The Church is Full of Orphans

by John Wohlgemuth June 10, 2015

The New Testament gives us an understanding of the "life cycle" of a Christian--from birth through maturity. First Peter 2:2 calls us "newborn infants" longing for "the pure spiritual milk" that helps us "grow up into salvation." I want us to think about that imagery not in a personal context but in the context of the church. If new believers are similar to babies, we must then begin to think about the healthiest way for them to grow up and to be nurtured.

Our world is full of orphans (one estimate puts the number at 153 million - or roughly half the population of the United States). Thankfully, many Christians and some others have organized funding and support for orphanages around the world. But every one of us understands that an orphanage is not the best nurturing environment for a baby. If no other option exists then it is better than nothing (that's why James commands true Christians to care for them in 1:27), but a nuclear family is the God-ordained best means for a child to mature, to be provided for, to be instructed, and to be loved.

This reality is no different in the church. For comparison's sake (and don't push this too far), we could compare the large church gathering on Sunday to an orphanage. Here's how this has worked in the past and even in the present. A person trusts Christ as Savior and Lord, and what do we often do with them? We invite them to "church" (meaning, the Sunday morning large group gathering). We hope that they will receive the spiritual nourishment, direction, and love that they need, but in reality that often does not happen. That person gets lost in the crowd, gets enough to stay alive, yes, but never really flourishes in what they were created for. They feel more like a number than a family member.

Now compare that scenario to a different (seemingly more biblical) approach. Say that same person comes to trust in Christ. Instead of inviting them to an event, we invite them into our lives. We invite them into our "family," so to speak, where there are just a few of us in intimate relationship sharing life together. What I mean by this is a group of a few people not only meeting to study the Bible and to pray and to hold each other accountable, but people who go on errands together, eat meals together, serve the community together, etc. As these elements of life are shared, questions are asked, theology is clarified, and obedience to Christ in every area of life is modeled. There is no doubt that the new believer will receive the spiritual nourishment, direction, and love they need. Not only do they get enough to stay alive, they actually flourish and mature as a member of a family.

Does it not make more sense to raise up a "child" in this way rather than in an "orphanage"? My challenge to us, church, is to take all of these orphans (physical orphans too!) into our lives and make them a part of a forever family, where they will receive all that they need to live the abundant life that Jesus has promised His children (John 10:10). You may not be the next Billy Graham, but you might be the one to disciple him.

All it takes is one. So who is your one?