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Centerboard: Battles Past and Present

January 2011
By: Tom Lothamer

This January, it will be 38 years since the infamous Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court ruling. According to National Right to Life calculations, 53 million babies have lost their lives during that time.

Against that backdrop, our few legislative victories pale in significance. There have been some great ones — in Congress, in State houses, and in our courts — but much remains to be done.


Some "combatants" have left this battleground for other fights; others have become complacent, discouraged or, worse yet, given up. We must remain in the battle! What keeps us in the fight for life? What gives us staying power?

I recently watched one of my favorite movies — Amazing Grace, the story of William Wilberforce's battle against the English slave trade during the late 1700s and early 1800s. I was again impressed by his courage, passion for truth, and unwillingness to give up — even in the face of extreme odds, opposition, and major defeats — and encouraged by the tremendous eventual victory. I also noted his wisdom and cunning.

The battles he and his friends faced two hundred years ago are not unlike the ones we face today. Both are related to the sanctity of human life. Both slavery and abortion result in the abuse and killing of creatures made in God's image.

Wilberforce fought the slave trade for 26 years before the slave trade ended in 1807. It wasn't until a month after his death in 1833 that slavery itself was abolished in the British Empire. How did he do it? What empowered him to stay in the fight all those years?

Wilberforce accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior in 1785. From that time, he became a dedicated servant of Christ.

He felt a deep sense of calling from the Lord to bring social reform in England. His pastor, John Newton, a former master of a slave ship , introduced him to the evils of the slave trade. After going down into the ships to see the effects of the slave trade first hand, he became an impassioned and compassionate champion of freedom for the slaves. When asked by abolitionist friends to lead the fight in the English Parliament, he agreed.

He was committed to conducting the battle in God's way. When the anti-slavery firebrand Thomas Clarkson advocated violent revolution, Wilberforce rejected that tactic.

Ultimately, Wilberforce believed he could not quit until victory was won. Shouldn't this be true of pro-life servants and leaders in the 21st century?

He also believed victory would be by God's grace. The battles he fought were supernatural in scope and so are ours today. The war against abortion and for the sanctity of human life is not against flesh and blood but, as the Apostle Paul stated in Ephesians 6, against powers of darkness and spiritual forces of evil in heavenly realms.

All Christians are called to uphold the sanctity of human life. Some are called to take up the cause of life in the political arena. Others are called to pro-life ministry as leaders or volunteers in pregnancy care centers and other ministries. Some are called to serve on the boards of pregnancy care centers.

Wherever you're called to serve, it is a high calling. You may serve on the board of a small center, in a small town. You may feel far removed from the greater battle. Know this: You are needed. Your role is necessary and vital. Be faithful! Stay on task!

If we're to successfully represent the Lord in protecting human life, born and unborn, certain things must be true of each of us:

A personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Savior and a commitment to His call on our lives for holiness and willingness to serve Him in whatever way He chooses.

Sorrow over the sin of abortion and our culture's lack of commitment to truth and compassion for the needy, especially toward the most vulnerable.

A sense of urgency to engage this very important ministry while recognizing that the battle is His.

An understanding of what's at stake in this battle — God's glory and the physical and spiritual care of people made in His image. We then must allow His Spirit to teach us His battle plan and strategy for ministry to the unborn and families.


What does this have to do with board governance? Everything! If individual board members are not personally dedicated to these principles, then how can the board as a whole be so? If boards lack these qualities, then ministries will lack focus, risk poor decisions, and ultimately burn out.

We're in for a long battle. If we aren't careful to place it in the context of biblical history, we can easily lose our zeal for life and passion for the lost. Alternatively, we can "flame out" in ill-considered desperation, short-circuiting the ministry's long-term success.

As you embark on another year of service on your center's executive board, ask God to renew your passion, reinvigorate your sense of urgency, and, like Wilberforce, recommit yourself to trusting the Lord to bring about the ultimate victory, all for His glory.

Be strong, brothers and sisters! We will overcome if we have faith and faint not.

Tom Lothamer is President of Life Matters Worldwide in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

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