There's a saying: "Never underestimate the power of a planted seed." In Virginia, one church decided to plant a tiny seed of faith while connecting with a local pregnancy center, and together they are witnessing a culture of life.
When Larry Agee expressed interest in leading a life ministry in his church, he was unsure of the direction it should go. Cool Spring Baptist Church, located outside of Richmond, Virginia, decided to combine three separate ministries—preborn, adoption, and elderly care— into a Sanctity of Life mission. The goal was to focus on the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death. Larry would lead the preborn team with a purpose to protect the unborn and help women and men with pregnancy decisions.
Tackling Virginia’s Extremism
Helping to protect the unborn was a high priority. In February 2019, abortion made headlines in Virginia for legislation that proposed third-trimester abortions up to the point of birth. With government officials in support of infanticide, many Virginians were outraged by such extreme abortion measures. Larry Agee stood against this kind of extremism. On April 3, 2019, Virginia held its first statewide March for Life at the capital. "I was ready to get a church bus, gather a group of people, and go on down there to the March," Larry recalls. "But after talking with my pastor, we discussed another option to tackle this issue as a church."
Larry began to look for resources that would help his church lead a life ministry with an emphasis on discipleship. He came across Care Net and their church initiative, Making Life Disciples (MLD). "I was impressed with all their resources," Larry noted. "As I looked through the MLD course, I came across a section in the first lesson." It read: "The Making Life Disciples ministry is rooted in the compassion and love of Jesus Christ. It is not about changing laws, nor is it ultimately about saving babies…It is about sharing the Gospel and empowering people to make positive, life-affirming choices. When hurting women and men encounter Jesus Christ in the midst of their crisis, their lives are forever changed." Larry had found the right direction for the ministry. "I jumped right in after reading that,” he remarked. “I decided our life ministry would be all about making life disciples!” "
Planting a Seed
In August 2019, Cool Spring Baptist Church held its Sanctity of Life Sunday service. Pastor Brad Hoffman spoke about the biblical response to abortion and protecting the unborn. The church was introduced to the new Sanctity of Life ministry with an invitation to join and be trained to offer compassion, hope, and help to anyone considering abortion. In January 2020, Larry led a six-week training with a group dedicated to understanding how to minister to women and men with a crisis pregnancy decision. They also invited Ann Campbell, the director of East End Pregnancy Center, and forged a relationship.
Ann realizes how critical the church's role is in her work with crisis pregnancies. She has also witnessed the negative aspect of silence among Christians regarding abortion: "I have had numerous conversations with fellow Virginians whom are simply disillusioned and profoundly disheartened with how silent the Church has been over the abortion topic for decades. Now we are faced with the reality that abortion is acceptable, prevalent, and normalized as a quick and easy solution. Pastors need to be emboldened to face the issue head-on, and Making Life Disciples gives them an avenue to do just that.”
For East End Pregnancy Center and Cool Spring Baptist Church, tackling the abortion issue is about building a culture that centers on meaningful, life-affirming connections. "Our pastor said, this is all about relationships," Larry mentioned. "If we are going to be disciples and make life disciples, then this is about building relationships. We need to come alongside these women and men becoming life mentors and long-term friends."
Through the Sanctity of Life ministry at Cool Spring Baptist Church, twelve people were trained with the Making Life Disciples curriculum. The ministry's relationship with East End Pregnancy Center has helped to bolster the Center's needs as they reach and minister to the abortion-vulnerable. "Cool Spring Baptist Church has set the bar high for a church and center relationship," Ann Campbell acknowledged. "Not only did they conduct a very enthusiastic and successful Baby Bottle Campaign of well over 12,000 dollars, but we have acquired several new board members, devoted volunteers, and a new Nurse Manager. It was a picture-perfect example of being able to look back and see the literal fruits of that tiny seed planted last summer."
Bridging the Gap
Larry Agee knows continuing the relationship with East End Pregnancy Center is vital to the church's Sanctity of Life ministry as they continue to expand and train more people. "We don't know what this ministry will look like in the future. This next step is important," Larry recognizes. Ann sees this church connection through the aspect of ongoing commitment and patience, "These 'care connections' will bridge that gaping relationship hole that so many hurting people from our communities need. It is thrilling to think about what God is going to do because we know that He brings these women and men to our center. Imagine how lives will truly be transformed!"
Every church is different, so every life ministry will serve the needs of their community in various ways. But the beauty in all of this is Cool Spring Baptist Church is equipped and ready to tackle the abortion issue with compassion, hope, and discipleship. "It's easy for the church to say we are against abortion, and not actually do anything," Larry commented. "Making Life Disciples provides a positive opportunity in a biblically-rooted way to do something in the church."
While many churches refuse to talk about abortion, Cool Spring Baptist Church is embracing their life ministry with a discipleship mission. They are intentionally standing positively for something, and that something is for life. A planted seed is taking root in the Richmond, Virginia community—growing and offering abundant life.