And a Child Shall Lead Us | Joe Knittig, CEO
In the wake of the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and David Dorn, our nation cries out in frustration, in bondage and decay, groaning in pain. Systemic race discrimination is not an old wound of history. It’s an ongoing infection. And it’s not just a problem in our secular nation. We have extreme racial division in the Church. As a Body, we are divided in many ways. Our Family is sick.
Just how sick are we? While our societal health gets debated from many angles, I think of the wisdom of Nelson Mandela, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” What do our most vulnerable children tell us?
In the wealthiest nation in history, more than 4 million children in hurting families are referred to the child welfare system every year. More than 400,000 are in foster care. Our nation spends roughly $30 billion annually on the child welfare system, yet every year more children enter foster care than exit. At the epicenter of the system is the scourge of racial disproportionality. African American children constitute 14% of the total childhood population, but they constitute 23% of the children in foster care. This is true even though there’s no higher prevalence of abuse in black households than white households. And the pain continues:
- Of the 2 million adults incarcerated in America, more than 75% spent time in the foster system.
- Of the 500,000 homeless, roughly 50% spent time in the foster system.
- Of the victims recovered from sex trafficking raids, over 60% came from the foster system.
We have turned our poorest neighborhoods into orphan factories with pipelines to street corners and jails. This plays out every day in America, even though our country has roughly 350,000 local churches among these children with a shared calling to own this mess. We possess the power of Jesus for real Kingdom change. Yet we look to the government to lead – while the orphan cycle churns more children.
That’s how sick we are.
Yet as bad as it is, the future is full of promise. We know the end of the story. Our Father will unify us as One in a way the world will see. Jesus prayed for this. The question is not whether the Father will answer the prayer of His Son, but when? How? Through whom?
Church, the agents of unification are not the power brokers in ivory towers. Once again, a child shall lead us. The foster system is Ground Zero for revival. The children who have been cut out by the sin of the world have been set apart and anointed by God to purify and unify the Church.
We rely upon philosophers of the age to inspire us. But our Father frustrates the intelligence of the intelligent and sparks revival in low places. He is raising up pastors in the Spirit of Elijah, with faith in the Word forged by fire in orphaned neighborhoods — African American neighborhoods that have felt the knee of systemic oppression bearing down on their necks for generations. They will lead a great turning of hearts and the congregations shall follow.
We beg God to stop the oppression while the Church has many brothers and sisters suffering in abject poverty. But let us consider that the Lord is allowing unimaginable pressure to build until we feel shared agony within our Kingdom Family, bringing us to a new birthing season at this appointed hour.
We call for traditional prayer and fasting. But this revival calls for an Isaiah 58 care fast to loose the chains of injustice, to serve the poor, to break every yoke, to elevate others to full freedom in Jesus, through incarnational sacrifice and personal connection.
We imagine what revival should look like, with shock-and-awe dreams of tents and stadiums full of people being “converted.” But this revival is a Jesus ground war: a slow, salty, messy, relational, care revival, flesh to flesh, that comes at a personal cost to all.
We strain to self-generate a spiritual spark. But a movement of God can neither be feigned through intellect nor forced by effort. Ignition requires a move of the Holy Ghost.
We search for the unity spark on Fox News and CNN. But revival comes from Nazareth. If we want Kingdom unification, we must get low. Together. To serve. In relationship. With humility and grace. Under apostolic leadership. In the very heart of our sickness. Among our most vulnerable children and families. Seeing these children not as the objects of our pity, but as the Lord’s Anointed.
If local churches unite in a shared mission to reverse the foster crisis in America — community by community, building relationships across lines of race, class, and culture in the process — the Holy Spirit will tear down walls that we cannot. We will live the greatest sermon in our nation’s history.
This change is going to happen. Not because I said it. But because it’s written in the heavens.
Slowly by slowly, under the radar, this church-to-child care revival has already begun. As so many of you in the Church have entered Ground Zero to serve together, the number of children entering foster care is trending down, with the number of adoptions trending up. Each year for three years in a row, the number of African American children entering foster care has gone down, slightly, and the number of African American children adopted out of foster care has gone up, slightly. Relational unity is on the rise around these children. The humble spark of revival is firing in a low place. Now we need increase.
While our country flails for political solutions, am I suggesting that local churches caring for kids together, with the Anointed Child in the bullseye, can spark the seemingly impossible? Spiritual revival? Racial reconciliation? Kingdom unification? Yes. That’s exactly what I am saying.
The children who have been cut out by the sin of the world have been set apart and anointed by God to purify and unify the Church.
Don’t walk to the Lord’s Anointed. Run. And let’s see what the Way Maker does.
In Jesus’ Name,