Thursday, January 12, 2012

Adoption Sermons & Resources

Brian and I have been having a side conversation about his adoption sermons in the midst of the atonement discussion.  I'm starting a new thread so that it's easier to exchange these ideas.  Anyone is free to join in this discussion.

One of the things that has been fascinating in some of my reading is the influence that the first century practice of adoption had on Paul's writings about spiritual adoption.  I've been reading Trevor Burke's book Adopted into God's Family over the last week or so.  It's been interesting to see how Paul took an actual practice of the first century and used it as a metaphor to describe the relationship between God and those who believe in Him.  Today, there are people who are using Paul's metaphorical description to inspire the actual practice of adoption. Practice - Metaphor - Practice  That strikes me as interesting, but it just may be me.

For what it's worth, I have a label on our blog that is titled "Biblical Foundations of Adoption" - click here and  it will take you to the list of the posts that have that as a label.  I'll be adding your sermon(s) and note(s) to the blog soon.



Blogger Dan Masshardt said...

Brent, I'm wondering if you've read and have any thoughts about the book "Adopted for Life" by Russel Moore?

1/12/2012 10:48 PM  
Blogger Brent C Sleasman said...


I've read half of Moore's book and hope to finish it soon. He has been at the forefront of the evangelical response to the international orphan crisis for some time now. Many of the current "movers and shakers" within the orphan care movement have been influence by Moore in some fashion.

He is fairly blunt about his adoption perspective and experiences. For example, he openly criticizes those who are over-concerned with maintaining some the culture of the adopted child's country of origin. Using Paul's biblical imagery about becoming a new creation in Christ, he suggests that a human adoption brings the child into a new family and it's not essential that he/she be conversant about their native country. I haven't fully formed my opinion on this topic yet, but Moore is helpful to think about this side of the conversation.

What are your thoughts?

1/13/2012 12:01 PM  
Blogger Brent C Sleasman said...


I've posted the sermon and notes from last Sunday. Thanks for passing these along.

Here's the link if you care to see how I posted it:

The Biblical Foundations of Adoption (Part Two)

1/13/2012 8:14 PM  
Blogger ps1226 said...

Being a dumb country boy feel free to correct my errors. If i understand it correctly a couple of elements were intrinsic to Adoption as it was practiced in Pauls context.
1. It was by mutual aggreement.
2. It insured the adopted was co-heir of all the estate left by the adoptor with the natural sons.
3. It was irrevocable. The adoptor could never disown the adoptee nor could the adoptee do the same.
While I have no desire to create an arguement, I must ask for a reconsiliation with or at least ask for an opinion as to how that
effects our understanding of the security issue. Does it not give support to those accepting the "perserverance of the saints". That as i understand has not been our historical position.

1/14/2012 12:58 PM  
Blogger Brent C Sleasman said...


The reading I've done fully confirms #2 & #3 of what you wrote. As far as #1, it was by mutual agreement as much as our contemporary welfare system is by mutual agreement. Technically, people can decide not to make use of "the system," but most people benefit so much from the available resources that they would be foolish not to take advantage of what's offered. In the first century, many adoptions were initiated by royalty that greatly improved the life and opportunities of the person (typically male) who was adopted.

To be faithful to your post, I'm not going to get into the debate about the perseverance of the saints. But, I think you do make a good point about how much of the historical circumstances of the author should influence our understanding of Scripture. If Paul was invoking the adoption metaphor to explain one's relationship with God, and the historical adoption process he was thinking of had an irrevocable aspect to it, should that be read into what he's written about adoption?

1/14/2012 7:08 PM  
Blogger ps1226 said...

I completely agree with your insight and conclusions. Question then becomes:
1. Is this a matter of faulty hermanuetics in that the metaphor should not be carried to its ultimate conclusion or was not intended to be done so by Paul or
2. Do we need to revisit the basic security question, open the can of worms and search for a reconsiliation between the two. or
3. Consider we may have to reform or redact our historical position.
Just food for thought.

1/16/2012 6:17 PM  
Blogger Brent C Sleasman said...


You wrote: How do you see the notion of adoption advancing a theology that empowers mission?

I've started thinking about adoption in terms of a human sign of a spiritual truth. One of my pet peeves has long been people talking about the church as a "family". I've always seen the biblical passages that explore the family metaphor as it relates to Christians, but it's rarely used in a way that is faithful to the biblical discussion. Usually it's over-sentimentalized in such a way that it looks nothing like a biblical family. So, one way I see adoption empowering mission is by embracing what it means to truly function as a family of believers. Yes, there are estranged members of a family, but for the most part family members want to be reconciled with one another. Also, we can seek to add members to our family in ways that biological families cannot (I'm still talking about the church as a family here).

A second way that a theology of adoption can empower mission is through helping families within the church make the connection between human adoption and spiritual adoption. This is one of the reasons I find it fascinating that Paul took a first century practice and used it as a metaphor to explore the relationship between believers and God. Now, there is a growing evangelical movement that is seeking to take Paul's metaphor and use it to promote the practice of adoption.

There are others, but this is a starting point for further discussion.

1/18/2012 8:56 PM  
Blogger Brent C Sleasman said...


I'm going to invite Bill into this part of the conversation to share a perspective on the historical aspect of your comments.


1/18/2012 8:57 PM  
Blogger bill Sloat said...

Good observations about adoption and mission.

As I pray for the CGGC, I have felt for sometime now that the recent call to mission will probably end up being nothing more than the latest failed fad. I've shared these convictions with Ed and Lance at length. There are many reasons why I don't think we will, in the end, become missional--many, many reasons. However, two of them are:

1. We have not repented of our past ways.

2. (And on your point) We are not engaging in the effort of formulate, from Scripture, a way of thinking missionally that we can understand easily and embrace enthusiastically. IOW, we are not developing a theology of mission. Without, as Paul says, "renewing our minds," we will not be transformed.

You are contributing to the formation of such a theology but, alas, I suspect that you will be one of many whose voices have cried out in the widerness.

I hope I am wrong and soon get an invitation to participate in a gathering called, "Creating a Theology of Mission."

1/19/2012 9:23 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

Picking up on Bill's notes about failed fads, I'm really excited about gathering around 25 people in Evansville, IN next weekend where Eddie Hammond will talk about experiencing the presence of Jesus, Lance Finley will give some theological basis to missionality, and I will finish with developing a sense of urgency.

The people who are planning to attend this conference are bright, dedicated, Jesus-loving, world-changing types who just might create more than a fad. I hope so.

Bill's post makes me think I should get T-shirts made so that in 20 years, at least I'll still have the T-shirt.

1/19/2012 9:34 AM  
Blogger bill Sloat said...


I'd be there if I had the time and the moolah.

I would LOVE to hear what Lance has to say about formulating a theology of mission.

How will he address the consistent biblical call for radical repentance as a first step when God's people change their ways?

What will be his definition of repentance?

What will be his view of the atonement?

What will be his definition of salvation?

What will be his definition of who a disciple is and what a disciple does?

Will he propose a deconstruction of the clergy/laity relationship?

How will he handle APEST?

How will he address the issue of creating a theology of metrics? What theologically sound metric will he propose?

I am blessed to know that you guys are doing this. I hope it will be a historic success so much so that the shouts to take your show on the road shatter your eardrums.

I hope you will kick some serious, tradition-bound, CGGC butt!

If you end up with an extra XXL tee shirt, let me know the cost (including shipping and handling).

1/19/2012 10:04 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

Thanks for seeing the humor Bill!

I was only planning to give Lance 45 minutes. But he will have trouble addressing this all in that amount of time.

Perhaps we will have recordings of the sessions that we can make available.

1/19/2012 10:07 AM  
Blogger bill Sloat said...


I understand that you will only be scratching the surface. I hope that this will be the beginning of something transformative.

I also do believe that we will need to form a cogent and reasonably comprehensive intellectual justification for mission if we are going to be transformed as a body and convince people set in CGGC ways that go back generations, to change their ways.

1/19/2012 10:18 AM  
Blogger Brent C Sleasman said...

Brian & Bill,

As I read your comments I'm wondering if one of the growing problems facing the evangelical church today is the fascination with "community." For example, over the past year or so we've encountered quite a few people who have either left our church or are greatly dissatisfied with what they call a "lack of community" within our congregation. One obvious response is that this may in fact be a problem at our church. But, as I watch the growing list of books written about small groups and ministry-related concerns, I wonder if there isn't something deeper happening.

The reason I am thinking about this now is that I see one possible response to this quest for community emerging from the intersection of missional concerns and recapturing a true sense of what it means for the church to be a family. We've talked at home that moving more deeply into conversations about adoption raises questions about what it means to be a human family or parent. So, if Paul is using the term adoption intentionally, could it also raise questions about what it means to be a spiritual family?

It's hard to believe but it's going on five years since I've been actively involved in the leadership side of a congregation so this question/concern may have a "been there-talked about that" aspect to it. And yet, I see many who need to be confronted with, not another plea for "increasing the level of community in our church," but perhaps an honest exploration of what it means to be part of the family of God. A conversation in which adoption must play a key part.

Does this make any sense? Sometimes I sense things before I can put them into writing and I'm asking for your insight to help me make better sense of my thoughts.


1/19/2012 12:15 PM  
Blogger bill Sloat said...


You are raising a crucial question. I can trace the concern for developing community back to the late 80s. But, I'm being purely anecdotal.

I have a few thoughts:

1. The Shepherd M..., well, you know..., the leadership culture that has become entrenched in our church culture has created a consumer culture in many congregations so that many people choose their 'church' based on where they receive the best customer service. They come, not to be empowered to serve, but to BE SERVED. And, our leadership culture enables that way of thinking and behaving for serveral reasons I can see. One of those reasons is that the leadership culture is made up mostly of people whose calling is to nurture the flock. Serving is what they do in their calling. Their calling is not balanced by other calling because people with other calling often burn out in ministry as it is understood today.

2. I think that a congregation is called to acccomplish five tasks but that most highlight the one most closely connected to 'create community.'

The five tasks I see in Scripture are:

a. Pursue Christ's mission
b. Proclaim the truth
c. Reach the lost
d. Nurture the members of Christ's Body and
e. Pass on knowledge.

3. In a shepherd-dominated leadership culture characterized by the clergy/laity distinction, which doesn't exist in Scripture, churches have come to believe that they are in the business of taking care of members as if members are customers, not disciples of Christ. A primary strategy in providing customer care in this culture is to foster a strong sense of 'flockism,' i.e., of community. Customers have come to think that if such a strong sense of flock doesn't exist in a congregation that leadership is failing and that they have every right to look for another service center/church.

4. This, of course, is not a biblical way of thinking. In the biblical way of thinking, people share fellowship to 'spur one another on to love and good deeds' (Hebrews 10), so that they do not become weary in doing good (Gal 6), offer their bodies as living sacrifices which is their logical worship (Rom 12), become imitators of God as dearly loved children (Eph 4), take on Christ's attitude Who humbled Himself and became obedient to death...on a cross, etc,. etc,. etc..

Just my opinion.

1/20/2012 9:10 AM  
Blogger Dan Masshardt said...

I think community, rightly understood, is vital.

As far as I can tell biblically, the body of Christ (His Church) is more important than biological family.

This does not consist primarily of a shepherd/sheep relationship, but a mutuality in a 1 Corinthians 12 kind of way.

I feel that community is an important part of the proclaimation of truth and mission.

We Americans are individualistic and in need of relationships of grace and truth, a place where we can speak the truth in love.

The consumerism bill brings up is often true, but it can also be a caricature.

In biblical community much is demanded. Being a part of the community is not so much about having ones needs met, but about truth and mission.

I'm saddened the the idea of community is so often cheapened, but that's the way it is.

1/22/2012 5:35 PM  
Blogger Brian said...


I think consumerism in America is well beyond a caricature. It affects every one of us.

1/22/2012 6:16 PM  
Blogger Dan Masshardt said...

Brian, of course. What I meant was that to say our churches are totally sold out to consumerism is excessive.

Or maybe my own experience is not normal. What I see in the body I'm a part of is people doing a lot more giving than consuming.

1/22/2012 6:21 PM  
Blogger Brian said...


I understand. I would then say that your experience is by far the exception.

1/22/2012 6:29 PM  
Blogger Dan Masshardt said...

That really sucks for us.

I receive what bill's saying that we are shepherd dominated and that's a big problem.

Seriously though, what kind of shepherd lets the sheep call the shots?

I'm not going to start a conversation at this point, but I would love to have one sometime about what you guys do to fight consumerism in your churches.

1/22/2012 7:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How could a God of love condemn a man who had tried so hard to find the way, when no one came to tell him the message of salvation?

How a God of love can condemn to hell the man or woman who has never heard the message of salvation that we have heard so often and so freely?'

The truth of the second birth had been liberally preached among them, and they had done nothing to take it to those who had never heard."

"By one man's disobedience many are made sinners, and by the obedience of one many shall be made righteous."

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost..." - Matthew 28:19

Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?

Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy reward. Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity.

- ISAIAH 58:6-9 (

1/23/2012 2:37 AM  
Blogger bill Sloat said...


Seriously though, what kind of shepherd lets the sheep call the shots?

I think you are connecting to a macro issue.

In a church culture which--as ours does--assumes the unbiblical clergy/laity divide and makes only members of the clergy priests and which then enters a state of decline--as our has--the clergy tend to become customer service representatives in the hope that the laity who pay their salary is happy enough to keep the offerings coming in.

We need to repent of the entire system.

Shepherds are forced by this corrupt system, based in human tradition, to do what no biblically gifted and called shepherd would ever do.

I they do not repent, they will be judged for what they do and don't do.

1/23/2012 9:10 AM  
Blogger Brent C Sleasman said...

I haven't done a full word study, but my guess is that one will have a difficult time finding the term "community" used within the Bible in a similar way as it is used today. [I understand the limitations of English versions, etc.]

But, the language of family and adoption are clearly used in ways that we do not use them today.

So, at the risk of oversimplifying the issue, is it accurate to say that if one is faithful to Scripture, then the language of family and adoption should be much more prominent than the language of community?

One response could be that we are using a contemporary term to help explain what the Bible points toward. But, before we invoke a word from outside Scripture, shouldn't we explore whether or not there is a word from within Scripture that addresses the problem?

That's my point - perhaps recovering the language of family as it is really used in the Bible (and not its sentimentalized version) may be the better approach than bringing in sociological studies of community.

Another question - how much should the language we use to talk about the church be consistent with the language used in the Bible?

1/23/2012 11:15 AM  
Blogger Dan Masshardt said...

Brent, Your question is good.

It would seem to me that we should prefer biblical terms.

It seems to me that concepts of community are there in the Bible, but using the word and mean different things to different people...

When we speak of community, I often think that we want to be a part of a neighborhood again like in the 50's. But people don't often really want what the Bible talks about. We say 'brother' and 'sister' in the church, but we don't really mean it.

All that to say, I'm in favor of using biblical term over others.

I think that adoption ties into family and provides a richer understanding of the depth of our bonds to one another much better than community.

Adoption also helps us to think about having family that is not connected by biological dna, but connected by something deeper.

1/23/2012 11:33 AM  
Blogger bill Sloat said...

Brent and Dan,

I think that emphasis on community is a corruption of biblical themes.

While the adoption metaphor is relatively rare in Scripture, the theme of family is everywhere, especially in the New Testament. It may be the most dominant of all New Testament themes and I suspect that it is the most common metaphor.

How does the so-called "Lord's Prayer" begin? "Our Father."

Didn't Jesus challenge Mary and His earthly family by asking, "Who is my mother? Who are my brothers...whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."

Paul makes it clear that Jesus is the first born of many brothers.

The danger in diluting this family talk so we can talk of and search for community, I believe, is that it allows for less intimacy--it provides a degree of separation from the love--the agape--that Jesus says is the greatest command in the law and which is the essence of His New Command.

I've said before that the way of the shepherd culture is the way of moderation. But, when we repent of the community metaphor and cling to the Word's metaphor of family, there is no place for moderation, only intimate love.

1/24/2012 9:13 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home