The March For Life took place a few weeks ago in Washington, D.C., beginning on the National Mall and proceeding to the steps of the Supreme Court. Hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children walked this path to advocate for the dignity and protection of human life, especially in its most vulnerable form, that of life in the womb.
I was fortunate to be among those who marched, and as we made our way through the streets, past monolithic buildings, and historic landmarks in our nation's capital, I thought about what would come next, after the march was over. When the peaceful chants could no longer be heard and the decorated signs displaying pro-life views had been stacked in the recycling bins, as we all climbed into Ubers or hurried into local coffee shops and restaurants to rest our legs or escape the cold, would we find ourselves decidedly more pro-life than before the March began?
I hope the answer is yes. It is for me. While the March is a powerful and even emotional experience, I am challenged to not let a demonstration be the end of my pro-life advocacy for the year. There are many working to see Roe v. Wade overturned and our government held more accountable to protecting human dignity for all, in a number of ways. There are the heroes among us who are serving tirelessly in pregnancy centers and clinics, not to mention the countless ministries and churches who commit to serving the women and men in crisis due to unplanned pregnancies each year.
If spending a few days in D.C., not only for the March For Life but also at Evangelicals For Life, a conference put on by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission to address issues of life and human dignity from a gospel foundation, has taught me anything, it's that the opportunities to stand for life are endless. Even when we are not participating in organized efforts, our call as Christians to love our neighbors and and our belief that every person is created in the image of God compels us to live pro-life.
What your church can do
As I think about what this looks like in a practical sense, and how the application of a gospel-based pro-life ethic will look different for every person, I'm brought to the realization that this all comes together within the context of the local church. Sometimes churches, and especially church leaders, may feel as if pro-life ministry is yet another work they ought to be doing, while at the same time feel they are failing miserably.
However, the more I consider how our own church can do a better job of fostering a pro-life culture, the more I'm convinced that the steps are small and doable for almost any pastor, leader, or member to begin today. Here are a few that come to mind:
1. Look for and support the pro-life efforts already happening in your church
There is a good chance that church members in your congregation are already engaged passionately in fighting for life. Begin having conversations with your members, asking around for anyone who is involved in ministries like foster care, pregnancy center support, or serving those with special needs. If your church actively preaches the gospel and teaches a Christian worldview, it is very likely that disciples of Christ are already at work. As church leaders, we have the opportunity to encourage and empower them (Eph. 4:12).
It can be difficult to gain traction quickly when launching a new ministry or focus in your church, especially when you and your fellow staff or volunteers are busy with the administrative duties of running a church. Rely on your church members already carrying the baton to let you know where the pro-life work is happening and how the church can better resource its members to engage even more deeply in those efforts.
2. Teach a whole-life, pro-life view to your church members
It is impossible to teach the Word of God accurately and miss God's desire for human flourishing. Genesis to Revelation reveal that he is the author of our lives, faith, and salvation; so, we must obey his commands. From the senior pastor down to the small group Bible study leader, the local church needs to teach a pro-life ethic that is consistent with and rooted in Scripture.
As church leaders, we have a responsibility to help people see their own role in caring about human dignity and the protection of life, especially in its most vulnerable forms. It's not "too political" to advocate for issues of life from the pulpit when your authority is the Word of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17) and your church is filled with grace and love for people who have not always valued life.
3. Commit to educating yourself and your people toward a fuller pro-life ethic
In the same way that we grow in the understanding and knowledge of God when we read and learn his Word, we have an opportunity to grow in understanding on many issues surrounding the protection and flourishing of life. As leaders or members in the church, we need to be learners, not to be inflated by knowledge but to live and work for the good of those around us who might see our good deeds and give glory to God (Matt. 5:16).
Attend a conference like Evangelicals For Life, and learn from professionals working to advance life across the board: in special needs ministry and advocacy, in immigration reform, in human trafficking rescue, and in anti-abortion legislation. We cannot be experts in everything, or even several things. Inviting church members, perhaps even paying their way when resources allow, to join you in educating yourself on issues of life sends a strong message that you care about human dignity and how to better incorporate a pro-life ethic into your church and city.
4. Evaluate the priorities of your church
As a church leader, you carry the important and difficult responsibility of deciding which environments and programs your church will offer to foster discipleship. Strategic decision-making is important in churches that want to see growth in Christ. As such, it is important to ask if your church shares opportunities for members to engage in pro-life work, whether formally through set ministries or informally by sharing stories of church members engaged in parachurch ministry.
This is not to say that if your church doesn't have a full-blown orphan care ministry complete with its own budget and staff that your church isn't fulfilling the commands of Scripture. For example, our church supports ministries like our local pregnancy center through financial giving, participating in local advocacy efforts, and by encouraging church members to volunteer. We know that their staff is doing work that our church is not equipped to do on its own.
However, if we find that we are caring for our members without equipping them to live on mission, then we need to re-evaluate. What's more, if we find that our ministries are catering to the comfort and satisfaction of our church members and not to reaching out to a lost culture around us, then it's time to repent.
5. Celebrate the diversity of opportunities for pro-life ministry
We need every member of the body of Christ to fulfill the Great Commission and help build the church (1 Cor. 12). We also need every follower of Christ to envision a world that values the sanctity and dignity of human life, and to work toward that end. Attending Evangelicals For Life the past four years has helped me see the wonderful and abundant opportunities to engage in pro-life work.
Right now in our church, I know of members pursuing adoption, fostering children, counseling survivors of sex trafficking, volunteering at our local pregnancy center, caring for refugees, and preparing to move overseas to share the gospel in foreign places. If you see a lack of energy in your church toward pro-life causes, it's time to practice what you preach.
Starting a ministry isn't the only way to support pro-life work—host a foster care education class, take a small group to your local pregnancy center to volunteer, or give to a supply drive for single moms choosing life. These needs exist in our communities, and unless we make the theoretical practical for our church members, a pro-life worldview won't connect as deeply as when the stories and testimonies are coming from our own church members.
The March For Life is held in January to coincide with the Supreme Court Case of Roe v. Wade, the outcome of which legalized abortion in the United States. For 45 years, the conviction that every human being deserves life has made its way through the heart of our nation's capital. I imagine that for the last 45 years, millions of prayers for unborn children and the sanctity of human life have also made their way to the ears of the God who hears his people (1 Pet. 3:12).
He is still listening, and he has not been silent. No one is more pro-life than God, and in his great mercy and love for his people, he has also extended grace to those who have chosen abortion or compromised the dignity of a human life. Nothing is more pro-life than the gospel, and so gospel work is pro-life work. In our freedom and our ability to do so, we, as followers of Christ, must pray and consider how we will enter into this work individually and corporately. The needs are great and the opportunities are abundant. Let’s make sure our churches are the places where women and children are most dignified for God's glory.