Am I Called?

“I think God is calling me to ministry”

I love hearing these words from guys & girls I’ve had the joy of influencing. One of my great passions is to raise up leaders for the Kingdom through the local church. It’s an exciting time for them, their parents, and for their church. A church should be seeking out those God is calling to equip them to be sent out. Let’s be clear first, God calls all of us to faithful service. But God calls out some for specific spiritual leadership within the church, which some would call “vocational ministry.”

Southern Seminary (my 2x alma mater & Carrie’s) has this helpful site as well to consider.

But how can you know that God is calling you to ministry? I want to walk through the steps I use with prospective ministry leaders. I believe all four of these are essential, and if one of these is not currently present I encourage that person to step back and assess their calling, or to explore the possibility that God desires them to faithful service in the church but not as a vocational ministry leader. A helpful passage for this is 1 Corinthians 12:12-31.

  • The inward (personal) call – This is the beginning point, where God’s Spirit leads an individual to understand that s/he has been given a unique, personal calling towards ministry. It’s also the hardest to dispute, which is why it shouldn’t be the only step in discerning a call. When people have shared they sense this part, I normally ask them these kinds of questions to help them make sense of what God may be saying to them:
  1. Can you share your testimony of conversion, and is it a credible one of saving faith & repentance?
  2. Do you have a deep love for Jesus, the Bible, prayer, the Church, and God’s people?
  3. Do you find an unspeakable joy in the things of God?
  4. What do you believe about the “big deal” stuff? Theology & Doctrine matter
  5. Are you someone who has a high level of character & personal purity?
  6. What are your spiritual gifts? Do you have the gifts that translate well to ministry leadership?
  7. Do you like to serve, get your hands dirty, and work hard?
  8. Do you find yourself repenting more of your sin and working to kill it in your life?
  9. Do you like to read? Leaders are readers
  10. Are you willing to be held to a higher standard than others?
  • The pastoral call – Go to a person who is in spiritual authority over you. Ideally in your church there are a number of people who you can seek wisdom from. Share with them your inward call, and ask that person if they believe you could be in ministry. It could be your pastor, youth pastor, or another elder or minister in your church. Whoever it is, it needs to be someone who has had an impact in your life and who knows you really well. I firmly believe this is the crucial step, because if someone in ministry can speak well of your character and abilities, then you might have something worth pursuing. If this person can confirm that you may be called to ministry, then you’re ready for this to become an issue for the church.
  • The external (public) call – If you sense you are called to ministry, this is something that has to be validated, confirmed, and accounted for by a local church. It needs to be the church that you are attending/serving in. Do they believe you to be a person of Christian faith, of strong character, who is found faithful in the areas of service you are in? If you are not faithful to serve, work, and lead as a layperson, you will fail as a ministry leader. Seminaries and Bible colleges are great, and they are necessary to prepare and teach ministry leaders. But they don’t make a pastor, the local church does. Only the church has the authority to ordain and set apart men for pastoral leadership, and men & women for ministry leadership. So it is a huge deal for a local church to confirm a person’s call. I remember well the night my home church voted to license me to ministry. It was humbling to hear testimonies from men & women I had served with and gotten to know, and their endorsement still hangs on my wall and still humbles me.
  • The sustaining call – Eventually, the joy and elation of being called to ministry will disappear, and will be replace with the difficulty of carrying so many spiritual, emotional, and physical burdens for people. You’ll watch families fall apart, you’ll bury babies, you’ll listen to people pour out their sin struggles, you’ll write depositions for court, and you’ll deal with church critics who want you to fit the mold of their favorite TV preacher or the guy/girl who was there before you. I remember the first person’s face who wanted me to help them discern their ministry call when I told them “I’m going to do everything I can to talk you out of this. If that doesn’t work, I’ll do everything I can to set you up well.” The sustaining call is the one that flows primarily from your walk with Jesus, your relationship with your spouse, and your contentment to obey when Jesus says “Follow Me.” It will force you to ask what your satisfaction is: Jesus or _____? But God is faithful to carry His servants through to the end, and His grace is sufficient no matter what circumstances are around you. God will vindicate His own people. But you might still get fired.

HT: Dan Dumas and SBTS for this video

For more, check out this book: Are You Called?

Biblical marriage, gender roles, and Full House

Making the rounds in the Interwebs the last few days has been a blog by Sarah Bessey, in response to a new book by Candace Cameron Bure (or as all of us 90s kids know her – DJ Tanner). It has sparked a lot of discussion, especially as Bure describes her submission to her husband’s leadership in their marriage. It warranted a further interview with the HuffPost where Bure elaborated more on her position. Denny Burk at Boyce College offers a great response to Bessey, where he lays out the task that what is really at stake is a question of biblical authority.

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I echo Burk’s concerns, and because of a desire to be consistent in applying Scripture as it relates especially to the home and church, must advocate for and promote a complementarian view of gender roles. My wife wrote extensively on this for her Ph.D. dissertation, and the working definition of complementarian gender roles she used came from Wayne Grudem, “God created man and woman equal in value and personhood, and equal in bearing his image, but that both creation and redemption indicate some distinct roles for men and women in marriage and in the church.” For her, and for all of us who hold to a complementarian view, the idea of “equal yet functionally distinct” is at the core.

Words carry a lot of weight, and often a lot of baggage. The word “submission” for many conjures the image of the overbearing husband who demands his wife to follow whatever hair-brained idea he has. And with that comes the image of the 1950s housewife who isn’t allowed to have an opinion, and whose primary job is to look pretty and bake brownies. Words like “patriarch” convey the idea that women are less than men, and that men need to say “Let me ‘splain to you little sweetie.” Let me be clear, the baggage is well-deserved. There are far too many cases where these words have been abused, misused, and twisted. But, because a term is abused or misused does not discount its legitimacy.

John Piper offers a great insight into his book with Wayne Grudem Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood

I have a few concerns with Bessey’s article, and I’ll list them below:
1) Submission is not subservience nor is it inferiority – Submission within the home is instead the gracious response to Christlike and humble leadership. The relationship between a husband and wife in Ephesians 5 is used as an analogy to describe how Jesus relates to the Church. The greater emphasis is on the husband to provide Christlike love and care for his bride, just as Jesus did/does for His Bride. Bessey describes this: “A woman who is held back, minimized, or downplayed is not walking in the fullness God intended for her as an image bearer.” But that is not the case at all, beginning back in Genesis 1-2 where Adam and Eve are both created in the image of God and made with authority over the creation. The order in Creation, where God lays out a picture of male headship, is not a result of the Fall as Bessey argues. Paul lays this out in 1 Timothy 2 as the foundation for understanding gender roles in the church and home by pointing to the pre-Fall creation of Adam first and then Eve. It does not diminish Eve’s standing as an image-bearer, nor does it give Adam the right to superiority over Eve.

2) Male leadership is not a dictatorship – There are some who misuse this, and consider male leadership to be “Woman, make me a sammich!” Rightly, this should be rejected. Bessey describes the husband in a complementarian view as “absolute head of the home,” which is not an accurate portrayal of a biblical understanding of marriage and gender roles. Good leadership in the home comes from the humble leadership of a husband who is pursuing Jesus and seeking the best for his wife. It is the apex of unselfish leadership. Guys, Jesus calls us to sacrifice everything for our wives, and our leadership in the home is not for us to get glory or feel big & strong, it’s to make Jesus famous and make our wives look good.

3) Mutual submission is not a loss of male headship – Paul speaks to this in Ephesians 5:21 “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” To that I would say yes and amen. Leadership in a Christian ethic is not determined by power, force, or position. We are called to humble submission to one another, creating mutual deference. An example of that is if you’ve sat at a 4 way Stop and you’re trying to wave through the people waving you through. It’s seeking the welfare and better of another. But it is not the dissolution of complementary gender roles and male headship. Guys, let me be clear with you first – you don’t get to make decisions without your wife’s input, consideration, and even rebuttal. Just because you think it’s a good idea to drop $15,000 on a luxury cruise doesn’t mean anything if your wife gets motion sickness in a desk chair. That’s stupid. Mutual deference/submission is the pursuit of the better of another, and the putting of another before yourself. My wife has right of refusal for our family decisions, so she can push back if something is a bad idea – that’s not diminishing my role as head of our home, that’s walking in wisdom.

4) Getting to Bessey’s position is hermeneutical origami – The path for Bessey is a path that leads ultimately to the reworking and rewriting of Scripture in its plain meaning. As she starts to explain away the text as recorded to explain away the original meaning and intent, by introducing a difficult-to-maintain arc that opens the door for new revelation, and by insisting we have advanced beyond the ethic of Scripture to a modern ethic, she has created a figure out of paper. You have to twist, fold, hide, and work around so many issues in an egalitarian view of gender roles that there is little left of what was originally there. Perhaps the biggest hurdle to this hermeneutical origami is the analogy of marriage to the Church used in Ephesians 5. An egalitarian position does not hold water to this, because we would then have to connect the dots and say that Jesus then submits to the Church. The implications for that are far-reaching, we lose a sovereign Lord and open the path to open theism. We lose an effectual Savior where “no power of hell, nor scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand” to one that is left to our whims.

Bessey’s own description of her marriage, as they are pursuing Christ together, is much closer to a complementarian view of gender roles in the marriage than she would like to admit. But that is how God designed and intends for marriage – the pursuit of a husband and wife together towards Jesus. The words of Joshua come to mind, “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” I’m so thankful for marriages like theirs that is focused on Jesus, and while we would disagree sharply on many issues, both of us would affirm that our marriages have made us more like Jesus. I love this quote from Bessey at the end of her article “Christ is meant to be the head of our homes, and within marriage, we are meant to submit to one another.

So while we would disagree and rightly discuss, push back, and continue the discussion, we are still part of the same Bride who will one day be reunited with the Bridegroom who will come back to claim His Bride and bring Her to a place of forever joy. And one day, all our discussion of submission, gender roles, and the church will be laid before the Lamb who will forever be the leader, husband, father, and friend that we cannot fully satisfy here.

Why I changed my mind on tithing

I changed my mind yesterday about something, something I had long held to, taught, and encouraged others in. Fear not, I’m not jumping off the wagon on a lot of things. There are some things I’m firmly entrenched in that you’d be hard pressed to change me on: the exclusivity of Christ, marriage permanence, complementarian gender roles, loyalty to my wife and son, my allegiance to the University of Louisville, Baptist convictions, and my disdain for sour cream, ranch dressing, and tomatoes. Beyond that, I can be fairly flexible, and have changed my mind on a number of things! Here’s a little context:

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When I first became a Christian I noticed that the offering plate would pass by and people would, or in many cases would not, put money in. I asked my friend who’d led me to Christ what all that meant, and he explained that the offering was how the church stayed functional, how we supported missionaries, and provided for many ministries within the church and community. Sounds good, how much does it cost? He explained the Bible talking about a tithe, or the need to give to God 10% of your income. So I began the process of regularly (though not every time, I was good at justifying disobedience still!) giving from my slightly-above-minimum-wage jobs.

Later on, as I became more a committed student of the Word, I noticed something missing from the Pauline letters to the new churches: any teaching on a tithe. I had read and heard that because of this, the logic followed that the New Testament church is no longer under the binding of the tithe, but under a new ethic of giving. A professor I had described it as “cheerful, sacrificial, and regular giving.” Paul even seemed to encourage this in 2 Corinthians 9:7 where he says “each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  Not that grace was to become license for a Scrooge mindset, but that grace should free the Christian to joyful giving that was both generous and free. 

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So that became what I taught others, but I still used the idea of the tithe as a helpful barometer for giving for a couple reasons. 1) It’s easy math (just shave the last figure), 2) It is a biblical principle, 3) The New Testament ethic of giving ought to be at least as generous as the Old Testament, 4) Christians should be marked by their generous and sacrificial giving. Ultimately, the amount given was between the believer’s conscience and the Holy Spirit, but that God was satisfied with the Christian as long as they were following the ethic of cheerful, sacrificial, and regular giving. 

Fast forward to this past weekend. Our pastor preached on tithing, looking at Malachi 3 as the basis for his sermon. He even specifically mentioned those who would hold to a view that the New Testament precludes tithing for the Church. I must admit, I clenched up ready to come up with some points to make to push back. He and I have the kind of relationship where we’re free to disagree with one another, and have good conversations about those kinds of things. I love it. I miss sometimes the give-and-take that comes from those kinds of discussions.

Particularly to answer the objection, Matt pointed out two examples from the Old Testament that predate the Law. One of the central points to my objection to the tithe had been that it was a standard of the Law (cf. Lev 27:30, Num 18:26, Deut 14:22, etc.), and that because Christians were free from the binding of the Law to a new law, the law of conscience & grace, the cultic prescriptions for the tithe (among other things, like atonement sacrifices and other thing), were no longer necessary. He pointed out Genesis 14 where Abram gives Melchizedek a tithe of his wealth as a free offering out of gratitude for the work of God, and Genesis 28 where Jacob gives a tenth to the Lord because of God’s work in his life. Both of these instances predate the giving of the Law and describe the practice of tithing as an act of worship for believers.

Also, Jesus’ teaching on money never contradicted the tithe, but instead the attitude behind it. He chastised the Pharisees for tithing their spices but neglecting the central issues of grace, faith, and compassion (cf. Matt 23:23 & Luke 11:42). The issue for Jesus was not in the careful keeping of the accounting, but the arrogance involved in the giving. For Jesus, the practice of tithing was expected, and He was faithful to bring to the Temple what was necessary (Gal 4:4) as prescribed by the Law. If it was something He sought to undo, we should expect something in the canon about that. Instead, we see Jesus’ ethic of giving still reflecting the tithe, but looking also to the heart of the giver. 

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To be honest, in the pew it caused quite a bit of dissonance. I’m not one to be easily swayed, but in that moment I recognized one of my pillars coming down in a crash of inconsistency. I have long held that church leaders (pastors, deacons, Sunday school teachers, etc.) should be expected to be regular givers, and if not they ought to be disqualified from leadership because of their faithlessness to God’s leadership. I had used the tithe as a benchmark for that. I had taught it as a “sound principle” but I was unwilling to be completely consistent and say that tithing was normative for all Christians. And it was at that moment I realized I was going to have to undergo a paradigm shift.

This morning, here is a quick run-down of my new thoughts on the issue of tithing as it applies to New Testament Christians:

  1. Tithing is the beginning point for Christians to give towards ministry. This is not a “good enough” position, instead it ought to become the priority for Christians to increase their giving as God provides and molds the heart to greater Christlikeness.
  2. A Christian’s giving reflects their priorities in life. One who seeks to be faithful to be generous towards ministry re-aligns their budget in order to free up money to be given.
  3. As God leads, Christians should seek ways to be more generous with their money beyond their regular giving. These avenues for giving should be trustworthy groups who have a track record of responsible stewardship, and are actively committed to the Gospel.
  4. Tithing is a regular spiritual discipline, not something to be done when you reach a career or other benchmark. Teaching teenagers to tithe off their babysitting or burger-flipping money now leads to adults who are faithful to give.
  5. The condition of the heart is just as important as the amount, giving provides a regular check-up for the Christian to diagnose their heart. When the plate is passed, it provides an opportunity to discern where the heart is: focused on God or focused on the check.
  6. Cheerful giving is not an excuse to be cheap. If anything, Christians should have more of a desire to give their money away because the missions/ministries they support are seeking to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:20, Psalm 67)

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HT: Matt Ellis

Student Ministers & Ministry Relationships

A few months ago during a staff meeting our pastor remarked that “primarily, ministry is about people, about relationships, and about making connection with them.” Those words stuck because the last 5 years of my journey have only reinforced that. As student ministers we can often get lost in one of three worlds: Program World, Student World, or Cubicle World. Program world is the plug-and-go world, where everything is built around a program and that becomes the measure of ministry effectiveness. Student world is where your only interactions are with students and you in essence try to build yourself as a peer. Cubicle world is where you have no significant relationships, you do everything by yourself, and you end up operating totally independent of your overall church vision.

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Cubicle world is dangerous because it removes the value of team-based ministry and instead shifts it to independent-agent ministry. All too often this is where churches are, where the various ministries of the church work in conflict, no concert, with one another, whether it’s for resources, space, priority, volunteers, face time, or recognition. It may not be overt, but think about your church architecture: does your architecture foster or hinder groups interacting? Have you built a separate youth or children’s wing/building that keeps them from adults? Have you developed separate offices so that your staff can spend all day without seeing one another? Cubicles do that. Cubicles restrict collaboration, communication, and instead see the emphasis on the independent agent. It is up to that individual to get work done, rather than a team. It becomes Allen Iverson shooting the ball 30 times a game rather than getting his teammates involved. And sadly, this is where many student ministers find themselves: isolated, without significant relationships professionally, and often working in conflict (not war, big difference) with the other ministries of the church.

There are three key relationships every student minister should seek to build, cultivate, and cherish. They are: Pastor, Children’s Minister, and Secretary.

Pastor – Your lead pastor should fit three roles for your life: Mentor, Friend, and Boss. As mentor, you should seek out his wisdom, guidance, and experience. Many student ministers eventually want to be senior pastors, so take every opportunity to learn what it means to be a pastor. Go on hospital visits, ask him questions, probe his ministry experiences. Ask him to mentor you, to guide you. Be honest about your long-term intentions; if you’re not a lifer for student ministry, then ask him to help shape you into being a pastor. As friend, he provides you with the outlet for sharing ministry difficulties, personal accountability, and investment. And you should seek to do the same for him. Be his friend when critics come, defend him privately & publicly. And as boss, he commands your respect, loyalty, and following. Sometimes student ministers, we need to shut up and do what we’re told. Get on board with his vision for the church, follow his leadership, and work Colossians 3 style as hard as you can under his supervision.

Children’s Minister – I have always made it a point to develop a close professional relationship with whoever our children’s minister is. Within boundaries (because all three have been women), they have often been my best friends on church staffs. Champion their work, be willing to serve however/whenever for VBS, spend your morning stuffing Easter eggs for the big egg hunt outreach, and recruit for them (I push students to nursery/AWANA as much as possible). Most importantly, get on the same page. Deuteronomy 6 and Ephesians 6 call for parents to be the primary disciplers of their children, with the church coming in as partner and equipper. Get on the same page with each other, build a continuous ministry. Use the same curriculum, develop a common set of core values for your ministries, and be each other’s safeguard. We are working through some big changes in our children’s and student ministries, and both of us are quick to always use “we” when talking about things. Same page.

Secretary – My dissertation supervisor has served as a pastor for decades. He asked me who the most important person in the church office was, and when I joked that our secretary is who keeps the universe in rotation he smiled and said “Bingo, that’s it. She’s the most valuable person in the office. She’s not the pastor and not the music leader, but she keeps things together, and she knows more about the church and how things operate than you or the pastor do.” Develop a good working relationship with your church secretary, it will go a l-o-n-g way! The secretary is the glue for the church office, but unfortunately glue means that she gets the junk too. Take opportunity to serve, offer to make the office supply run, find out what kind of coffee they like, run your own copies once in a while, and make yourself available to do the menial things that have to be done (stuffing bulletins, stamping mailouts). Take time to invest in your church’s secretary as a ministry partner.

 There are many more professional relationships in ministry, but these three serve as catalysts for the others. Take the time to work on these and develop a true team, flee from the lie of independent agents or competition on the church staff. You’re in the fight together, developing a true sense of fellowship will enable the task to be finished!

5 Lessons for Writing after getting picked up by The Gospel Coalition

Last week I received one of the biggest surprises in quite some time. After a day of dental work, dealing with a toddler going through terrible 2’s, and prepping for an all-night ski trip, Carrie and I settled into bed. I opened my laptop to read the news when an email came through. I read it and with my mouth hanging open and my hands shaking showed it to her. Alas, no I hadn’t won the Nobel Prize… yet. 

What had happened was that an article I had written for a youth ministry network I’m involved in had gone live that morning and within a few hours had been picked up and put on the front page of The Gospel Coalition and had hundreds of page views that day. When I went to TGC’s website, I saw the listing of featured blog articles and for a few hours my name was alongside Kevin DeYoung, Mark Driscoll, and John Piper.

As the digital world goes though, yesterday’s features are today’s forgottens. So when I woke up the next morning and checked the site mine had been moved to the “archives,” in effect ending my brief but glorious 15 minutes of fame. Other unknowns were being featured alongside the heavyweights of Reformed Evangelicalism. It was their turn to be featured among their heroes. 

Since then I’ve had some time to reflect on that moment. Here are 5 things I learned and want to share to all those out there who write as either a passion, hobby, or career.

  1. Words are forever – First, you have to say “forever” like the kid from The Sandlot, or else it loses its effect. But seriously, conversations are quickly forgotten. Passing comments made in important meetings will dissipate in the air. Speeches, sermons, and presentations tend to remain primarily within the context of their delivery. But as soon as words are put in print (or in this case digitally stored on a server), they become eternal. The printed word remains, in spite of every attempt to move beyond it. And words will outlast even the legacy of the author of them. To that end, it’s imperative that we who write recognize that what we write will last much longer than we will. We have to use our words wisely, and remember to never put anything in print we would not want to come up years later. There are lots of times I’ve said (and written) dumb things – the good news is there’s often grace for those who goof up in writing. But still, those words exist. And deleting the blog or taking down the article doesn’t mean that it hasn’t already been copied and distributed to hundreds of people.
  2. Recognize the Exponential Reach of Digital Media – I can still open the word processing document (put together on Pages, of course) where I wrote the article. What started as a document on my laptop went to a small network with a relatively small readership and then it was placed on a national, widespread website. What we often fail to realize in regards to social/digital media is twofold: 1) How fast it happens and 2) How widespread it happens. I call it exponential because it doesn’t take long for something to go ‘viral,’ all you have to do to become famous is get retweeted by Justin Bieber (I know, pretty low view of fame). This offers a great advantage in that helpful resources can be quickly distributed to thousands of people in the span of minutes through Twitter, e-mail, and Facebook; which 100 years ago would have taken weeks. But the disadvantage is that it doesn’t take long for bad ideas or dumb sayings to go viral (remember that Friday video?). Herm Edwards, former NFL coach and current ESPN analyst, tells rookies every year this wisdom about Twitter: “Don’t press send!” Edwards’ is right that we must remember that our words go much faster, further, and to a greater audience than we perhaps ever intended.
  3. Words are a stewardshipJames 3 reminds us that those who teach are held to a higher standard. Teaching is primarily the use of words to explain, illustrate, and convey truth that transforms. So when we write, we are using words to convey some truth. And we must remember to be good stewards of our words. This includes: saying fewer words rather than more, not being unnecessarily complex/jargony, capturing and distilling the essence, and using words to edify the body (Ephesians 4:29). We who write must remember that when criticizing to do so both truthfully and gracefully. We also must remember to write in such a way that what we say is understood, and leave no room for doubt/questioning/misinterpretation. We must choose our words carefully, because what we say often reflects how we say and why we choose to say what we say.
  4. Stay humble – Like I said in the beginning, after a day my post was banished to the archives, never to be seen again (except maybe by someone with too much time on their hands). Perhaps this is the hardest part about writing: your moment of glory is just that, a moment. Fleeting. Gone before you know it. Unless you happen to be a heavyweight or have good connections, you won’t get the chance to be a regular contributor as a writer. The humility comes when you realize that no one knew who you were before you wrote something and after it’s over, no one will notice your name disappearing from the list. Getting anything published is an act of grace, and any piece of writing that makes the cut is a reminder that you still have a long way to go. It’s also humbling because I got to read some of the posts mine was listed alongside and I was reminded of how far I have to go as a writer.
  5. Keep writing – The previous was to stay humble, perhaps this could best be described as ‘stay hungry.’ Getting something published or picked up off the wire is only the beginning. To be honest, the article I wrote that got picked up was far from the best I’ve ever written. A journal article that got picked up last year by a university journal was my 3rd option. The best way to become a better writer and grow a platform as a writer is to keep writing. But with more writing comes more rejections than publications. I have some friends who are big contributors to journals, magazines, and have national speaking circuits. They still get writings rejected. But the key is to always keep writing, get more feedback, and keep submitting.

Why Student Ministries Should Partner with Crisis Pregnancy Centers

I try to get our students serving in solid, Gospel-centered ministries around our community on a regular basis. Last night we partnered with the local crisis pregnancy center for an evening of service and encouragement. Our community has no abortion provider, but we are within an easy drive of the metropolitan centers of Louisville, Nashville, Memphis, and St. Louis, all of whom have facilities for the destruction of life. Lifehouse has stood in Murray as a witness not only for the cause of the unborn but also for the Gospel. They unapologetically defend the personhood of unborn children from conception and, in a non-judgmental and compassionate way, counsel women to make life-affirming decisions and also equip mothers with the resources and skills they need to take care of their child.

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I also have no problems at all taking teenagers to crisis centers and encouraging them to serve and be proactive for the cause of life. This issue is the most deeply divisive discussion of our day, and it is impossible to either remain on the sidelines or remain neutral about it. But it is more than politics, it is an issue central to the Gospel. Some of our students shared that people have left school clubs because that club wanted to volunteer at our center. I want to give a few reasons why I continue to involve our student ministry in the cause of life and why I think every student pastor should consider becoming involved as well. 

  1. Abortion is the great deception of our time – As we left last night each of us were given a model of an 11-12 week old developing baby. Its fingers, toes, eyes, ears, and other features were there. The child can suck its thumb, move, respond to stimuli, and has a beating heart. But this is also the point in development where most abortions happen. The cry of “it’s only tissue!” seems moot when you hold a 1 oz. infant in your hand that looks exactly like a newborn, only smaller. The Deceiver seeks to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10), and this is what happens across our globe every day. We are lied to by a Liar who only knows how to lie. We buy into the lie when we declare that the unborn are not people, when abortion providers refuse to allow pregnant women to see the ultrasound or hear the heartbeat, when we take up utilitarian arguments for or against abortion, when we say that this is a private matter, or when we are unmoved by the plight of the pregnant teenager who finds herself in a desperate place. Yes, the issue is for us as well in the pro-life camp. We can find ourselves deceived when we do nothing for the desperate mothers and scared families, when we avoid the issue for fear of offense, or when we remain silent.
  2. Abortion is a Gospel issue, not a political one – Christians have a rightful fear and concern about entering politics, for any number of reasons. Those Christians who do enter politics do so at the risk of their reputation, career, and ultimately their testimony. But this issue is more than a Court decision or government funding, it’s one that strikes at the heart of the Gospel. Psalm 139 details the forming of a person by the handiwork of God. And while God doesn’t have crochet needles putting together babies, the miracle of how one cell can become trillions with functioning systems and a personality is truly a work of God. Abortion is a Gospel issue for this reason: every single person is made in the image of God. It doesn’t matter if they’re the child of rocket scientists or born with Down Syndrome. The Gospel at its heart teaches that every person is an image-bearer of God and is valuable and worthy of dignity and honor from conception, regardless of circumstances. The Gospel also moves us to protect and defend the defenseless (James 1, Psalm 82).
  3. Jesus loves the little children – The toddler song perhaps carries more weight theologically than my little 2 year old can ever comprehend. Jesus does love the little children, and they are precious in His sight. The Gospels display a particular affection for children, with Jesus calling them to Himself and His description of faith is compared to that of a child. We are rightly horrified when tragedies like Sandy Hook happen, but we turn the other way when confronted with the reality of 4,000 children who die every day. Jesus calls on us to love our neighbor, to serve the poor and needy, and to live a life of radical sacrifice for the Kingdom. What better place to start than with those who are loved by Jesus whether they are red or yellow or black or white, or born into stable two-parent homes or single teenagers or career women or with a defect or extra chromosome.
  4. These centers need our encouragement – It is incredibly taxing to engage in spiritual warfare. Day in and day out these centers deal with incredibly difficult circumstances. Many counselors I have talked to can still remember the faces of women who refused to listen and were set on having an abortion, they can recall many ‘dark nights of the soul,’ the difficulty in raising funds to continue operations, and the constant need of volunteers, supplies, finances, prayer, and support. We as a student ministry have gotten to encourage crisis pregnancy centers in Louisville and Memphis, which operate very close to abortion providers. Those workers were incredibly appreciative of our coming, our work, our donations, but most of all our support.
  5. The work is never done, and no work is insignificant – We bagged diapers and wipes last night. I know, world-shattering work. But in the economy of God, no work is insignificant. Sorting clothes, cleaning floors, serving meals, being shut out of a home, assembling care packages, and prayer-walking all have eternal value and impact. Also, in God’s providence and timing, until Jesus returns no work of the Gospel is going to be complete. There will always be women in need of basic supplies for their baby, families struggling with the decision to abort, and crisis pregnancy centers to stand in the gap and lovingly proclaim the truth.

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Student pastors, take some time to contact the pregnancy centers in your area and offer to partner with them financially and/or by serving them. And pray. Pray for hearts to be changed by the Gospel, which is the only true liberator. Pray for sidewalk counselors and Christian physicians who volunteer their time and services. Pray for centers to have the funds, staff, and support they need. Pray for those who do not yet have names but are known to God.