What is the Church’s role in family restoration?

Serving orphans by investing in birth families

January 9, 2020

Family comes in many different forms. There are nuclear families, extended families, and blended families. Some families grow through childbearing and some grow through fostering or adoption. And then there is the church family. 

From the very beginning, Scripture speaks to the importance of family. In Genesis 2:18, God says it isn’t good for man to be alone as he proceeds to create Eve. Adam’s response is beautiful poetry, and Scripture describes the union of husband and wife as a bond of one flesh, never meant to be broken. We see God establish the first family with the command to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth . . .” (Gen 1:28). Marriage is a metaphorical expression of the gospel, of the profound mystery that is the union of Christ and his Bride (Eph. 5).

The physical family is a picture of the spiritual family that Christ has purchased with his blood: the Church. The New Testament speaks frequently of the Church functioning as a family. God is our Father (Matt. 6:9).Romans 8 even tells us that we have “received the Spirit of adoption as sons” (v.15) and that “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children then heirs” (v.16).  And in their many letters, the apostles refer to the readers as brothers and sisters. 

It’s obvious that family is important to our heavenly Father. Likewise, it should be important to us, his Church. So what are some ways that we can minister in a fallen creation where we continually see the family being attacked both from without and within? We are to bear with one another, to lift up the broken hearted, and be ambassadors of Christ to the hurting and vulnerable. 

Remembering the whole family

We celebrated National Adoption Month at the end of last year. While adoption is an important and beneficial option in our work of orphan care, it can not be our only option. According to a study published in 2012, about 37% of children who are placed in foster care then reunited with their birth family will later re-enter foster care. So what about these children? What can we do to care for them?

There are ministries of all kinds in regards to orphan care. Some are preventative, some help the immediate need, and some address the lasting effects. All types are needed. But what if in our desire to help vulnerable children in our midst, we are also able to care for the parents? Most of the parents in these situations are a product of generational cycles with little chance of breaking free without outside intervention. In addition, how can there be a truly lasting change without the presence of Christ and his gospel? 

Helping restore broken families

A ministry our church has been involved over the past year is called Families Count. It is a parenting class/program designed by Lifeline Children’s Services that works on the front end of the orphan crisis in an effort to prevent children from entering or repeatedly re-entering state care by providing birth parents with tools, support, and education to help them be successful. 

Providing education, support, resources, and the gospel to a hurting family does more than put a bandaid on a gaping wound; it provides an environment for true and lasting healing to begin.

Here is where family restoration comes in. The Church has a wonderful opportunity to be  ambassadors of Christ by ministering to not only the children but the family as a whole in hopes that the family will be able to stay together. In the past year, through the Families Count program, we have had over 70 parents come through the doors of our church that might not have otherwise. Over the course of the 6-week class, our church has the opportunity to provide meals for these parents, care for their children during class, and mentor them during difficult seasons both on and off campus. Honestly, we have all learned how to become friends with someone not like us. 

On occasion, we have provided school supplies and Christmas presents. However, this ministry is not about meeting material needs alone, but about proclaiming the value and worth in people who feel overlooked, unworthy, and unloved. We have been challenged and stretched to step out of our comfort zone in order to welcome others by our words, actions, and environment. But most importantly, we have been able to share the truth of the gospel each week of class, beginning with the truth that each parent is valuable because they are made in the image of God. The material presented is practical, memorable, and is shared in an unassuming and loving environment.

Providing education, support, resources, and the gospel to a hurting family does more than put a bandaid on a gaping wound; it provides an environment for true and lasting healing to begin. We have seen children restored to their parents, and we have seen hope replace the burden of brokenness. I will never forget one young man who was so wrecked and low when he started class that he would not make eye contact and barely spoke to anyone. Now, he comes and shares his testimony with new parents. He shares about receiving custody of his son after taking the class and how it not only gave him the tools to be a better dad but helped him realize his past mistakes don’t define who he is and how that gave him hope.  

This is messy and uncomfortable work that the church must step into with hands open to what the Lord wants to accomplish. It is a ministry in which you will not see frequent and glaring successes. But it is a necessary response to a crisis. And when you do see success, it is sweet and brings many tears of thanksgiving to simply be a part of the great work that the Lord is doing. 

I encourage you to start asking yourself and your church a few questions: “What is our role? What can we do to restore the broken and vulnerable in our community? How can we truly be ambassadors of Jesus to those who are overlooked and hurting?” Be ready. When you ask these questions with a sincere heart, the Lord will provide a way for you to join in his Kingdom work. 

Lindsey Teat

Lindsey is an Alabama native, pastor's wife and mom of four awesome kiddos. She loves encouraging others in their walk with Christ and is passionate about serving those who are vulnerable. Lindsey is an advocate for orphan care and family restoration and currently leads a ministry serving vulnerable families in her community. … 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