(Photo: Saddleback Church/Jack Barry)
LAKE FOREST, CALIF. – A growing movement among Christians to combat a global orphan crisis should not just be a passing fad, an evangelical pastor insisted during the opening session of a two-day summit. Instead, caring for orphans should reflect the heart of God as shown in the Bible.
"Sometimes we can be faddish about justice issues, where it becomes the 'in' thing to do," said Crawford Loritts, the senior pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, Ga. "We need to see how profoundly, deeply rooted this (orphan care issue) is in the very heart of God. The Gospel is about justice, and justice is rooted in the Gospel. You cannot speak about the Bible without speaking about justice.
"The heart of God is a heart of inclusion. It's all about bringing people together. People were meant to be a part of something that's inclusive. People were meant to belong," Loritts explained.
A worldwide online audience and about 2,000 people in attendance at the Christian Alliance for Orphans' annual summit at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., were asked to take a step closer toward helping mobilize churches to end the crisis.
Jedd Medefind, president of the Alliance, urged Christians to help connect orphans to families "not from guilt, or from duty, or even idealism, but from the simple truth that He loved us first."
"That's why we say justice and mercy flows from the Gospel," Medefind added.
Saddlback Church lead pastor Rick Warren also took part in the opening session on Thursday by reading from the Bible and leading everyone in prayer. The conference (Summit VIII) is a first step at ending the crisis of 163 million orphans worldwide, he said.
"This is the beginning of the end. It's the end of orphans in the world," Warren said.
While addressing the crisis in the U.S., he said, "If just one church in every four churches got one family to adopt there would be no more orphans in America. It's not because we lack the resources, or lack the knowledge, or lack the skills… you are the skilled people who have been doing this… what we lack is the willingness for a group of people to say enough is enough, no more orphans."
Loritts, who was the featured speaker for the opening session, began by saying the orphan care cause was also a personal one for him. Twenty-six years ago, he and his wife adopted a girl less than two years old. He said he was blessed to see her become a Christian and a doctor.
Loritts expressed concern that the increased movement among Christians to help orphans not be short lived. The structure of family is a reflection of God's will in people's lives, he stressed.
"The real importance of the family is so that the signature of God is seen clearly…," he continued. "The family is a Gospel unit. That is the reason we do what we are called to do. Not because it's a fad. Not for something to do this season, but because the family is God's primary vehicle to give integrity to what He wants done instead of the world in which we live."
In order for Christians and the global church to maintain a strong effort in helping orphans they must shy away from putting all their trust in programs and their own plans, Loritts said.
"The only thing that can sustain this passion really is clarity of the Gospel. The Gospel is the reason you have a passion for those that are alienated. The Gospel is the reason you want to reach out. It's not about best practices. It's not about who is number one in this whole arena. The reason you are doing what you are doing is because of the Gospel. It is the Gospel itself that is the source of deliverance," he insisted.
Organizers of the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit say the conference has become a national hub for the orphan care movement.
During the two days, more than 80 workshops are scheduled and speakers planned for the plenary sessions in addition to Loritts, include Francis Chan, Rick and Kay Warren, Dennis Rainey, and worship music leader Steven Curtis Chapman.
On the Web, Summit VIII Webstream, http://www.summitviii.org/live/.