By Skylar Spradlin
Would there be fewer abortions in the United States if we had a right understanding of the church?
According to a Lifeway Research study, half (51%) of men whose partners had an abortion admitted they were attending a Christian church once a month or more at the time of at least one of their partners’ abortions. Even more (66%) say they currently attend church at least once a month. Furthermore, 2 in 3 men whose partners have had an abortion (68%) identify as Christian.
Of these men who attend church at least once a month, almost half (45%) admit no one at their church knows about their abortion, and half (49%) wouldn’t recommend anyone discuss an unplanned pregnancy with someone at a local church. When explaining their reasons, 42% of men whose partners had an abortion expected churches to be judgmental. Others expected churches to be condemning (32%), cold (24%), or indifferent (12%). But at the same time, 51% of men say pastors teach God is willing to forgive past abortions.2 in 3 men whose partners have had an abortion (68%) identify as Christian, according to Lifeway Research. Click To Tweet
If men are attending church at least once a month and admit pastors teach forgiveness for past abortions, why are they unwilling to share about their unplanned pregnancies with someone in the church? Why do they still feel the church would be judgmental or condemning?
“Fear of shame and condemnation appears to be deterring Christians from talking about their unplanned pregnancies with others in the church—those they would otherwise trust as sources of hope and help,” said Roland Warren, President and CEO of Care Net. “Specifically, some Christian men seem more afraid of how an unplanned pregnancy coming to light could damage their reputation than they’re concerned about the ramifications of an abortion. This should be a challenge to church leaders to change the way they handle and respond to unplanned pregnancies.”
What the church is called to be
How could a proper understanding of ecclesiology—the study of the church—affect our approach and response to abortion?
Most churches reduce their engagement with abortion to activism. They believe the battle is waged at the ballot box and in government buildings. Churches should absolutely engage their legislators with the gospel and demand an immediate end to the legalization of abortion. God’s Word doesn’t permit us to compromise on the greatest legalized genocide in human history. We ought to pray and work to see the end of abortion in our lifetime.
But there’s another side to the equation in the battle against abortion, and it doesn’t employ the same tactics used on Capitol Hill. The stern, and at times confrontational, approach on Capitol Hill is the opposite of the shepherding approach that should be taking place within the church.Unloving, unwelcoming, ungracious, and un-Christlike church cultures are why men and women don’t tell people in their churches about unplanned pregnancies. — @SkylarSpradlin Click To Tweet
As the study shows, unwillingness to open up about unplanned pregnancies in the church isn’t a matter of churches failing to preach forgiveness for abortion. Unwillingness to open up about abortion is due to rejection and condemnation from the people of God. Unloving, unwelcoming, ungracious, and un-Christlike church cultures are why men and women don’t tell people in their churches about unplanned pregnancies. And if they don’t tell those in the church about their unplanned pregnancies, they’re more likely to come to the decision to abort.
If our church gatherings are reduced to events or relegated to programs instead of being built upon authentic Christian community, it’s no wonder why men wouldn’t tell anyone at their church about one of the most significant and consequential decisions of their lives. A poor understanding of the church, particularly as it pertains to community, accountability, and walking in obedience together, allows abortion to run rampant among professing Christians.A poor understanding of the church, particularly as it pertains to community, accountability, and walking in obedience together, allows abortion to run rampant among professing Christians. — @SkylarSpradlin Click To Tweet
The church is designed to exist as God’s people living together in humility, honesty, and vulnerability. Only in this type of loving, gracious, close-knit culture will men and women realize the freedom of walking together through our sins and life’s challenges. Only in a culture of love, accountability, and obedience will men and women be ushered away from abortion and toward faith in God’s grace and providence.
This is a difficult concept to embrace in American culture where autonomy and individuality are cherished. In a culture that rigorously defends personal privacy, the call for people to occasionally lay down that privacy, to let others into their personal lives, and to be vulnerable is so wildly contrary to worldly thinking that it may be scoffed at. But as the church builds a loving, shepherding culture of care, grace, holiness, and encouragement, there’s space for people to open up, seek guidance, confess sin, and even choose life over abortion.As the church builds a loving, shepherding culture of care, grace, holiness, and encouragement, there’s space for people to open up, seek guidance, confess sin, and even choose life over abortion. — @SkylarSpradlin Click To Tweet
Our battle against abortion is two-fold. It’s external and internal. It’s waged in public and in private. It’s fought against on the political stage and admonished on the living room couch. The church must engage on all fronts. Keep fighting on the public front. But tenderly and graciously help in private.
Pastors must begin to teach their people that the church is a safe place of walking with the Lord. In addition to teaching this, churches must actually become a safe place of walking with the Lord. Only then, will abortion be addressed from within.
Skylar is the lead pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Weatherford, Oklahoma. He’s earning his Masters of Divinity from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is the co-host of “Doctrine & Doxology” a weekly podcast geared toward helping Christians think biblically.