How the church can help adoptions thrive

Demonstrating the gospel through meeting families’ needs

June 26, 2019

I had been the teaching pastor of my church for 14 years when I announced that my wife, Julie, and I were going to pursue foster-adopt ministry. Over the years, I had been open about being adopted. One tends to use his own life for illustrations—and since the New Testament references adoption (e.g., Rom. 8; Eph. 1:1–14)—telling my story helped folks connect the dots with Paul’s statements. 

Being supportive and staying present  

The church committed to support us in any way necessary— and they did. When Maggy and Molly stayed with us for the first time, they went to church for the first time. The congregation handled them well, treating them just like any other guests. People didn’t stare. When they spoke with the girls, they asked basic questions but didn’t probe. It seemed like the church was as excited as we were about the expansion of our ministry! The church hosted a gift and toy shower and prayed with us for the day when the girls would move into our home. The church’s enthusiastic support did not wane once the girls moved into our home—and that was when we really needed it.

Most foster or adoptive parents state that the first six months with the child or children are the most difficult. Everyone is in transition mode—and for many children, transitions bring to the surface fight-or-flight mechanisms. It would take two hands and all toes to count how often we called or texted church members pleading for prayer during the first six months Maggy and Molly were with us. So often we saw God’s Spirit bring clarity and calmness to our home as a result of the church’s prayers. Sometimes we would get texts or calls spontaneously as church members checked in on how things were going and told us they were praying for us.

But our church family did more than intercede in the crises. They developed relationships with the girls, creating emotional hooks the girls could grab hold of during the transition into our family. Parents of children in Maggy and Molly’s Sunday school class made sure that Maggy and Molly were invited to all the social events and birthday parties. Older ladies in the church asked the girls to sit with them at fellowship meals. Younger ladies asked Maggy and Molly to help with general housekeeping items and clean-up after church events. It seemed like everyone wanted to engage the girls in conversation, weaving Maggy and Molly’s stories into the plot God was unfolding in our church family.

And the church was literally present when we celebrated the finalization of the adoption. The courtroom was packed—so packed that when our attorney was asking me a set of formal questions during the hearing, he extemporaneously motioned to the audience and said, “Can you assure the court that you will continue to give these children the kind of love you and your church are demonstrating here today?” I replied yes with a sense of conviction rare even for a pastor. In God’s kind providence, a member of our church is a court reporter in our county. She took the day off work so she could sit in the audience and watch the proceedings. In more ways than one she had an insider’s perspective on the proceedings. She used her position to arrange for the judge—from the bench—to give Maggy and Molly gifts from our church. It is not every day that adopted kids get American Girl dolls from the man dressed in a black robe, the one everyone calls “Your Honor.”

Demonstrating the gospel 

Yes, what took place in the courtroom was a made-for-TV scene, but it represents so much more. Our adopted daughters were able to see in our church how the gospel shapes relationships, engenders loving service, compassion, and humility. Because of what God has done to rescue believers, the church has the unique capacity to meet the spiritual, emotional, and social needs of orphans. The characteristics of the local church match the needs of orphans. [Many] orphans have been lied to; the church is “the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). Orphans have wounds; the church is a “heart of compassion” (Col. 3:12). Orphans need instruction and the church is the original worldview academy (Col. 3:16). 

Since the adoption in November 2016, our church has continued to demonstrate the gospel to our daughters. At ladies’ tea parties or social events, the girls are invited to participate just as our biological daughters participate. If our girls misbehave in Sunday school class, teachers offer loving correction in the same way they would correct other kids. Moms with toddlers invite our girls to help them walk their children around the foyer before and after services. When our girls host a party at our home, moms from church bring their children if they are able. 

Our church has been successful in helping us with our adopted girls because our church has been natural. God operates his rescue plan through real people being real. The New Testament describes Christians as those who have been adopted into God’s family. We are called, forgiven, and welcomed. We address the God of creation and eternity as heavenly Father. So magnificent is our adoption that it is to flow out of us into the lives of the needy—like vulnerable children in our neighborhoods and around the world. We are funnels, giving kids safe homes and the message of God’s plan of adoption in Christ.

Excerpted from Until Every Child is Home: Why the Church Can and Must Care for Orphans by Todd Chipman (©2019). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.

Todd R. Chipman

Todd R. Chipman, Ph.D., has been the teaching pastor at The Master’s Community Church (SBC), Kansas City, Kansas, since 2000. Todd also serves as an assistant professor of Biblical Studies at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Todd and his wife Julie have five biological children and adopted a sibling set of … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24