Thank you for committing your life to vocational ministry. As a pastor, your important role in preaching, teaching, discipling, and encouraging believers towards Jesus cannot be overstated. Shepherding the flock God has entrusted you with is no easy task, especially since the needs of the Church are endless, demanding time and energy that stretches you far beyond the point of comfort.
You shouldn’t be expected to address every issue your Church members would like with the same fervor, energy, and time. But hopefully, over time, you are able to address many of those important issues as they arise through your preaching of the Word.
In the end, I hope your church wouldn’t be known for the issues it addresses (or doesn’t address), but for the supremacy of Jesus and the centrality of the Gospel. This raises the question, what issues are Gospel issues?
I believe a helpful strategy in determining what issues are non-negotiable is found in addressing the following questions:
1) Is this issue addressed directly in Scripture? If so, is there a reigning historical, traditional belief on the matter? If not, then does Scripture give us the basic background and theological beliefs needed to reach a clear decision on the matter?
2) Does what I believe about this issue affect how the Gospel is understood?
3) Can thoughtful, committed Christians disagree on the given issue and still remain faithful to the Gospel and the Lordship of Christ?
Now let’s explore how these questions relate to the issue of abortion and your pastoral ministry in the Church.
Is abortion addressed directly in Scripture?
Even though abortions were happening at some level in the first century, Scripture does not address the issue of abortion (in part, because prohibitions against it were largely unnecessary). But regardless of whether or not Scripture forbids an act, we can still know something is wrong by looking at the larger context of Scripture. Otherwise, we would be forced to concede that whatever Scripture doesn’t condemn, it condones or is neutral on. While there are many verses that serve to advance the case that the unborn child is a human person (Luke 1:15, Jeremiah 1:5, Isaiah 49:1, Psalm 51:5, Psalm 22:10, Psalm 139:13-16, Galatians 1:15, Exodus 21:22-25), many will still argue that none of those verses can specifically prove that abortion is wrong.
I believe the conclusion of the above verses is that an unborn child is human. The science of embryology speaks clearly in advancing this conclusion. From the earliest stages of development (conception), the unborn child is a distinct, living, and whole human being (there is no meaningful debate anymore regarding this question).
The Bible affirms that all humans are valuable because they bear God’s image. Science clearly demonstrates that the unborn are unquestionably human from the earliest stages of development. Thus, biblical commands against the unjust taking of human life (Gen. 1:26; 9:6; Exod. 23:7; Prov. 6:16–17) apply to the unborn as they do other human beings.
Does what I believe about abortion affect how the Gospel is understood?
Now we turn to the second question in determining whether abortion is a Gospel issue. I believe theologian Francis Schaeffer answered this very question in one powerful sentence:
“If those who claim the name of Christ are not going to be willing to stand up against something as evil as killing a baby, then the world has the right to ask whether Christ is real.”
If pastors preach the Gospel, but then treat abortion as a 3rd- or 4th-tier issue at best, what are their congregations and the world to make of the credibility of the Christian Gospel? If pastors preach that human beings are valuable to Christ because they are made in His image, but refuse to address the issue of abortion, there is a huge inconsistency. If a large part of Christ’s life was spent in loving the “least of these” and Scripture commands us to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves” (Proverbs 31:8) and yet pastors do nothing to love their unborn neighbors, what does that communicate about the Christian Gospel?
What you believe about abortion and how you act on this issue as a pastor will greatly influence the Churches’ and the world’s understanding of the Gospel message of Christ.
Can thoughtful, committed Christians disagree on abortion and still remain faithful to the Gospel and the Lordship of Christ?
For this third question, I want to address the supremacy of Christ. If God is supreme, then all pastors, in fact all Christians, stand under His Lordship. Psalm 139:13-16 says:
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
It’s as simple as this. If God is supreme and He knits life together in the womb, then we leave that knitting process alone! The womb is God’s workplace in making persons and we have no business interfering with that process. So for any pastor or Christian to be pro-choice or neutral on the abortion issue is to reject the supremacy of Christ and reject the value of the little ones the supreme God is in the process of creating. Such a position is an offense to the Gospel of Jesus Christ because it treats as garbage those that God created and came to die for.
The abortion issue is a Gospel issue
After answering the above questions, I believe it is safe to say that the abortion issue is a Gospel issue and as a pastor committed to preaching the Gospel, you cannot ignore or treat lightly that which is destroying over 1 million unborn babies each year in the United States.
In closing, I must point out that the Guttmacher Institute reports that 37% of women obtaining abortions each year in the United States identify themselves as Protestant Christians. There are women in your church who have had abortions and many of them are still deeply hurt and living under shame and self-condemnation. There are also men in your church who were complicit in the death of their unborn child or perhaps mourn the loss of their son or daughter whom their girlfriend aborted without their knowledge. When pastors choose silence over faithfulness says former pastor Mike Spencer of Life Training Institute, they do not spare these women and men in their congregations hurt, they spare them healing. Pastors’ silence exposes that either they don’t see abortion as all that bad, or they don’t see the Gospel as all that good, or both.
For the sake of the precious unborn human persons in our midst, please speak up on their behalf.
For the sake of the credibility of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, please speak up on the unborn’s behalf.
For the sake of the supremacy of God, please speak up on the unborn’s behalf as a minister under the Lordship of Christ.
For the sake of the men and women in your congregations who have been deeply wounded by this issue, please speak up.