The Pro-Life fight against abortion is a worthy one. It recognizes the inherent dignity in a human being and argues vehemently that no one has the right to snuff that life out through abortion. In recent years, the fight for life has expanded to defend human dignity from womb to tomb. This has allowed the Pro-Life movement to not only encourage people to stand against abortion, but also to oppose euthanasia, and eugenics as affronts to human dignity and freedom. This fight is worthy in and of itself.
Life Between Womb and Tomb
But it is not merely worthy in and of itself. If the Pro-Life movement is to be truly pro–life—not merely to be anti-abortion or to oppose euthanasia—it requires more investment than simply participating in protests, petitions, and marches against Planned Parenthood. Such steps are right and good and Pro-Life advocacy should continue these practices. But participation in these events should be only part of a Christian or church’s plan to support the lives that are lived between womb and tomb.
This is the point at which the Pro-Life movement is presented with significant missional opportunity. The Pro-Life position involves more than just ideology. When a mother decides not to go through with an abortion, it is a moment of victory for the Pro-Life community. However, that mother who has decided to keep her child still faces the pressures, strains, and fears that drove her to consider abortion in the first place. This is where the church has an opportunity to engage the lives that have survived the choice. Below are three basic ways that the church can capitalize on the missional opportunities that arise through Pro-Life ministry through offering missional support, missional love, and—most importantly—Gospel hope.
The choice for life might take place in a moment, but it has ongoing physical and material ramifications for the decision makers. Churches and Pro-Life ministries can play a role in helping to alleviate some of those immediate material needs in the process of engaging people who may be far from Jesus.
It might be that a church that is heavily involved in Pro-Life advocacy would consider keeping a similar store of diapers, formula, newborn clothing, and other items to provide to women who decide against abortion. Such practical support immediately available to mothers-to-be can be a tangible indicator that the church has already been preparing to care for the lives for which it is fighting. Such support also invests in trust-building that can lead to ongoing relationships and opportunities to continue care.
In many situations, choosing life requires families to seek childcare or healthcare to be provided outside of the home. By compiling a list of options for such care in the area, a church can demonstrate a willingness to acknowledge the ongoing pressures of choosing life while also reinforcing the reality that support and solutions are available. In both of these ways, churches and Pro-Life ministries extend a hand of compassion that can serve as an invitation to further relationship and can provide a pathway to spiritual care.
In addition to physical and material needs, those considering taking life often carry heavy emotional burdens. Caring for their physical life and the lives under their If your church has a trusted counseling center in the area it may be helpful to create a pathway to provide counseling care to those who you meet in your Pro-Life engagements.
Perhaps there is a credentialed and experienced counselor on the church’s staff who would be able to dedicate time to meeting with people in the throes of making choices for life. For other churches, that may involve adding a line item to the church’s annual budget that would help subsidize the cost of counseling care to be provided through trusted local counselors for those affected.
While pastors and elders along with licensed and credentialed counselors play a key role in helping people heal emotionally, the congregation at large can also play a part in cultivating a healing community. Many churches host MOPs groups or other opportunities for mothers with young children to gather together, share advice, and fellowship. Such settings make great opportunities for reaching out to mothers who have chosen life yet are struggling with the ramifications of raising children unexpectedly. Combined together, these settings help to care for the whole person in the wake of their decisions, but they also provide avenues for striking up Gospel-centered conversations.
As we collaborate with various Pro-Life organizations, the local church has a great opportunity to connect the important work of supporting such efforts with the missional work of proclaiming eternal life in Jesus Christ. Ultimately, the church is the community of believers who share a common salvation through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The church—and every ministry of the church—exists simply as a result of God’s work to reconcile sinners to Himself. This is our great message of hope: that eternal life is available through faith in Christ whose death and resurrection secure our forgiveness and cleansing. Thus, it should follow that when churches and their Pro-Life ministries come into contact with non-Christians, they are ultimately concerned with an even greater choice: how will they respond to the Gospel of Jesus?
As we stand for life from womb to tomb we must also seize the opportunity to minister to the lives of those who are between the womb and the tomb. In this way, our fight for life is immediately connected to our Gospel mission in life. May it be that the Lord would use our temporal efforts to support life to bring about the fruit of eternal life in those with whom He allows us to connect.
Matt Bennett (PhD, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is assistant professor of missions and theology at Cedarville University.