There’s this problem sometimes with the questions we ask and it stems from the way we think. Like when we ask, “Are you a ‘glass is half empty’ or ‘glass is half full’ kind of person?” we’re attempting to limit the response to those two perspectives because they’re the only perspectives we are able to see. Of course, one perspective attempts to make the best of the situation, but the fact remains that half the liquid is missing from the glass.
Thankfully, there are some people in this world who are able to think beyond the limitations of multiple choice. For instance, if you asked my husband that same question, he would say, “That’s not my cup. My cup overflows.” Now that’s a great response because it acknowledges that beyond this metaphorical half-filled glass exists an intangible, yet real, supply of goodness so immense that, if you were to pour it into a glass, the glass itself would never be able to contain it.
Now let me tell you a story. There were people who wanted descendants but as every year passed and the remaining days of their lives grew fewer, they still had no offspring. As they grew frailer and weaker, the impending termination of their life glared at them, and they felt the brevity in very real terms- there were no progeny to carry on their name, lifestyle or traditions. Their prospect was hopeless at best.
My friends, this is not a story about an infertile couple. This is the up-to-date news on the church. As a matter of fact, Barna Group did a study and published in 2011 that 59% of “Christians disconnect either permanently or for an extended period of time from church life after age 15.” One of the main hangups these kids have is with “church ignoring the problems of the real world.” Others cited that “God seems missing from my experience of church.” In essence, they say the church has lost its true focus and its ability to remain relevant. Some even criticize that “church is like a country club, only for insiders.” If the church does not change, then, in real world applications, we’re looking at a “church is half empty” experience in about 15 years.
Or maybe we aren’t.
Look at these stats. There are over 114,000 children in the United States that are available to adopt through foster care right now, at this very moment. Every year, 23,000 or more of them “age out” of the system, which means they turn 18 and, since they don’t have a family they belong to, they begin life on their own with little guidance or support. Ultimately, they grow into adults who are at a higher risk than their peers of being unemployed, homeless, pregnant, convicted of a crime, and uneducated. Why don’t these kids succeed? A person can only do as well as they’ve been taught. For these kids, that means they follow the example of their birth parents who, as you’ll note, are the very reason these kids ended up in foster care in the first place. In fact, more than half of the young women who age out of foster care will have children who also enter foster care.
But what if we could change that? What if Christians adopted these 114,000 children- and fostered the more than 400,000 foster children- and taught them a new way to live? Instead of perpetuating the cycle of moral and economical bankruptcy that plagued their parents, through growing up in the love of Christ, they would learn to be invaluable members of the church, not to mention society at large. But could the changed lives of 114,000 people really change the future of the church? Yes, actually it could. And not only for those 114,000, but for the 59% who are leaving. Why? Because when Christians care for orphans they put God’s love into practice and this gets noticed by everyone, including their own children. What a highly relevant way to testify to our children that the
country club church obediently follows God and that everyone is welcome, including the vulnerable and defenseless.
People, why are we measuring the future number of our congregations- that is, Christ’s composite church- against the number of members we currently have? The question is not, “How many of our children will remain faithful to the church?” but rather, “How many of us will live out the faith to love others and spread His message of hope?” Asking the right question brings about the right response. When we reshape the future of an entire generation of foster and adoptive children, we propagate to our nation (and the world) that Christians are a group of loving and kind people who see the challenges presented by a world full of corruption and, instead of ignoring it or falling into despair, we choose to spread THE message of hope.
And His church will not be half full or half empty- His church will overflow.