In his recent book Deliver us From Abortion, the author Brian Fisher raises the challenge for churches to unite their power and conviction to advance the prolife cause. He argues that the key obstacle to the prolife cause is disunity in the church. If that great sleeping giant could only unite abortion could be abolished in short order. That is Fisher’s prophetic hope.
Sadly, that herald’s cry is absolutely necessary. Far too many churches have squandered their socio-cultural influence conceding to various fears, insecurities, and ignorance. For some churches, they don’t want to get “political,” and abortion is a hot-button item that might drive members away from the church. Other congregations are too theologically liberal, or too culturally enmeshed to have any strong convictions either way–prolife or prochoice–since culture tends to discourage vocalizing convictions on disagreeable topics. Still other believers just don’t care too much for the prolife side. The result is that a lot of churches are only superficially “prolife” or they are overtly prochoice–supporting the continued abortion on demand.
Where does your church stand in this debate? Can you honestly say your church is prolife? Prolife positioning is a challenge. And is a strong pragmatic pull keeping many churches from taking that bold stand. Because of those pressures, listed above, prolife churches have to show their colors bright enough to counteract those graying influences.
The prolife message is straightforward, abolish abortion. Hardliners want it abolished in all cases, even when the mother’s life is in danger, but moderates allow for exceptions there. Many people would call themselves prolife are comparatively moderate. They all for abortion in any case of rape, incest, fetal deformity, or fetal handicap. These exceptions are a small number of abortion cases, and so the moderates and the hardliners should remember how much they agree, and how daunting is the opposition. The prolife movement has too much common ground and too few victories to afford anything less than fortified solidarity in a unified advance against abortion-on-demand.
What about the churches? Well, there are churches who wax sentimental on prolife topics. And then there are Prolife churches, which is another breed entirely. Prolife churches overwhelmingly:
1) Celebrate Sanctity of Human Life Day (January 22)
On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, January 22, 1973, Ronald Reagan issued an official proclamation declaring January 22 the Sanctity of Human Life Day. Many churches and denominations have identified the nearest sunday service as “Sanctity of Life Sunday.” This day is a great occasion to raise awareness and raise support for the prolife cause by hosting area prolife ministries, preaching against abortion, hosting forums, panels and conferences, or by having classes and discussions.
2) Preach and Teach Prolife Messages
If your church doesn’t address prolife issues apart from Sanctity of Life Sunday, then it might just be following the diocese, or denominational calendar. Prolife churches, however, hold prolife ideals by conviction not tradition. Prolife causes swirl into their teaching and preaching, even when they are addressing other topics. They allow a healthy and righteous concern for the issues, as it is the leading cause of death in modern history. They can have other issues leading the way in their ministry strategy or vision statement, such as fellowship, worship, families, charity, evangelism, or discipleship. But they take the prolife cause so seriously that it sneaks into their teaching points, into their illustrations, and into their closing applications. Oftentimes, the focus of the sermon in about saving babies, stopping abortion, or caring for unwed mothers–all prolife causes. It’s hard not to slip often into prolife teaching when the pastoral hearts and the ministry minds of that church are invested in saving babies. Moreover, churches often have classes, small groups, Bible studies, seminars and conferences where prolife hearts compel prolife teaching whenever there’s a chance.
3) Give Regularly to Prolife Causes
Prolife churches recognize that talk is cheap, and the prolife cause is desperately underfunded compared to many abortion-choice groups. The prolife cause is so deep and wide that there are several prolife organizations near any given church. Prolife churches understand how their church vision, their mission statements, or any of their buzzword bible mottos need to meet the needs of defenseless human beings fails if they are to live to James call for “true religion” (James 1:27). In Jesus’s day, the most defenseless people groups who were subject to legal oppression were widows and orphans. In our day, it’s preborn babies. Now, prolife causes include crisis pregnancy clinics, but can also extend to adoption agencies, foster care, women’s shelters, anti-trafficking groups, or any number of educational and ministry groups that aim to prevent unplanned pregnancy.
4) Serve Regularly in Prolife Causes
Besides giving financially, prolife churches give of themselves. Members and staff offer their blood, sweat, and tears to prolife organizations whether that is fostering and adopting children, offering free or discount housing to unwed or single moms, volunteering at Crisis Pregnancies centers or rape crisis hotlines, donating diapers or babysitting, and so on. Prolife churches should be pro-family as well, recognizing that most all the factors that escalate abortion rates are tied to unhealthy family situations. Healthy family ministries are fashionable in churches today and readily align with prolife causes. In this way, many churches that would otherwise be uninvolved in prolife efforts can readily align themselves with the broader work of saving babies. Compared to the heat and venom intermixed in the abortion debate, it’s much more acceptable in civilized society to advocate for strong healthy families
5) Pray to End Abortion
Christians recognize that human strength cannot compare to God’s omnipotence. And history has taught us that it just might take an act of God to extract abortion from society, whether abolishing it entirely, or just overturning the Roe v. Wade (and Doe v. Bolton) rulings of 1973. Human efforts matter, and we are called to commit our lives to Christian service including preborn babies, a class of human beings more defensless than even widows and orphans (see James 1:27). But the foremost effort, the main ministry of mankind should be prayer. When we pray, we acknowledge that the battle is ultimately Gods. The power is ultimate God’s. The authority, the victory, everything that matters ultimately is in God’s hands. It only makes sense to plead with Him to move the grave stones that we cannot, to raise up a culture of life from this culture of death. God has the very power of life over death, how much great is his power to protect life before it’s lost? Prolife churches take prayer seriously. They have spontaneous prayers and planned prayers, individual prayers and group prayers, sunday prayers and other-day prayers, formulaic prayers and creative prayers, they pray knowing that even our best efforts will crumble down to nothing without God’s blessing. But when God intervenes he can break history in half (the resurrection).
6) Incorporate Prolife Committments into their Theology
Churches often list their theological commitments in formal literature and websites under titles like: “vision of minsitry,” “belief statements,” creeds, or membership covenants. This list of beliefs clarify exactly what kind of church we are dealing with. Customarily, churches focus on the “central” issues that distinguish their church from other denominations–so no one gets shocked over a Charismatic service instead of a reverently sedate Catholic mass. Increasingly, churches have begun including marketing-type descriptions to help online viewers get a sense of that church’s personality. Prolife commitments are usually ignored in both of these fronts. One doesn’t have to take a position on abortion to be saved, or to believe the Bible. Nor do churches typically revel in prolife positioning if they are likely to lose members or offend visitors because of it. Now I know that abortion isn’t as important as the Gospel and churches have a right to clarify their beliefs as they see fit and as it might best serve their ministry goals. But in all seriousness, abortion is probably the next most important issue in the world. Abortion has likely claimed more human lives than any other single cause in the world. I’m sure that in the 1850’s Churches made it very clear whether they were pro-slavery or anti-slavery. Yet abortion has taken the lives of many times more human lives than the African slave trade ever did. And today, churches that support gay marriage are known to wave that rainbow flag as if it were a foundation of the historic Christian faith. Likewise, the prolife position is critically important meriting swift and thorough integration into our church theological statements. This way they can establish a historical record of which way they stood. And they can maintain integrity between their stated theological/practical commitments and their actual public ministry.
So the question remains: is your church a prolife church?