Gospel of Life Ministries is
working closely with Pastors around the world to
assist them to address the abortion problem. Based
on our extensive contact with pastors through our
seminars and individual consultations, and informed
by the professional survey of pastors that we
commissioned in 2000, we offer the following
reflections on some of the most common fears and
hesitations that Pastors have about addressing
abortion. We hope these reflections will renew your
confidence in addressing this most pressing moral
Do I see the issue as too
emotional and sensitive?
Many aspects of abortion are very sensitive. That
means they have to be dealt with in a sensitive way;
it does not mean they should be ignored. The impact
of abortion on the lives of our people --
physically, spiritually, and emotionally -- is all
the more reason for a shepherd to pay attention to
these wounds, and to help people avoid them in the
first place. Ministry necessarily involves
confronting problems that provoke emotions within us
and among our people. In this case, ministry
regarding abortion involves nothing less than life
Am I afraid I won't be loved?
Sometimes our fear about addressing abortion, or
other controversial issues, is as simple as that --
and as profound. A strong relationship with Christ,
who is the source of all love, and a conviction that
fidelity to Him is the foundation for love between
human beings, is a key remedy for this fear.
Moreover, fidelity to our mission of proclaiming the
Gospel -- especially when that means taking on hard
issues -- is what will earn us the love and respect
of those we serve. To the extent that we are
disliked for what we say about abortion, we might
ask whether efforts to save the life of a child are
worth that sacrifice. The answer is self-evident.
Am I afraid of being perceived
as "right wing," "fanatical," "controversial," or
out of step with my people?
Unfortunately, some use these
labels to describe the pro-life movement. Yet we
were not ordained to belong to any one "faction" of
the Body of Christ, but rather to faithfully
articulate the Bible's teachings, among the most
fundamental of which is the right to life. That
teaching should find expression at each and every
point along the spectrum of legitimate theological
pluralism in the Body of Christ. No person or group
in the Body of Christ is exempt from the privileged
duty to defend life, nor does any group within the
Body of Christ have a monopoly on the defense of
An important aspect of our
leadership, in other words, is to re-frame the
issue. There should not be a gap between 'social
justice' concerns and 'right to life' concerns. The
starting point and heart of 'social justice' is the
dignity of the human person. Surveys, moreover, show
that the people to whom we minister are much more in
step with the position of the Body of Christ on life
issues than with the positions of pro-abortion
Am I afraid I may alienate
some of my Members? We
do not want to unnecessarily offend or alienate
anyone from the church. We are reconcilers. At the
same time, the One to whom we reconcile the people
is God. To have the people coming to the church is
one aspect of our mission; another aspect is to make
sure that when they come they hear the full message
of God through His Word. This is not a favor to
them; they have a right, in strict justice, to hear
the full truth of Gospel teaching. Our experience
through Gospel of Life Ministries is that people
throughout the nation appreciate hearing clear
teaching from the pulpit about abortion. Yet to
believe we can do this faithfully and at the same
time never alienate anyone is to
ignore the fact that even Christ Himself alienated
some people (see John 6). Can we do better than He
did? Such alienation is not intentional on our part,
but is, in some cases, inevitable. Some people have
alienated themselves from the truth about abortion.
If, then, we faithfully expose that truth, they may
choose to alienate themselves from us, too. This is
not the same as "driving them away," which is a
situation in which we provide the cause of
alienation by our carelessness or unkindness.
Am I afraid of "dividing my
church"? Every church
is already "divided," with people on different sides
of the abortion issue. If we never speak of the
issue, we may cover over the division for a while,
but that is not the same thing as unity. Unity is
founded on truth, and is fostered by a clear
exposition of truth. "When I am lifted up from the
earth, I will draw all people to Myself" (Jn.12:32).
We do not build unity by our own human plans,
efforts, and programs. We build it by lifting up
Christ for all to see and hear. We build it by
proclaiming His Word, without ambiguity or apology.
Sure, there will be some division for the same
reason that there will be some alienation. But the
Word itself causes that. "I have come for division"
(Luke 12:51). It is the division between truth and
error, grace and sin, life and death. This division
must come before unity is possible; otherwise the
unity will be superficial and illusory.
Am I afraid of being a
As pastors, we necessarily
address a multitude of issues, and must be committed
to a consistent ethic of life. Numerically, abortion
is one issue; but it is one issue like the
foundation of a house is one part of the house.
There is a hierarchy of moral values and the dignity
of life is the fundamental one. The reason why every
other issue is an issue to begin with is that human
beings have a right to life. We do not, therefore,
address abortion because we are unconcerned about
other issues, but precisely because we are
concerned about them, and realize that we cannot
make progress on them unless the foundation itself
Do I believe there are simply
too many issues to address to allow me to focus on
abortion? The fact
that we have to address innumerable problems puts us
in the same position in regard to all of them.
We judge which ones to devote more time to depending
on their urgency. Which do the most harm to
humanity, the crown of God’s creation? Which provide
the greatest threat to the spiritual well-being of
our people? How does a Christian
commitment to the poor and weak inform each
specific issue? Abortion, which claims more victims
than any other act of violence, and whose victims
are the weakest and most defenseless, ranks quite
high in the answers to these and similar questions.
Am I just too busy to get more
involved? Much of what
we are called to do for pro-life does not take more
time. Rather, it takes more spirit.
It doesn't take any extra time to preach on abortion
than to preach on any other topic. It doesn't take
any more time to put a pro-life announcement in the
bulletin than it does to put in any other kind of
announcement. It doesn't take any more time to let a
pro-life group know they have your encouragement
than to let any other group know that. Beyond this,
we can reflect that innocent life is at stake. If we
would take time to try to save a child who was
struck by a car on the road near our church, can we
not also take time to do something about 4000
children being deliberately torn limb from limb
every day? All our time is God's anyway. Let's use
more of it to save His children!
Will I increase the sense of
guilt and pain of women who have had abortions?
An understanding of the dynamics of post-abortion
women and men is extremely helpful in dealing with
this fear. Many pastors are silent out of the best
of good intentions towards such people in their
congregation. Silence, however, does not interpret
itself. The person in the pews hurting from abortion
may interpret our silence to mean, "He doesn't know
my pain," or, "He doesn't care about it," or, "There
is no hope." Experts in post-abortion healing tell
us that in order for those who have had abortions to
find healing, it is absolutely essential that
they "stop using the mechanisms of defense, such as
denial, self-repression, and rationalization of
abortion" (Dr. Philip Mango, "The Consequences of
Abortion and Their Treatment," August 1990). It is
not silence that helps one break out of denial, but
rather an honest and compassionate word about the
reality of what they have done. We preach on
abortion to save post-abortive people, and to
protect others from making the same mistake. After
one sermon I gave on abortion, a post-abortive woman
said, "It often hurts when I hear about abortion,
but please keep preaching about it, because
it is so consoling to know that by your words,
someone else might be spared all the pain I have
Do I simply feel inadequate to
the task of addressing abortion?
Our confidence will increase as
we become more informed about the issue, speak with
other pastors who are active in the movement, pray,
and practice. There is sometimes a fear that we will
give the issue the wrong emphasis ("coming down too
hard," "fostering guilt," "sounding uncaring"). We
can counteract this by always mentioning the help
available to women in need, and the peace and
forgiveness Christ offers in the Gospel.
Do I feel I have no right to
address this issue, because I am a man?
The taking of a human life is a
human issue, and addressing its injustice requires
no qualifications other than being a decent human
being. The "abortion-rights" community never
complains when men -- married or single -- speak out
in favor of abortion; nor should the pro-life
community have any fear about men speaking out
Do I believe abortion is too
complex to be addressed in the sermon?
Abortion is psychologically
complex, but morally it is quite straightforward:
abortion is a direct killing of an innocent person,
and is therefore always wrong. Nothing can justify
it. It is not "too complex" to denounce killing in a
sermon, to point out injustice toward the most
defenseless members of society, to proclaim that
there is help available for pregnant women, and that
there are better choices than abortion.
Does the complexity of a large
and varied congregation deter me from addressing
abortion? Any good
public speaker knows that a primary rule is "Know
your audience." A Sunday congregation is a varied
audience, in terms of age, education and spiritual
maturity. The problem of addressing such a group is
not limited to abortion. For any subject, we
must exercise sensitivity and prudence. Outside of
the Sunday worship service, our members are
constantly hearing messages that contradict historic
Christian teaching on faith and morals. Our
challenge is to provide them with truth that will
counteract the confusing messages they hear
elsewhere. It is unrealistic to think that every
person will immediately understand everything we
say. People will also differ in their estimation
about what is "appropriate", and there will always
be some criticism. We must live with that. We should
make it clear that we are always open to speak with
people privately if questions or misunderstandings
arise due to our preaching. Using prudence, we must
at the same time ask, "If they don't hear the truth
from us, exactly where and when will they hear it?"
If we are silent, we allow those who are intent on
covering up the truth about how terrible abortion
is, to have the first, last, and only word with
people whom we are responsible to shepherd.
Do I have trouble relating
abortion to Scripture?
If Scripture does not teach the
immorality of abortion, it does not teach anything
at all. A particular word like "abortion" does not
have to appear in the text of Scripture in order for
Scripture to teach about it. The word "Trinity," for
example, is not anywhere in the Bible, but the
teaching is. Abortion is the killing of an innocent,
human child. The teaching on abortion is contained
in the numerous condemnations of the shedding of
innocent blood, and the numerous instructions about
justice and charity, especially toward the weak, the
small, the helpless, and those whom society rejects.
Numerous texts exist, but beyond this are the entire
themes and directions in which Scripture moves. The
people of the old and new covenants are called to be
a holy people, a community bound to God and one
another in love. This happens because God takes the
initiative not only in giving life but also in
intervening to save the helpless. Such are central
events of both the Old and the New Testaments.
Abortion belongs to a totally contradictory dynamic
of thought and life: It excludes members of the
community and destroys rather than defends the
helpless. (Gospel of Life provides specific
materials on relating the abortion issue to
Scripture, including sample sermons. Write to
Am I afraid that in addressing
abortion I am allowing a "personal agenda" to
intrude into the liturgy?
If defending innocent children
from death and reaching out in practical charity to
help pregnant women in need is simply a "personal
agenda," then what is the church’s agenda? Can it
possibly not include this? Scripture makes it
clear that liturgy which ignores the demands of
justice is not true worship (see Isaiah 1).
Do I need more resources?
There is an abundance
of material that Gospel of Life Ministries can
provide for you, and if we don't have it we will
point you to those who do.
Am I disillusioned by the lack
of support I have in addressing abortion?
We may not be feeling the
encouragement we need from our fellow pastors, our
people, or our leaders in the Body of Christ. With
reference to brother pastors, this encouragement in
standing up for life is one of the benefits Gospel
of Life Ministries is meant to provide. It always
helps when pastors come together to pray and share
ideas and support one another. There are also other
pastors' movements that strengthen us in various
aspects of our ministry. In regard to our
congregations, the encouragement is certainly there.
Take a strong stand on life and that encouragement
will grow. Complaints will also come, but it is not
the complainers who have to answer to God for what
is preached or not preached in the pulpit! In regard
to our leaders in the Body of Christ, we need to
heed Scripture's advice to pray for them, and if
some are not encouraging us regarding the life
issues, we should kindly but firmly request that
Am I "turned off" by the
eccentricity of some pro-lifers?
There are "eccentrics" in
every movement. The pro-life movement, being the
largest grassroots movement in the history of the
United States, is no different. The pro-life
movement, however, more fully reflects the rich
diversity of American society than the pro-abortion
A key role of the pastor is to
foster the gifts of the believers, encouraging them
to use those gifts to transform society. This
involves identifying those in our congregations who
have the kind of leadership skills that can be
effectively applied to the pro-life movement. If we
call forth such individuals to take their part in
local leadership, they will likewise attract others
who can bring experience and professionalism to the
movement. If, however, there is a vacuum of
leadership, it will quickly be filled by
Am I afraid of "political
issues"? Is the
killing of children merely a political issue? In the
moral and spiritual realm, how is abortion different
from the killing of 2-year-olds? Do we have any less
of an obligation to speak up for our brothers and
sisters before they are born than after they are
born? Does the fact that politicians talk about
abortion require us to be silent? It is amazing how
Christians receives such praise for speaking up for
peace or for economic justice, which are also
"political issues," but is subject to different
rules when it comes to abortion. Some pastors will
be silent, saying it is a "political issue." Then,
some politicians will be silent, saying it is a
"religious issue." If abortion is immoral, where do
we go to say so?
Actually, abortion is many
things. It is an issue of public policy, which we
have every right to shape. It is a spiritual issue,
confronting us with the challenge as to whether we
will peacefully co-exist with child-killing in our
midst, or rather acknowledge God as the Lord of Life
and worship Him by defending life.
It is critical to point out,
especially at election time, that no matter what
position any particular party or candidate takes in
any race, the Christian’s message about abortion is
always the same. Speaking for life can just as well,
in effect, help a pro-life Democrat and hurt a
pro-abortion Republican as it can help a pro-life
Republican and hurt a pro-abortion Democrat. Our
motive is none of the above, but simply the defense
If being afraid of political
issues is the problem, how much more should we fear
spiritual ones, in which the powers at war are much
more awesome and the stakes much higher! But we are
pastors. We do not undertake the task on human
strength, but in the power and authority of Christ.
Hence, we do not let fear deter us.
Will I endanger our
tax-exemption by speaking on abortion?
No. The law does not forbid us to
speak on public policy issues. The classic legal
distinction is between issue advocacy, which
is permitted, and candidate advocacy, which
is not. Gospel of Life Ministries has specific
directions available to pastors on campaign issues
such as speaking out against abortion and conducting
voter registration in your church.
Do I fail to see the
relationship between abortion and the salvation of
the people I serve?
The First Letter of John asks how the love of God
can survive in one who has enough of this world's
goods, yet fails to help his brother in need. (See
1Jn. 3:17) The question behind abortion, therefore,
is not simply, "Would I do it?" but rather, "What am
I doing to stop it?" To possess the greatest of
"this world's goods" -- life itself -- and to fail
to defend that gift for others, diminishes our own
relationship with the Lord and Giver of life.
Do I feel abortions do not
occur very frequently among my congregation?
Most counties in America do not have an abortion
provider, and the numbers of abortions are certainly
higher in the big cities than anywhere else. But as
Dr. Martin Luther King stressed during the Civil
Rights Movement, injustice anywhere is a threat to
justice everywhere. We do not fail to preach about
famines, wars or oppression that happens in far-off
places. Love does not know geographical boundaries.
Preaching on abortion in our community is part of
teaching our people how to love one another,
wherever the other may be, and whether the "other"
means multitudes or just one.
Do I feel my people just don't
care about the issue?
How much people care about an issue depends in part
on how clearly they see its connection with the
things they do care about. Our teaching can help
them make those connections regarding abortion. Why,
for example, do we see children killing children in
our society? Might it have a connection with the
fact that the law allows parents to kill children
by abortion, thereby teaching children that their
lives are disposable? Significant studies likewise
show links between abortion and child abuse,
poverty, substance abuse, suicide, breast cancer,
and numerous other problems. All these life issues
are interrelated; therefore, abortion cannot be
Do I feel the people already
hear and know enough about abortion?
It is not enough to "hear and know" about abortion,
any more than it is enough to "hear and know" about
poverty and crime. The point is that something
must be done about these problems, and we are
called to help our people get involved. A person may
be opposed to poverty attitudinally, but what
do they do to help the poor? How do they express
their opposition behaviorally? Certainly,
most of our congregation would lament abortion. But
the challenge remains to bring to their attention
continually both the obligations and the
opportunities to actually prevent abortion in
their community. Since the Roe vs. Wade decision
legalized abortion in 1973, legal protection has not
been restored to a single unborn child in our land.
Do I consider my congregation
too elderly to be concerned about abortion?
While many are too old to have a child, none are
ever too old to love one, never too old to save one.
They are therefore never too old to be concerned
about abortion. By our active concern, any one of us
can save the life of a baby scheduled to die. To try
to save our youngest brothers and sisters is an
expression of the love we are bound to for all our
Parents and grandparents,
furthermore, have a crucial, sometimes decisive role
in the attitudes of their children and grandchildren
toward abortion. Do they pass on a concern for life?
Do they convey compassion, so that if their daughter
or granddaughter were to become pregnant, she would
know she could turn to them for understanding,
rather than turn to the abortionist?
Despite age, people can also
continue to make their voices heard in arenas of
public opinion and the political process. Let nobody
say they are too old to be concerned about abortion.
As long as we possess life, we have the duty to
Am I afraid of being
confrontational is not the same as being unloving.
Our Lord, who ate with sinners, also confronted
them. Love demands confrontation, because it cannot
rest if the beloved is entangled in evil. Love seeks
the good of the beloved, and this means it has to
get tough at times to extricate the beloved from
evil. Many think of the price of confrontation, but
forget that there is also a price to be paid for
not confronting. That price is that evil
continues to flourish, relationships become shallow
and superficial, and true leadership vanishes
because the leader is no longer able to point out
the right path, and will eventually lose the respect
of those who look to him for guidance.
Successful social reform
movements, moreover, always confronted an unwilling
culture by exposing the injustices they were
fighting. A careful study of the Civil Rights
Movement provides just one example.
Do I think my preaching on
this issue just won't do any good?
The American people are conflicted about abortion,
and by no means as entrenched in their positions as
we might imagine. Countless people have changed
their views thanks to a single sermon. I recall one
woman telling me after the service, " I came in here
today 100% pro-abortion, and now my views are
completely changed." What convinced her was the
example I used that federal law protects sea turtles
from destruction, but does not protect unborn babies
from abortion. It can be that easy. And people
sitting in the pews wrestling with the decision to
abort can be persuaded to save that life.
Do I think the fight against
abortion is a lost cause and a waste of time?
Every day brings us a new
opportunity to play our part with God in the
unfolding of His plan. Every day brings a new
opportunity to convert a heart that has not heard
the truth before, or to save a life that has not
been destroyed before -- and to that life, it means
everything. Every day brings a new opportunity to
speak up for the defenseless, knowing that justice
is on their side and that no lie can live forever.
We must not lose our historical perspective. Evils
such as slavery and segregation took a long time to
overcome. Progress is in fact being made in the
pro-life cause, and our goal of victory needs to be
fresh before our eyes. The battle is not a choice
between "Pro-life wins or Pro-choice wins." If
pro-life does not win, nobody wins. Yet the One who
calls us already holds the victory of life.
Do I simply not know why I
don't address abortion?
If we can admit to ourselves that
we don't know why we are not doing something we
should be doing, then a privileged moment of growth
has arrived. Let us respond in two ways. First, let
us become more familiar with the issue itself and
its connections with pastoral ministry and with the
lives of our people. Second, let us bring the matter
before the Lord in prayer, asking Him to break
through the barriers, to renew our calling as
shepherds of God’s flock, and through us to renew
the face of the earth.