Cover Story

Still-silent shepherds

"Still-silent shepherds" Continued...

Issue: "The wonder of life," Jan. 25, 2014

AS A SOUTHERN BAPTIST pastor during the 1980s, former presidential candidate and current Fox News talk show host Mike Huckabee dove into the abortion fray—and he sees others doing the same. “I think more evangelical pastors now are willing to take a stand,” he told me, but he acknowledged that pastors who aren’t may just avoid him now: “Some think it divides their congregation and takes their eyes off of the gospel.” Huckabee asks, “How can you claim to proclaim a gospel that turns its back on the slaughter of innocent babies?” 

Huckabee cautions about “doing what I call ‘preaching to the gallery.’ You beat at the abortion issue and destroy it. Then you hold up its carcass so everyone can clap.” At the same time, he says the excuses need to stop: “We need to be careful and offer grace to people who’ve made bad decisions and give the gospel to them, while at the same time drawing a line in the sand and saying, ‘This is not something that can be acceptable.’ It’s forgivable, but not morally acceptable.”

But author Randy Alcorn fears that Americans are just too used to abortion now: “It’s not outrageous to us anymore.” Alcorn and his wife helped an unwed mother and then blocked the doors of abortion businesses, which led to several arrests and a large civil judgment. He parallels abortion and the killing of Jews during World War II: “Self-righteously we decry the German church’s failure to stand up for the Jews. Meanwhile we fail to stand up for the unborn. We shake our heads in disgust at the German church’s tolerance of one holocaust while ignoring our own tolerance of another.”

John Piper argues that American evangelical pastors know abortion is an abhorrent evil. They know they are to preach against murder, especially if it’s happening next door and involves people sitting right in their pews. They know that the path to healing requires repentance, and repentance requires conviction of sin, and conviction of sin requires clear exposition of the Word of God, even when it is uncomfortable. Pastors know they will come under a stricter judgment if they sugarcoat the gospel.

Piper sums it up this way in a sermon entitled “Love Your Unborn Neighbor”: “God says to us in America in the 21st century stained with the blood of millions of unborn babies, these words from Proverbs 24:11-12: ‘Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?’”

ON OCT. 20, 2013, as 14,000 people listened in person at the Seattle-based Mars Hill Church and 11 others by simulcast, pastor Mark Driscoll addressed the Sixth Commandment—“Do not murder.” He spent 39 of 68 minutes exclusively on abortion, “the hardest part of the sermon,” he told his church up front: “Hundreds of you will probably leave and never return. I would encourage you to consider what I have to say, to go home and study what the Word of God has to say, and … make a prayerful, careful, biblical decision.”

“WE ARE A MURDEROUS CULTURE”: Mark Driscoll preaches in Seattle.
Associated Press/Photo by Scott Cohen
“WE ARE A MURDEROUS CULTURE”: Mark Driscoll preaches in Seattle.
Driscoll proceeded to critique abortion, as he has routinely since founding Mars Hill in 1996. “Life begins at conception,” he said, noting that an unborn child is “a person made in the image and likeness of God.” Driscoll rooted in the Bible “seven reasons why life begins at conception.” He said “we are a murderous culture. … [Since 1973] there have been between 50 and 55 million documented abortions, just in the U.S.”

Some listeners cried as Driscoll called for a “change of heart, change of life,” and spoke of God’s mercy and forgiveness: “You men who have encouraged, forced, or paid for the abortion, you women who have killed your own child, murdered your own child. … The good news is that Jesus died for murderers. … You need Jesus, and you need him to forgive you for your murder, and he will.”

Afterward, a woman in Mars Hill’s Albuquerque, N.M., satellite congregation knelt up front. It was the anniversary of the day she had aborted a child. She began worshipping and weeping. Then her four living children hugged her, supported by her husband. Eventually, she started comforting another post-abortive woman.

—Joe Maxwell is a Mississippi writer; Stephen Hall is executive director of Joseph’s Way

Preaching it

For samples of pro-life sermons pastors have preached, go to wng.org/topic/saturday_series/.

WORLD mailed surveys to 20 evangelical pastors of megachurches asking them if they preach against abortion. Seven replied. Six preach “more than once a year” against abortion, either as a sermon topic or when discussing a particular passage of the Bible during a sermon. One preaches “about once a year.”

More than once a year

Matt Chandler, The Village Church, Flower Mound, Texas

Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill Church, Seattle, Wash.

Jonathan Falwell, Thomas Road Baptist Church, Lynchburg, Va.

Dwayne Pickett, New Jerusalem Church, Jackson, Miss.

Dave Stone, Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, Ky.

Ed Young Sr., Second Baptist Church, Houston, Texas

About once a year

Bob Coy, Calvary Chapel, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

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