19 Sep What Is the Church’s Responsibility in the Pro-Life Movement?
EDITOR’S NOTE: This topic and many more related to Christian ethics will be covered at the
Shepherd’s Church 360 Church Leaders Conference hosted by Shepherds Theological Seminary on October 16-18. More information on conference speakers, schedule, and registration here
According to a survey conducted by Care Net, 70 percent of women who reported having an abortion identified as “Christian” and 43 percent of women who had an abortion in 2021 regularly attended church.
More than likely, when you attend church on the Lord’s Day, sitting near you are people who have chosen to abort a baby at some point in their life. Some women sitting in the sanctuary may be struggling over this decision. Unfortunately, that same Care Net survey also found that only 7 percent of churchgoing women who had an abortion discussed their abortion with their pastor or parishioners. Reasons given for this silence included:
- 65 percent of the women believed church members judged single women who are
- 59 percent of the women believed their church wasn’t prepared to help them in decisions
about unwanted pregnancies.
More women reported experiencing feelings of condemnation rather than a sense of care from their local church. It’s time to take a realistic look at tangible ministry opportunities to physically, spiritually, and financially help women who are experiencing unwanted pregnancies—for whatever reason. I’d like to suggest we begin with two action points.
Create a culture of compassion.
This culture of compassion extends to those who have had an abortion in their past and those who are considering abortion due to an unwanted pregnancy in the present. Many women who have had an abortion, and men who have encouraged an abortion, fear being open about their past, even in their accountability groups and close circles. Have you ever thought about the fact that a church is a congregation where everyone has a past? We are all sinners, we are all equally incapable of justifying ourselves through righteousness, and we are all equally dependent on Jesus Christ for our salvation. The church should be a gathering place for humble and honest transparency, which leads to godly encouragement and counsel.
And remember too that we follow the example of God, who does not hold our sins against us, but removes our sin “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12). Compassion, acceptance, and love should be the attitude of our heart toward another believer who repents and asks the Lord to pick up the broken pieces of their lives as they obey Him in the future.
Compassion must also be the posture of the church toward women who face unwanted pregnancy. Rather than shame a woman for even considering an abortion, or gossiping about a single woman’s pregnancy, seek to better understand her circumstance for the purpose of providing help. What financial, social, or emotional reasons have caused this pregnancy to be unwanted? Is abuse, or sexual assault, a factor in this decision? By asking these questions, we can better learn how to help in tangible ways.
As a church, we can’t rightly care for a person until we know them. My prayer is that any woman who came to our churches for help due to a pregnancy would say of us what the apostle James encouraged the church: to let “mercy triump over judgment” (James 2:13).
Be willing to provide financial, emotional, or adoptive care.
I appreciate the challenge by former Vice President Mike Pence, who told a South Carolina church earlier this year that “if you’re going to be pro-life, you need to be pro-adoption.” This a profoundly simple, yet biblical perspective. Isaiah wrote: “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:17). This command to seek justice and to care for those in need is echoed through the entire Bible, and this command is for us.
One of the American church’s greatest witnesses is the fact that the adoption rate among Christian families is twice as high as the rate among the total population. Five percent of practicing Christians in the United States have adopted, including many families at the church I pastor. The youth group at my church reflects a multi-ethnic, adoption-oriented church family, and we have been able to minister to Christians who have opened their families to children in need.
I pray that the church’s reputation when it comes to the unborn will cause women to look to their local church—not their local Planned Pregnancy Center—as the only source for resources, help and encouragement. To improve our testimony in the community, we need churches committed to providing these tangible resources to woman to help them decide they not only should keep their baby, but they can!
The truth is, many women seeking abortions want to be mothers, but can’t see past the financial burden that will arrive on their due date. Does your congregation have a fund to help them? Many women worry about finding childcare, emotional support, and community as a prospective mother. Who in your church will step up to meet those needs? Perhaps that’s the ministry God is leading you to begin today in your local church.
Let’s offer adoption as an alternative to abortion. Adoption can be a significant financial undertaking, so perhaps the church can partner financially with families to help meet those costs. And let’s not forget to make adopted children feel loved and welcomed in our children’s ministries and youth groups.
SHOULD I ENGAGE IN THE PRO-LIFE DEBATE IN CULTURE?
Ronald Reagan once said on the topic of abortion, “I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born.”
This speaks to the often-ignored truth that people who go completely unheard in the debate surrounding abortion are the unborn! They can’t speak for themselves, so God has commanded us to speak out on their behalf: “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute” (Proverbs 31:8).
As we represent God’s Word on the reality of life in the womb, we need to walk wisely. Let me recommend three principles to consider as we move into a post-Roe America.
Ensure our witness is unimpeachable.
A pro-life worldview is not just a position you take with words; it’s more than articulating your viewpoint on social media. Walking wisely is a lifestyle that testifies to your beliefs every day. When you have conversations in the public square about abortion, be prepared for the question, “So you’re pro-life, what are you doing about it?” Our answer should go beyond, “I just like to tell people I believe in the sanctity of life.” Let’s make sure that our resolution on this issue is more than rhetoric; let’s make it part of our ministry routine.
Understand the ideological disconnect.
A common misconception about our nation’s divide on abortion is that this debate is about nothing more than policy and politics. The divide actually goes much deeper. The disconnect on abortion is a scientific and moral disconnect about what the definition of “personhood” really is. If an unborn fetus is not a human being, then there are no instances where abortion should be restricted. However, if an unborn baby is, in fact, a human being, then there isn’t an option.
We know from God’s Word that “personhood” begins at fertilization; we previously explored the description God gave to King David about the unborn life in a woman’s womb. When we present a compelling argument, we can use the discoveries of science to illustrate this truth that David wrote centuries before the sonogram was invented! And even more importantly, when we tell our world about God’s handiwork, it changes the perspective about our value and
purpose in life. True value, tied to Creator God, has the power to change both individuals and cultures.
Filter our discourse through a gospel lens.
We must resist the temptation to becomes like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, who were looking for a Messiah to bring change in their political system and government. Their political priority caused them to refuse the Messiah. They missed the point that the Messiah had a more eternal, heavenly agenda than His religious world did.
Keep in mind that our mandate to make disciples isn’t met when America outlaws abortion, or when the majority of people identify as pro-life. While I rejoiced that the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, our ultimate goal is salvation, not legislation. Let’s not forget that someone can be “pro-life” and far from God.
Our pro-life worldview staunchly defends the sanctity of unborn life; but our mission—our primary focus on this earth—has remained unchanged for 2,000 years: proclaiming the gospel and making disciples of the nations.
Stephen Davey has served as the president of Shepherds Theological Seminary since its inception in 2003. Stephen also serves as the pastor/teacher of The Shepherd’s Church (www.shepherdschurch.com) as well as the principal Bible teacher for Wisdom International (www.wisdomonline.org). This article originally appeared on Wisdom International’s website and was posted July 15, 2023 and August 1, 2023. It is used by permission.