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How 1,000 Churches Could Transform the Abortion Debate

Posted by Greg Austen on Oct 17, 2017 11:34:01 AM

Even as the Executive Director of Church Outreach & Engagement for Care Net – the largest life-affirming, evangelical network of pregnancy centers in the United States and Canada –I was once wary and tepid in my support of the pro-life cause. But in God’s providence, I’m now on the front lines serving and engaging churches in addressing abortion.

As a minister of Jesus Christ, my first allegiance is to the gospel and my primary mission is to make disciples. It’s not to overturn Roe v. Wade or end abortion, as worthy as those goals are in other spheres. The courts can make abortion illegal; but only God through his church can make abortion unthinkable. My joy—my honor—is to partner with the God of the Universe as he changes hearts -- the “make abortion unthinkable” part of the equation.

Abortion is not only a problem in our communities –out there; it’s a problem in the church. Two years ago, Care Net partnered with Lifeway Research on a national survey, which found that nearly 4 in 10 women who have had abortions were attending church at least once a month at the time of their first abortion. These findings are in synch with Guttmacher Institute research that showed that 54% of women who have abortions identify as Christian.

How do we best address abortion in the church or provide effective conduits to discipleship for clients at pregnancy centers? Suburban, mega, urban, and rural churches and parishes are all essential and must be equipped to show compassion, hope, and help to the women and men facing pregnancy decisions. But before we get practical, let’s get more personal: If a woman in your congregation faced an unplanned pregnancy, to whom could she turn for support?

The short answer—the one we pray and work toward—is “many gracious, equipped women and men in her congregation prepared to offer compassion, hope, and help.” This equipping takes investment of time. The goal, however, is not to promote a program to implement, but to prepare lives (disciple makers) to imitate. This woman will need love, grace, and discipleship. The man who got her pregnant (or the guy she is currently with) needs this help, too. At Care Net, we envision a church culture where women and men faced with pregnancy decisions are transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ and empowered to choose life for their unborn children and abundant life for their families.

In my role and as a systems guy, I often reflect on the question, “How do we increase the number of grace-based churches that effectively draw, retain, and provide transformative ministry to those facing unplanned or unwanted pregnancies?” Theologically speaking, we know there’s no easy fix, and it will never happen without the primacy of gospel-centered preaching (1 Cor. 1:21) and the sovereign wind of the Spirit (John 3:8).

Coinciding with that, however, I do think there are ways we can mobilize our churches or parishes, as well as others in our community, to offer compassionate support to women and men considering abortion.

I’ve read a lot of pro-life articles about “spreading a culture of life across our nation” or “leading with love,” but few get into tangible and practical resources that churches can implement. Over the last two years, we’ve developed an eight session, DVD-based, small-group ministry resource called Making Life Disciples, along with a tested path to implement its vision. Making Life Disciples equips a select group of first-responders to offer compassion, hope, and help to women and men considering abortion.

We’ve also developed a related free, six-session, online course for individuals, Pro-Life 101, that is designed to raise awareness and channel anti-abortion sentiment in intelligent, respectful, loving, and effective directions.

Now we are bringing all this learning—Pro-Life 101 and Making Life Disciples—together using a proven, grass-roots, community mobilization effort housed at makinglifedisciples.com This initiative launches today with three main goals—the third also being the desired result of the initiative:


1. Through Pro-Life 101, raise awareness and harness the raw energy in communities—pro-life people who want to do something positive in a non-political way, channeling that energy in intelligent, gospel-centered, respectful, and loving directions.


2. Using seasoned practitioners that love the church, support those who want to bring Making Life Disciples to their church, including those who have gone through Pro-Life 101.


3. Implement Making Life Disciples in 1,000 churches by the end of 2020 in a way that promotes life teams with a long-term effective presence and a sustainable vision.

We respectfully ask you to pray, check out Making Life Disciples, and tell others about this initiative.

Are you in?

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What pastors have to say about Making Life Disciples

"What I like most about Making Life Disciples is that it equips the church to take an active but loving role in addressing what is arguably the greatest moral atrocity of our time. Instead of hiding a perceived 'crises' with an abortion, men and women facing an unplanned pregnancy are compelled by grace and loving support to choose life and come into the light. Further, the 'crises' becomes an on-ramp and opportunity for the gospel and discipleship." —  Kent Hughes, Distinguished Chair of Practical Theology, Westminster Theological Seminary in Glenside, PA

"Making Life Disciples is a tremendous discipleship tool for churches hoping to equip their people to reach and care for those considering, or who have gone through, abortion.  One of the great values of this curriculum — especially for those serving in an urban context — is its focus on loving and caring for those facing abortion and its effect.  Law change through politics is good, but heart change through the Gospel is better; I’m thankful to have a resource that embodies this reality.”  — Jamaal Williams, Lead Pastor,  Sojourn Community Church Midtown, Louisville, KY

“I have never heard a more compelling vision for a Pro-Abundant Life approach to children than the one featured in Making Life Disciples. Finally there is an effort that avoids the old pro-choice and anti-abortion rhetoric to give Christians an approach that emphasizes all the things we care about: women and mothers, children, fathers, marriage, the local church, and Christian discipleship. I pray this material changes the way we think about life and leads us to commit ourselves to an expansion vision for both protecting and nurturing it.” — Thabiti Anyabwile, Pastor of Anacostia River Church in Washington, DC and a council member of The Gospel Coalition.

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