A Biblical Mandate
About the Guest
Today on the broadcast, Rick Warren, pastor of the widely acclaimed Saddleback Church in Southern California, tells Dennis Rainey why the Body of Christ should be concerned about the plight of the orphan.
Rick Warren tells why the Body of Christ should be concerned about the plight of the orphan.
A Biblical Mandate
Rick: I've said, "Take me out to a village. I just want to see a typical church." So we get in the jeep, and we go out to the middle of nowhere. And we're going all over these roads and stuff, and we get out into this village, and there is a tent church there. All it is is a tent, nothing else, just a tent. Fifty adults and 25 children orphaned by AIDS.
Now, here is a church that has nothing but a tent, and it's 50 adults caring for their own kids plus 25 kids who have lost their mommies and daddies, and they're feeding them from a garden they're growing there, and I looked at that, and I thought, "This church is doing more to help orphans and to help the poor than my megachurch." Something broke my heart.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, November 15th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We'll hear today what happened when God broke Rick Warren's heart and what he decided to do about it.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. This week we're joining with friends from Focus on the Family, Crown Financial Ministries, other ministries and organizations, folks like Shaohannah's Hope, trying to get the word out about the need – there are 143 million orphans worldwide, and we believe God is calling us, as Christians, to respond to that need in some way.
And for a lot of us, Dennis, we've never come face-to-face with it like Rick Warren had never come face-to-face with it, and so as a result we don't recognize that there is a great need.
Dennis: It's a group of people who have no voice but, frankly, those who proclaim to be followers of Christ should each have a megaphone when it comes to presenting the needs of the orphan. And we are having an opportunity today, Bob, to feature a guest and a man who has become a good friend, Rick Warren. Rick and Kay have a heart that beats according to the Scripture, and one of the areas they have a heart about and a heart for is the orphan, and they invited me to come out about a year ago and speak at their International AIDS Conference there at Saddleback.
And we began to develop a relationship around a common mission, and it's really cool, Bob, that we had the privilege to speak together at Focus on the Family at a gathering of more than 300 churches and Christian organizations all around the needs of orphans, of foster care, and of adoption.
And Rick spoke and, as a listener, you are in for a treat. In fact, if you have a seatbelt, cinch it up a little bit because the prophet, Rick Warren, is going to speak. He has a little bit of a prophetic edge to him that kind of cries out to the Christian community, you know, we need to be about the things that are on the heart of God, and one of those things – and it's not a thing, it's a person, one of the people groups that are on the heart of God are orphans.
Bob: You know, when the conference that you're talking about that took place out at Focus on the Family, when it was concluded, and I was debriefing with people about what had gone on at the conference, almost universally people said to me, "Rick Warren nailed it." So we're going to hear this week on FamilyLife Today Rick Warren nailing it.
Dennis: No doubt about it, in fact, we played a part of this message for our staff here at FamilyLife, it was so good, and, frankly, I think our listeners may want to call a friend or two and tell them if they don't get a chance to hear it on the broadcast, to go to FamilyLife.com and click on FamilyLife Today there and listen to it over the Internet.
Bob: Well, here is part 1 of Rick Warren's message on the plight of the orphan.
Rick: [from audiotape.] I want to begin with a Scripture that you're going to hear maybe dozens of times in this summit – James, chapter 1, verse 22. "Do not merely listen to the Word, do what it says." Do not merely listen to the Word and deceive yourselves, do what it says. Christians are often called believers, but believing is just part of what the Christian life is all about. It's also belonging, and it's also becoming, and it's also doing.
And James gets very specific in verse 26 – "If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself, and his religion is worthless." That's pretty clear.
Religion that God, our Father, accepts is pure and faultless and this – to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself pure from being polluted by the world.
I am ashamed to say that until about five years ago, I really didn't understand this verse. Oh, I've read it hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of times, but it never sunk in until in 2002, a couple of things happened. One, my wife got cancer and, two, I wrote a bestseller. And it was greatest and worst year of my life combined. Typically, that often happens. I don't believe in hills and valleys. I believe that life is a railroad, and you have something good and something bad always happening in your life at the same time. And no matter how bad things are, there's something you can thank God for and no matter how good things are, there's something to work on – always in your life.
And God had to get my attention through my wife. Kay, one day was reading an article on HIV AIDS in Africa, and she came upon the statistic that said 40 million children in Africa orphaned by AIDS. Forty million children orphaned by AIDS in one continent. And she said, "I threw that on the ground," and I wish she was here to tell her own story, because she said, "I had to admit, I didn't know a single orphan, not one." And she said, "God spoke to me and said, 'Now, Kay, you can do one of two things. You can let this pain into your heart, and you can feel it, and you can let it change your life, or you can shut it off and just keep on going with your life as a pastor's wife, Bible teacher, soccer mom, suburban wife.'"
My wife is the most courageous person I've ever met, and she said, "I decided to let that into my heart – 40 million would be orphaned by AIDS by the year 2015" – 15 million right now in the world, 40 million by 2015.
I listened, but I said, "It's not my vision. I'm going to support you in it. My vision is to keep doing what I've always done – pastor one church for life and train pastors." But as my wife began to talk about orphans and as began to talk about AIDS, it began to grab my heart. We have a saying at our house – the most powerful language is pillow talk. Somebody knows what I'm talking about. It's when you're laying in bed at night, and nobody else is around, and nobody is disturbing you, and you talk about the things that are really on your heart.
The husband may be the head of the family, but the wife is the neck that turns the head. And what grabbed my wife's heart grabbed my heart, and I could not avoid it. It was orphans in Africa that first exposed me. I understand how much bigger it is than that today, but that's what first got her attention, and that's what got mine.
And I said, "Where do the global giants lurk? What are the problems that are so big that nobody's been able to solve them? I call them the "Global Goliaths" – not millions of people but billions of people. And I thought about all of the dozens and dozens of countries I've been in, and I kept seeing the five same problems over and over and over. They are the five Global Goliaths.
Number one is spiritual emptiness. People don't know that there is more to life than just here and now. They don't know that they were made by God and for God and until they understand that, life will never make sense. They don't know that Jesus Christ died on the cross for them to pay for all their sins so that they could have their past forgiven, have a purpose for living and have a home in heaven.
The number-one need in the world is spiritual emptiness. That's what as it was pointed out earlier, "The Purpose-Driven Life" is now the bestselling hardback in American history. Why? It's not a well-written book. In fact, there's not even anything new in it that hasn't been said in historic Christianity. It's just that's the greatest need – what on earth am I here for?
The second biggest problem is egocentric leadership – leadership that thinks that the purpose of followers is to help me instead of vice-versa. It's not servant leadership. Most people, when they start off in leadership, they start off genuinely meaning to make a difference. But somehow in life, the tables switch, and they go from service to serve us. And, all of a sudden, its all about staying in office or retaining power, and there are little Saddams everywhere in every church, in every business, in every academic setting, in every government, shoot, they're in every homeowners' association.
You give a guy a little bit of power, and he turns into Stalin. "No, you can't paint your door." Most people do not have the spiritual maturity to handle power. They don't have the maturity, the character, to handle influence, and it goes to their head, and they don't realize the purpose of influence is for others. It's for others.
So spiritual emptiness, egocentric leadership, poverty – half the world lives on $2 a day, a billion people live on less than $1 a day. I'm working in countries like Rwanda where the average income is 68 cents a day. They grow coffee in Rwanda, and they sell it to Starbuck's, but they couldn't afford a cup of Starbuck's on a day's wage.
The fourth biggest problem on the planet is pandemic diseases. This year, 500 million people will get malaria in the world. Friends, this is not rocket science. We figured that one out 100 years ago in Teddy Roosevelt's administration. They wiped it out of Panama in about two years. Nobody gets malaria in Florida anymore. Why? We wiped it out. Then why do 500 million people get it each year? Because we don't have the leaders who say, "Enough is enough. We're not going to put up with this anymore."
We know the cure for water borne eye diseases, for measles, malaria, mumps, for typhus and yellow fever, for the number-one killer of children in the world, diarrhea. When the tsunami hit in Southeast Asia, everybody was upset because 240,000 people died. Yeah. But do you realize that we have a tsunami every eight days in the world among children? Thirty thousand children die every single day from preventable diseases. That means we have a tsunami every eight days. And we don't have the leaders that care.
The fifth biggest problem is illiteracy. It's a Global Goliath. Half of the world is functionally illiterate, it can't read or write. I don't care if you wire the world with broadband. If you can't read or write, you're left out.
Now, these problems are so big, everybody's failed at them – the United Naitons, the United States. Only one thing big enough in the world to solve these problems is the massive distribution network called "the church, the church of Jesus Christ" – God's people all around the world in all their expressions.
Now, I don't have time to go into that, but let me just say this – through every one of those problems, you have a common factor – orphans. And what we discovered is that this is so complex, you can't attack one without attacking all five. And when you deal with orphans, you're going to have to deal with education, you're going to have to deal with disease, you're going to have to deal with poverty, you're going to have to deal with corrupt leadership who put kids into forced prostitution. You're going to have to deal with the spiritual emptiness. You have to deal with all of them if you care about orphans.
And I committed and Kay committed the rest of our lives to work on the church attacking these five global giants of spiritual emptiness, egocentric leadership, extreme poverty, pandemic diseases, and rampant illiteracy. But today it's my privilege to talk to you about this issue that underlies all of them from the next generation, and that is the issue of orphans.
There are, right now, in America, about 115,000 children awaiting adoption – 115,000, right now, in America. Around the world, you can guess somewhere between 150 million and 160 million orphans. Now, let's just put this in perspective. That's more than half of the United States population growing up without mommies or daddies. Friends, that is anarchy waiting to happen.
Why must we care, why must we care about orphans? There are five important reasons. Number one, because God commands it. Though God's Word commands us to care. Caring for orphans is not an option. It's not, "Oh, I'd like to do this in my spare time." To ignore caring for orphans is not just wrong, it's disobedience – to not care about orphans is disobedience.
Let me read that Scripture again. If anyone considers himself religious and does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God, our Father, accepts is as pure and faultless as this. And there are two parts, listen – two parts to pure and faultless religion. That means a true, genuine faith – "Practical charity and personal purity." That's it in a nutshell – practical charity and personal purity. Practical charity, he says, specifically toward widows and orphans and personal purity where you keep yourself pure.
Now, the problem that we've had is that most Christians tend to go to one of the other focus and ignore the other one. We've got some people who, what they do, is they only focus on personal morality. And they're good, moral people from a personal standpoint. They have sexual purity, they've got financial integrity, they've got all these other things, and their personal lifestyle is quite pure. But they couldn't care less about the poor, the sick, and the uneducated, and they haven't done zip for those people.
On the other hand, you have some Christians who do all social ministry, social justice, and they have personal, or practical, charity, and they are caring for the sick, and they are feeding the poor, and they are educating those who are illiterate. But what you do in your personal life, they say, is really between you and God, and it's really none of your business. Well, they're wrong, too.
The fact is, both matter to God, both are important – personal purity, practical charity. Psalm 82, verse 3 says, "Defend the weak and the orphan, defend the rights of the poor and suffering." And then Isaiah 1:17 says, "Learn to do good, seek justice, help the oppressed, defend the orphan, fight for the rights of widows." And then Proverbs 31, verse 8 says, "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Defend the rights of all those who have nothing."
The point here is it's repeatedly in the Bible, God tells us that we are to defend orphans, we are to help orphans and widows, we are to care for orphans, we are to speak up for orphans, we are to protect orphans, we are to ensure justice for orphans, and these are not optional. And we must care because God cares.
Now listen closely – if you want God's blessing on your life, and I know you do; if you want God's power in your life; if you want God's anointing on your life then you must care about what God cares about most.
Bob: Well, that is part 1 of a message from Rick Warren, a message that was given to a group of folks who work in the area of orphan care, adoption ministries, in churches and in private organizations all around the world. In some sense, he was preaching to the choir, but we had a chance to have him turn away from the choir and turn to the rest of the congregation today and let them hear the message, too, right?
Dennis: So much of the Christian faith, Bob, I think is treated a la carte. Like we can sample some here, take some here, try a little bit of this. This is the main stuff, this is the entree of the Christian life – to be a part of bringing justice to the oppressed, to the weak, to the fatherless, to the orphan, and what we're challenging people to do along with a group of 300 other churches and organizations from all across the country, we are challenging you, as a layman, to start an orphan care, foster care adoption ministry however you want to start it in your local church.
And we've put together a book that is very simple in terms of how you can go about establishing an orphan care ministry and begin this process of enabling your church to address the needs of those who have no voice. And, personally, Bob, I think the burden for this needs to be upon us, as laymen, it shouldn't be upon the pastoral staff, upon the senior pastor to lead this.
In fact, in congregation after congregation across our country, there are laymen and women today who are leading out and you know what? They're already beginning to experience the blessing that Rick talked about – hard work, no doubt about it, but let me tell you something, there is something satisfying about addressing the needs of those who are helpless, and there are a lot of orphans today that are helpless.
Bob: Let me make sure you'd agree with this – you would agree that it's very important to believe the right stuff, wouldn't you?
Dennis: I would.
Bob: To act on what you believe takes it up a notch, doesn't it?
Dennis: You know, the most important thing is what you think about God, and then, ultimately, what you think about what He said. And if you take that seriously, you've got to do something about it. And we can't do all things. As followers of Christ, we can't run helter-skelter all over the planet, but you know what we can do? We can say, you know what? I will have a dimension of my following Christ that expresses the heart of God, the compassion of God.
And I think what Rick was really pointing to in his message, Bob, is the Christian community really needs to have the dimension of compassion, of helping those who can't help us, who can't ever pay us or give us something back. But instead we need to let the love of Christ be manifested to those who desperately need our attention.
Bob: And I think there are people who would say, "I know that, and I know I need to respond that way, but I just don't know what specifically I ought to be doing." And our team has put together a kit that we call the "Hope for Orphans Kit." It includes a resource called "Ten Ways Every Christian Can Care for the Orphan and Waiting Child." It suggests different things you can do. You can look through there and say, "Okay, that's the one I need to be doing. We need to start an orphan's ministry in our church, and I'll help make that happen," or "I could get a group together, and we can look at doing a short-term missions trip to care for orphans, and here is how I'd go about setting that up."
This kit tries to lay out the different options that are available and then walks you, step-by-step, through how to execute, how to take the desire that's in your heart and turn it into something that will make a difference in the life of an orphan. We include a resource on how to launch and orphan's ministry in your church that has a DVD with it. And there is a DVD where you, Dennis, and your wife, Barbara, speak to the needs of the orphans. This is something you can show to others as a way to raise their awareness. Maybe that's a part of what God would have you do to help get the word out to others so that more of us can be involved in caring for the needs of the orphan and the waiting child around the world.
If you'd like a copy of this kit, we're making it available this week to as many of our listeners who would contact us to get it. All we're asking for is a donation of any amount to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today and help cover the costs of getting these resources out to you.
Go to our website, FamilyLife.com. The red button that says "Go," in the middle of the home page. If you click that button, it will take you to an area where you can request a copy of this kit, and as you fill out your donation form online, there is a keycode box. If you'll just write the word "Orphan" in there, we'll know that you want to get a copy of this kit sent out to you.
Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-358-6329, and just mention when you call that you want the Hope for Orphans Kit. Make a donation of any amount over the phone, that helps cover the costs of getting these resources to you and the other costs associated with this ministry, and we'll be happy to send it out to you, and our hope is that once you get it, you'll look through it, and it will give you some guidance on what you can do next to express your compassion, your care, for orphans all around the world.
Well, tomorrow we're going to hear part 2 of Rick Warren's message on how we can respond with compassion and with love to the needs of the orphan all around the world. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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