When Ashland Avenue Baptist Church of Lexington realized more than 150 million children worldwide were without families, the congregation responded to the biblical call to show Christ’s mercy to those in need. A gospel-driven culture of adoption was born.
“Ashland’s adoption culture was sparked by the gospel,” said Casey McCall, pastor of Ashland Avenue’s Oldham County campus. “It’s hard to read passages like Romans 8:12–17, Galatians 4:1–7 and Ephesians 1:5 as an adopted child of God and be OK with over 150 million orphans in the world.”
Adopting an ‘adoption culture’
“(God) has adopted us, and that changes how we think about those who are without family,” added Todd Martin, pastor of missions for Ashland Avenue’s Lexington campus.
For the central Kentucky congregation, adoption is not a special interest ministry impacting only those families who adopt orphans or care for children in the foster care system. Their use of the term “adoption culture” is intentional, stemming from the conviction that every church member has a part to play.
“We use the words ‘adoption culture’ instead of adoption ministry because we want it to be something shared by the entire church family—not that every family were adopted, but that every family has a role in adoption,” Martin explained.
“We want everyone involved because every member has been adopted through Christ into God’s eternal family,” McCall said. “Whether by contributing money, serving adopted families, volunteering at the pregnancy center, adopting or fostering, every single member has a role to play in cultivating a culture that cares for orphans here at Ashland.”
‘Church in action’
McCall said, practically, Ashland Avenue’s adoption culture “looks like the church in action.”
Church members have contributed to an “Abba” fund that provides grants and interest-free loans to families who are looking to adopt. The church also partners with local pregnancy centers, Orphan Care Alliance and other similar organizations.
“We have support structures where families who are new to adoption and foster care can gain wisdom from families who have been there,” McCall noted. “We provide training opportunities and have ministries that collect and donate items to help families.”
Ashland Avenue has dozens of adoptive and foster families, and both McCall and Martin are among those who have adopted children internationally. Both pastors agreed that the church was instrumental in their families’ adoptions.
“Our adoption story simply can’t be told without the church,” McCall said. “The McCall adoption story is an Ashland adoption story.”
McCall and his wife, Niki, adopted a daughter and son from Uganda, growing their family from 3 children in car seats to 5 children in car seats—all age 3 and younger. Their children are now 14, 14, 14, 13 and 12.
“From the finances we raised to the love and support we’ve received at every stage, we simply could not have done this without our church,” McCall added.
Martin and his wife adopted their son from China when he was 23 months old.
“When I think of my son, I am aware that it is not just my wife and I who have provided a family for him, but that a whole church family has helped to provide us as family for him and to give us the blessing of having him as our son,” Martin said. “Before he even arrived with us in Lexington, here was this church of hundreds of people who already knew his name, had been praying for him and shared a hand in his adoption.”
While Ashland Avenue has played an instrumental role in numerous adoption stories, McCall noted that the call to care for orphans—most clearly seen in James 1:27—is given to the whole church, not just certain families.
“The mission of the church is not fulfilled by me; it’s fulfilled by us,” McCall said. “Likewise, the call to visit orphans and widows in their affliction is given to us; it’s given to the church. We can’t do what Christ calls us to do without one another.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Tessa Redmond and first published by Kentucky Today, news service of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.