion? Is it not God's will for us to care for the poor, the weak, the vulnerable, widows and orphans? Bennett believes that it is not only what God wanted the Church to do, it is also a very powerful "apologetic" when believers stand together to support the fatherless. Whether it is fostering, adopting, mentoring, or simply supporting, the transformation can go much more. Not only will orphans be reached and cared for, the ones who reached out will also be transformed.

Daniel J. Bennett is Senior Pastor of Bethany Community Church in central Illinois whose passion for orphans accelerated after his stint as a Family Pastor in 2005. He has adopted a child too. He notes how people caring for foster children are able to open up conversations about God as well. He describes his convictions as follows.

"My compassion for orphans flow from the fact that I know God and know that he passionately cares for the fatherless. I love orphans because I love God. If I did not have this theological understanding, my passion for orphans would be commendable but ultimately worthless." (19)

Bennett intentionally structured this book beginning with a theological treatment of the topic of orphans and care, and who God is. This is followed by an exposition of the Church's calling to care for orphans. Finally, the ministry particulars and the practical steps are described. He had initially reversed the steps, leading to a less than enthusiastic response from his Church leaders. Thankfully, while his convictions remained the same, his flexibility helped change the leaders. He states four reasons why this book is important.

  1. "We must do the right things for the right reasons"
  2. "Children are in need"
  3. "Christians are not thinking biblically about caring for orphans"
  4. "The Church lacks teaching resources"

From the Bible, Bennett argues that caring for orphans is a powerful response to the grace of God. What we do is a result of our appreciation of God's care for us. He points out some of the skewed reasons for caring for the disenfranchised. He does not agree with Rob Bell's using the Church to fight social ills; nor Brian McLaren's call to social action as part of the emergent movement. The key disagreement is that many groups like Bell's and McLaren's tend to focus on social change "at the expense of the gospel." Bennett goes back to Exodus to see how God showed compassionate for the enslaved Israelites. He identifies the four groups of disenfranchised people: 1) Foreigners; 2) Widows; 3) Orphans; and 4) the Poor. He goes to the gospels to share about the compassion of Christ. He then proposes a theology of adoption as a reminder from the book of Romans that we were beneficiaries of being adopted by God in the first place.

If Part One of the book is about God's calling for the individual, Part Two of the book is about God's calling for the Church, that the reasons for mission and the reasons for orphan care are essentially the same. Both rely on God's blessings. Both proclaim the gospel, and both end in "ethnically diverse worship." Having said that, he warns about situations in which we ought to refrain. Situations like people adopting children simply because they have to have children. This is called idolatry of children. Another situation is when we have not adequately counted the cost, discontent, or just relying on our own strength. That said, Bennett encourages us that while the work of care can be difficult and trying, we can see the faithfulness of God in action. He gives us four tips on discerning God's will: 1) Search the Word; 2) Seek godly counsel; 3) Seek after the Lord; 4) Submit to God in our circumstances. Chapter 10 is a useful resource on how to garner support from the Church leadership. Part Three focuses on how to start an Orphan Care Ministry in our Church. The important thing is to be anchored in the basics provided in the earlier two parts before embarking upon this step.

So What?

This resource-filled book on how to care for orphans is a primer on orphan care. By equating missions with orphan care, the author has argued passionately that social action is a direct working out of the gospel, and not a replacement for the gospel. It is the gospel that drives the charitable work. It is the love of God that compels us to care for the poor, the vulnerable, and for Bennett, the orphans. Readers will be quick to sense how convicted Bennett is with regards to orphans. Theologically, it is tightly linked with a theology of adoption. Practically, it calls us toward action because that is God's will for us to care. Different churches will need to adopt their strategies according to the needs and contexts they are in. Perhaps your church already have a policy or practice of caring for orphans. Good for you. Maybe this book can further enhance your offerings, especially the theological and biblical principles behind adoption. Perhaps, your Christian community are ready to do something, but do not know where to start. This book will be a primer to do just that.

I know some readers would be cautious about putting all our eggs into one basket of orphan care. I do not think that is what Bennett is asking us to do. His primary purpose is to get our communities to start paying attention to the great need of orphans, and to bring into view something that society has largely ignored. On a relative scale, there are already many soup kitchens, mission agencies, homeless shelters, thrift shops, and other charitable organizations. When it comes to orphan care, there are not many around to get the Church into action. This book, and the organizations represented would be a good place to start for any community who want to start moving into this area of need.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Kregel Academic in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

No comments:

Post a Comment