Panel discusses neglected children

Baptist Press

6/17/2013 3:22:18 PM - Baptist Press
HOUSTON (BP) -- "As the people of God, it is essential that we care about what He cares about, and He cares about the neglected."

This was Al Gilbert's charge during a panel discussion on the biblical call to love neglected children around the world. Gilbert, North American Mission Board vice president for evangelism, hosted the discussion June 12 at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.

Sponsored by NAMB's LoveLoud team, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and the Gospel Project of LifeWay Christian Resources, the event featured dialog on the church's role in loving and caring for neglected children within the context of biblical justice.

"We're honored to facilitate the conversation amongst Southern Baptists when it comes to the neglected," Gilbert said. "We want to see our churches respond to social issues like this in a Gospel-centered way."

The meeting featured a panel including Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; Johnny Carr, director of church partnerships for Bethany Christian Services; Tyrone Barnette, pastor of Peace Baptist Church in Decatur, Ga.; and D.A. Horton, executive director of ReachLife Ministries.

Panel members urged Southern Baptists to respond to God's call to love neglected children in their communities and to offer guidance on issues of mentorship, fostering, adoption, special needs ministry and biblical manhood.

"In our churches, we have families in financial and relational poverty and children who need to be mentored and guided," Carr said. "This is where we as a church must intercede to take care of these people in the ways in which they need it the most."

"In my community," Barnette said, "the absence of fathers is a huge issue. We started mentorship programs to try and raise up biblical men and strong families. Things like fostering or even adopting a neglected child can do the same thing. It's certainly not easy but can be a gateway to life change."

Panel members said programs like this must not be viewed as one-time projects, but rather, as a way of life and state of the heart in the church. This, they said, begins with church leadership.

"Leadership sets the rhythm for the community," Horton said. "Our church leaders must look at loving the neglected as more than a project; it has to be the culture of the church."

Moore said Jesus didn't call His followers "to reach people who are already thriving and healed. We have to ask ourselves, 'Who are the people that I am to love and how as a church can we do that?' We must see people as a whole, the way Christ sees them, and minister to the whole of their needs."

For more information on NAMB's LoveLoud ministry, visit namb.net/loveloud.

Sara Shelton writes for the North American Mission Board.

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