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Pastors, Care for the Fatherless

 
Blair Linne | Oct. 1, 2021

Pastors, when you consider caring for orphans, please include the fatherless.

When we think of an orphan we may hold an image of Pip from Great Expectations, or Annie, or some other classic stray character we were raised on. To bring it into real life we may think only of the 400,000 children in foster care or the 120,000 children waiting to be adopted in the U.S.

The truth is that our view of the orphan is modest. Consider that these children are included in the 18.3 million children in the U.S. living without a biological father, step-father or adoptive father in their home. That potentially means that 1 in 4 children sitting in your pews do not have their father living with them.

Orphans struggle in insurmountable ways because of their fathers’ absence. God in his omniscience anticipates the needs of the fatherless. Not only does he express his heart toward the fatherless by declaring that he is a “Father to the fatherless” (Psalm 68:5), but he also tells the church to care for the fatherless as well.

I want to share with you three ways that you, as a pastor, can care for the fatherless.

"Our adoption has given us a Father. Not only do we have a Father in God but we have a family in the church."

1. Remind Fatherless Children Of Their Heavenly Father

We have a beautiful inheritance as children of God. God in his mercy has saved us and allowed us to have fellowship with him. Because of our brother Jesus' perfect obedience, sacrificial death on the cross, and resurrection, we have been declared righteous and brought into God’s presence. God the Father has adopted us into his holy genealogy through faith. Because of this every child of God has a Father. Please remind us fatherless children of that fact often. “(We) have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:15-16).

Fatherless children often project their feelings about their biological father onto God. When your earthly father is absent it is easy to think that your heavenly Father is too. When you emphasize that our Father is here, it helps us to grow in our understanding of him and shaves away the misconceptions, allowing us to worship rightly. Please pastor, point our attention to the beautiful family line we are a part of through our union with Christ. Our adoption has given us a Father. Not only do we have a Father in God but we have a family in the church.

2. Make Nurturing Whole-Person Discipleship a Priority

Discipleship is connected to the great commission of going out, sharing the gospel and teaching the convert all that Jesus commanded. What I think often happens is that discipleship is looked at in a general manner when it comes to spiritual concerns while many other pressing issues are overlooked. Think about how, for a fatherless child, there may be areas where they are lacking because there was no father around to teach them. Now that we are in Christ we are a new redeemed family (Luke 8:21; 1 Timothy 5:2).

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What would it look like to gather fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord and discuss the impact the scriptures have not only on their spiritual life, but on their physical, mental and emotional life as well? What would it look like to teach spiritual sons and daughters of God how to balance a budget, consider a career, or love their wife well? How beautiful if an older father in the faith pulled in younger men and taught them about the fatherhood they never experienced. What would it look like for godly men and women to create a small group for fatherless children to be taught about identity, true beauty, and faithful manhood?

These are just some of the ways that we can expand our idea of discipleship by being mindful of the pressing needs that the fatherless have. Invite fatherless children into your home for a meal, have family worship with them, and seek to build them up. Just as we would seek to fill in the gaps that we observe in our biological children, may spiritual fathers help fill in the gaps of the fatherless children they are now united with through Christ’s blood. May we not only engage in holistic familial discipleship but may it be done in a safe environment.

"Keeping oneself unstained from the world not only helps your own soul as a shepherd but the soul and body of the fatherless who God says to protect."

3. Seek to Create a Safe Church Environment for the Orphan

James 1:27 says that Christians should visit those who are fatherless and “keep oneself unstained from the world”. There have been several cases of spiritual, sexual, and emotional abuse in churches brought to light recently. I am glad they have been brought to light so that the sin of abuse can be exposed and repented of in order that the church be a safe place where those who desire to live a godly life can thrive. I am also sad that they have been brought to light because it shows how much of a problem this sin is in many of our churches.

Most times, an abuser is a person with power: an elder, pastor, or youth pastor. A fatherless child may have difficulty trusting a person in leadership to begin with, but when they open their heart up to those in authority and are taken advantage of, it's crushing and can be faith-crumbling. Unrepentant sin by someone you have esteemed as a godly pastor is a blemish that can take years to erase. It can hinder the church member and make opening up to the household of faith something they are unwilling to even gamble with in the future. If pastors would only take the pastoral qualifications seriously, then it will be a great start to ward off the temptation to snuggle up with sin behind closed doors.

Not only do we need pastors to be above reproach but also not to approve of others who are entangled in sin. When the shepherds of the church are living godly accountable lives, and also taking a stand for righteousness, it is a grace that trickles down to the other leaders and members of the church. When the sin of spiritual, sexual, and emotional abuse are called out rather than coddled, it will help in the formation of a healthy, thriving, safe community for the orphan. So then, keeping oneself unstained from the world not only helps your own soul as a shepherd but the soul and body of the fatherless who God says to protect.

Pastor, please do not forget that there are fatherless children in your midst. They are fatherless in the natural sense but not in the spiritual. There are countless scriptures which show God’s heart towards those who do not have their fathers in their lives. As we imitate our Father's heart, may we point children to their Father, make whole-person discipleship a priority, and make churches a safe place for fatherless children.

Blair Linne

Blair Linne is a Christian spoken word artist, actress, and Bible teacher. Blair is recognized as one of the originators of the Christian spoken word genre. At 13, she was one of the youngest contributors to the Anansi Writers Workshop at L.A.’s prestigious art forum, The World Stage. Since then, she has toured globally, proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ through spoken word. Blair has written poetry for Sprite, Neutrogena, NBC, and the Gospel Coalition. She has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, on ABC’s Nightline, popular Christian radio show Revive Our Hearts, and several Christian Hip Hop albums. Blair’s debut album, When Light Meets Water, delivers her God-glorifying, Christ-centered, gospel-saturated poetry against a backdrop of Neo-Soul influenced sounds, underground hip-hop and live instrumentation. She has appeared in numerous theater productions, commercials and television shows including Days of Our Lives, Alias, Malcolm in the Middle, Boston Public, The Parkers and American Dreams, as well as her own Saturday morning show, SK8 (Skate) on NBC. Blair lives in Philadelphia with her husband Shai Linne and their three children Sage, Maya, and Ezra; she serves in discipling women at Risen Christ Fellowship, where her husband is one of the founding pastors.

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