From Sonship to Kinship: The Message of Adoption in Romania

By Ailisha O'Sullivan on February 16, 2016

For many years now, our Serge team has worked to see the more practical and systematic spirituality of the church of the West combined more and more with the organic, less-linear spirituality that we have found in Romania. All of our team members came to Cluj, Romania, transformed by the teaching of Sonship, and grateful for its admonition to preach the Gospel to ourselves daily, and to live more deeply believing that we are sons and daughters of God. The indigenous, ethnically-Hungarian community with whom we primarily partner (there is a significant ethnic Hungarian population in the Transylvania region of Romania as a result redrawn national borders at the end of WWI) has shared our enthusiasm for that emphasis, giving it more prominence in the transmission of their own spiritual inheritance.


Contextualizing Sonship in Romania

God used years of persecution by a Communist regime to create a marvelous Gospel revival in the underground churches that grew in prisons and prison-camps called “gulags.” This movement of the Spirit became unusually ecumenical and multi-ethnic as desperate circumstances made theology not primarily intellectual – a system to be carefully defined and defended – but rather, a lifeline to God who was remarkably present in hellish circumstances, suffering with them. And, further, who was palpably sovereign over this monstrous evil, giving grace to live faithfully through unimaginable suffering not as from the hands of persecutors, but as from a loving Father and as an evangelistic opportunity to love and intercede for their oppressors, preaching to them during torture sessions, and seeing many Communists come to faith in Christ. These Christians beautifully modeled an “inseparability of personal renewal and mission.”


As a result, the Hungarian believers with whom we partner in Romania came to value ecclesial community and an unusually vital and mystical Calvinism, distinct from the hyper-individualism and hyper-rationalism that Calvinism is often known for in the West. It is also a spirituality that emphasizes how God painfully chastises his true sons and daughters (Hebrews 12:7 ff.), and how God continually blesses them through difficulties, struggles, and afflictions. As we have lived among and learned deeply from our host community, we have prayed and searched for ways to integrate this wonderful heritage with our own spiritual heritage from the West.


From Sonship to “Kinship”

Beginning in 2013, local pastors, theologians, and trained Christian counselors worked with our team using Sonship materials to develop a contextualized curriculum of practical discipleship. This came to be called “Kinship”, emphasizing not only living as an adopted son instead of an orphan; but also, as a sibling in the Body of Christ instead of an only child and as a legitimate child instead of a bastard (Hebrews 12:8), whom the Father disciplines in a way that causes sorrow, but results in joy, peace and righteousness (v. 11). And in fruitful mission, the in-gathering of all the adopted siblings to the Mystical Union of the Holy Trinity, and His “fourth person”, the oneness of the Body of Christ.


To date, there have been five English language Kinship retreats for internationals in Romania, comprising daily lectures; small group discussions; daily prayer time with assigned individual prayer partners; and daily personal mentoring sessions with trained counselors. As the demand for retreats in English for internationals increases, we are hoping for retreats hosted at churches in the U.S. and Western Europe.


God’s Adoption Crosses Cultures

The response of the attendees (who came from the U.S., Holland, Finland, Germany, and Romania) has been overwhelmingly positive. Their feedback included: “I’ve experienced spiritually the best four days of my life.” “I’m very thankful for this opportunity, it was very needed…. a very blessed time.” “A lot of work is visible in the preparation of the materials and the sermons; however, this was not limiting the Spirit.” “It was my best week, because God helped me with this group to grow…” “Really wonderful fellowship in Jesus with people [whom] I had just met.” “Incredible lectures… Thank God for you!”


Church Unity: Bearing the Image of the Trinity

Our partner Rev. Levente Horváth writes, “It’s good to remember that in the same way that man was created in God’s image, so the Trinity created the Church, our kinship, in the Trinity’s own image and similarity. If we are sons, then we are kindred to each other and we can all resemble our older brother’s face in our faces.” It is the fervent hope of this Serge team that the kinship between the church in Romania and in the United States would deepen, and that a mutual mentorship/discipleship among the world-wide body of Christ would bless His church.


>>> Many people in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and Africa don’t have Christian conferences to go to on a regular basis. They want to serve the Lord, but they need to encounter His grace to do so. Help share Sonship with more people.


Ailisha O'Sullivan

About Ailisha O'Sullivan

Since 1996, Ailisha and her husband Chase have lived in Cluj working in a facilitative way among indigenous ministries and projects founded by Romanian-born Hungarians who experienced the extraordinary spiritual revival that took place during Romania's Communist era. These include a university student ministry, a publishing house, and a local version of Serge's Sonship. "Our team strives for a spirit of mutual mentorship between ourselves, our host community, and visiting westerners, believing that the Church East and West have much to learn from each other."