Ways your church can be pro-life
Pursuing faithfulness in our teaching and practice
What does it mean to be a “pro-life church”?
Most evangelicals and evangelicals churches would consider themselves pro-life in the most basic of terms. However, that does not mean that those churches are making any intentional efforts to pursue a pro-life ethic. Most pastors and churches are uncertain or nervous when it comes to doing broader things in their church. However, if a church believes in the significance of this issue and seeks to take intentional steps to promote a biblically pro-life position, there are many ways churches can work towards effective change in their congregations, communities, and our country.
At its essence, we could define a “pro-life church” this way:
1) A pro-life church holds to (and teaches) a biblical perspective on the sanctity of life.
This certainly includes articulating the evil of abortion but it encompasses much more than this. All life is sacred and churches should seek to articulate and teach the biblical worldview when it comes to the image of God on humanity, the reality of sin in the social sphere, the importance of caring for all life (especially those in desperate need), and the importance of pursuing biblical justice as Christians in a broken world.
2) A pro-life church promotes (and pursues) active steps of faithful engagement.
A church might hold to a biblical perspective but that does not mean it is actively practicing what it affirms. With that said, we do not want to infer an undue burden on churches from a point of shame. Rather, we simply affirm that if a church is seeking to be “pro-life” in any corporate sense, then that church will find ways to promote active ways for its members to live out a pro-life ethic and worldivew. Additionally, we affirm that a pro-life church is one that seeks to support (at an organizational level) faithful partnerships and efforts that reflect God’s heart for this issue.
We asked churches what they are currently doing
Knowing that many churches do not know where to start, we reached out to several churches and organizations that hold to a biblical perspective on this issue and are currently taking steps to teach and practice faithful engagement. We have compiled a list of tools that you might consider bringing to your church. We are not suggesting that every idea on this list must be implemented by every church. Rather, our hope is to excite churches with practical steps they can take.
Ways your church can pursue faithfulness
Officially state your church’s position.
Many churches have developed an official statement on abortion (or sanctity of life) and/or a teaching position on the topic. This is a great place to start. For an official statement, it is good to be brief, biblical, and gospel-centered in its articulation. The goal of this document is to state plainly what the church believes and then requires its leaders to affirm it. For a teaching statement, it is good to be more comprehensive and persuasive. The goal of this document is to teach more deeply the biblical worldview and then apply it. A document like this should address pressing cultural questions related to the issue and provide biblical steps to respond and act.
Teach on the sanctity of life regularly.
Several churches utilize Sanctity of Life Sunday as a day every year to preach on the topic of abortion and life’s value from a biblical perspective. This Sunday is on or near the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade (late January). There might be other rhythms your church might develop, more or less frequently. Consider teaching a class on the sanctity of human life, doing a sermon series, or teaching passages of scripture that touch on this issue.
Do a holistic assessment of your community’s needs.
It is good to ask what the most pressing struggles and concerns are facing your city and state, as it relates to this issue. One church stated that they found a high rate of teen pregnancy in their area. They began to invest intentionally in their local high schools to provide resources and support to pregnant teen girls. Another church found that abortion rates were high among the impoverished population in their city. They saw this as an opportunity to work with some local shelters and resource centers to provide for the needs of mothers in desperate financial need. Addressing some of the underlying reasons why women pursue aboriton in your area is a helpful way to practice a more holistic pro-life ethic.
Do an annual fundraiser for pro-life work.
Some churches do a regular fundraiser to raise money for a local (or national) pro-life organization. Raising funds for local pro-life pregnancy centers is a tremendous way you can provide practical support. Consider local work already being done and then consider national work.
Support and celebrate foster care and adoption.
One church started a fund in their budget specifically to provide financial support for members pursuing adoption or foster care. Safe Families is an organization several churches partner with to support children coming from difficult situations. Consider how you can celebrate those in the congregation who are caring for kids who are forgotten or abused. Consider how you might have resources to assist a women who is considering abortion for financial reasons.
Direct members to pro-life work in your area.
Many non-profit pregnancy centers (and other pro-life groups) are in need of volunteers. One church developed a list of local organizations. Other churches utilize state-wide organizations that have compiled lists of pro-life groups offering adoption and pregnancy support. Our church is in the state of Maine and we utilize Maine Right to Life’s resource directory. Consider leading a group of volunteers to help at a local organization and put the option in front of your people regularly.
Recognize and celebrate active members.
Most churches have a few people in their congregations that are passionate and active in engaging pro-life issues. Give space at member/business meetings or Sunday mornings for them to share testimonies and opportunities. One church made space for women who had previously had an abortion to share their story and how they now advocate for pro-life issues.
Host an abortion support group.
Having an abortion is a traumatic experience for the mother. Many mothers admit to feelings of intense grief, regret, depression, isolation, and low self-esteem. Some turn to drug or alcohol abuse, sexual promiscuity, or even suicide ideation. Some churches have partnered with groups or led their own group to provide support, counsel, care, and healing for women who have had an abortion. Local pro-life organizations may have a list of organizations that can help provide care or help your church get started. Here’s one such list, from our state.
Pray for and petition lawmakers in your area.
One church led a prayer gathering for their state that God would move legislators to enact laws more aligned with the sanctity of life. They also had tables with cards for members to write to political leaders with more information on their state’s policies and laws, along with specific points to include in those letters. If your church has a time of prayer during the Sunday service, consider occasionally using that time to pray for God to work in the hearts of our political leaders. Encourage appropriate political action and lead by example.
Inform your members of pro-life events.
Some pro-life groups organize public events that raise money or awareness to pro-life issues. One church encouraged small groups to participate together in a local “Walk for Life” in a nearby city. Other churches encourage participation informational events put on by pro-life organizations that connect members to information and opportunities available to them. Some churches see value in advocating outside abortion clinics and offering prayer or resources to struggling mothers.
Offer books and resources to your congregation.
Some churches have brochures in their lobby. Other churches have a church bookstore or library where they provide books and resources on the sanctity of life. Many individuals don’t know where to turn. Offer information that is easily accessible for those looking to learn more. Here’s one booklist from Students for Life and a more broad movie and book list from Focus on the Family.
A final challenge: The gospel is the answer.
As much as it is important to be specific and practical with our engagement, what must never be lost in this discussion is how no area of evil in our society can be ultimately fixed apart from the saving work of Jesus on the cross. There is no amount of personal (or social) guilt and shame that can be healed apart from the saving work of Jesus on the cross. There is no vision that can lead to the flourishing of unborn children and hurting women apart from the saving work of Jesus on the cross.
Culture can be transformed but only through the gospel. Your church can make a difference. Lives can be saved. Brokenness can be healed. Life can be celebrated. Flourishing can be experienced. All of this can happen when everyday Christians come together, picture with their lives, and proclaim with their lips the love of God offered through Jesus Christ. The most effective tool any church has is found in picturing and proclaiming the gospel well. Declare the words of Jesus with the heart of Jesus. Stand in the middle of the mess that is our world and declare that there is an answer to the darkness. There is hope for the hopeless. There is healing for the brokenness. There is forgiveness available to anyone who repents and trusts in the finished work of Christ on the cross. Preach the gospel. Picture the gospel. Jesus wins.