As a relational discipleship engineer and replicator, it is my God given job to specialize in making connections between the Body of Christ and people in need. Creating sustained connections of this kind take more than simply telling people how to do something. Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Having a compelling why does far more than a simple how-to.
Why should the Body of Christ be connected to life-affirming ministry?
To develop a compelling answer, let’s look at the past to discover how God has always connected His people with life-affirming ministry. Then we’ll look at the present to see how disconnected the Body Christ is from life-affirming ministry. In part 2, we’ll look at the future to discover what our roles might be in re-connecting the Body of Christ and life-affirming ministry as God wants them to be.
1500 BC Some of the earliest archaeological references to abortion date back 4,000 years. At that time, God’s people were not the champions for life that God wanted them to be. How do we know? In Leviticus 20:1-5 (about 1500 BC), God emphatically and specifically confronted His people about what would happen if/when they failed to stand up for life. He said they would be as guilty of the shedding of innocent blood as any perpetrators.
925 BC At about this date, King Solomon built the temple where God’s people worshiped. You may not know that King Solomon built another temple, one for priests of another god. According to 1 Kings 11:7, this temple was where children were sacrificed in the worship of the Canaanite god Molech.
600 BC In Ezekiel 22, God confronted His people over their many sins, citing shedding of innocent human blood eight times. He was deeply offended by how far they were from being His champions for life.
19th Century Fast forward to the Second Great Awakening in America. A time of revival in the US when many churches experienced great increases in membership. An era when soul-winning was the primary focus of ministry. During this great awakening, numerous religious institutions, seminaries, and conventions were formed, but curiously, no life-affirming ministries. Abortions were occurring in the same cities in which some of America’s most famous revivals were occurring at the same time including New York, Chicago, and Indianapolis.
Still, the Body remained largely silent on the issue of life. In a word search of fundamental faith documents of the 19th century, such as the 1925 Baptist Faith and Message and the United Methodist Women’s Handbook, we found absolutely no references at all to threats to pre-born lives, life-affirming ministry or abortion.
1960-1980 With a sexual revolution peaking, technological advances made abortion easy to attain and affordable. Threats to pre-born lives skyrocketed. The pro-life movement as we know it in the US today, began to coalesce. Multiple pro-life approaches developed. In the early 1970s, Alternatives to Abortion was one of the first global pro-life organizations to form. The organization is known today as Heartbeat International.
During the 1980s, Operation Rescue sit-ins occurred at abortion clinics in major cities such as Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. They resulted in over 20,000 arrests and prompted the passage of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act of 1994.1 About this time, mainline dominations began affirming the sanctity of human life.2 Still, the disconnect persisted.
Although his work would go largely unnoticed for many years, God impressed it on the heart of a humble associate pastor in southwestern Georgia to connect his local church to life-affirming ministry. He had no background in life-affirming ministry, but he had something more. Inspiration from God. In 1981, God called him to lead his church to do something that no church in America had done before: start a pregnancy resource center.
With the full support of Edgewood Baptist Church, Pastor Andy Merritt began that pregnancy center and then went on to assist to establish 500 or more pregnancy centers nationwide.
Nevertheless, bold and courageous connections like this between the Body of Christ and life-affirming ministry remained rare.
In preparing for a conference in Missouri we scanned numerous church blogs, newsletters, events, and websites, looking for clues suggesting a connection between churches and life-affirming ministries in the state. Only one in 5 churches surveyed made any reference at all to abortion or life-affirming ministry, and most of those were Catholic.
Next, we sought interviews with pastors and church leaders in Missouri. We shared in advance the four interview questions we wanted to discuss:
- Do you believe the Body of Christ and life-affirming ministry are as connected as God wants them to be?
- Do you believe your church is as connected to life-affirming ministry as God wants it to be?
- What does the connection to life-affirming ministry at your church look like?
- If you could have anything you wanted, what would the connection of the Body of Christ and life-affirming ministry look like?
When none responded to our interview request, I asked Missourian friends for help. One is a member of James River Church. I made the call and was connected immediately to Kara Hawkins, its Director of Adult Ministries.
For the first couple of minutes, our conversation was awkward, as any cold call from a stranger would be when you’re being asked provocative questions you aren’t prepared for at 8:30 AM. I quickly realized, however, that Kara was the person I was looking for.
That conversation and its follow-up were excellent. Kara convinced me her church was interested in connecting with life-affirming ministry. She suggested I listen to a sermon by Pastor John Lindell. In it, he characterizes the disconnect between the Body of Christ and life-ministry by saying, “Many in the church are either uninformed, apathetic, or afraid to speak up as believers.”
I found Pastor Lindell’s sermon inspiring and joined one of their men’s groups that met online. During my first visit, the leader asked me to introduce myself. When I mentioned I work with pregnancy resource centers he said he didn’t know what that meant. The disconnect is real.
Continue with Part 2 and discover how life-affirming centers and the Body of Christ can reconnect.
1. Pro-Life and Rescue Movements, The Association of Religion Data Archives, https://www.thearda.com/timeline/movements/movement_31.asp
2. “American religious groups vary widely in their views of abortion,” David Masci, Pew Research Center, January 22, 2018, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/01/22/american-religious-groups-vary-widely-in-their-views-of-abortion/
Photo credit: Etienne Girardet, Unsplash.com
©2020 Stuart Carver. Stuart serves the Family God’s Way movement where people connect with people in relational discipleship. Stuart’s role in the movement includes: finding opportunities to connect people in relational discipleship, creating innovative relational discipleship resources, and connecting the Body of Christ to life affirming ministry.