Often I hear, “my pastor (or congregation) isn’t life affirming.” Then the next question is “What am I to do?” or “How can I make a difference?”
Sound familiar? Have you felt or heard this yourself? There are times when I have been discouraged because I host a life event, Bible study, or am asked to speak at a meeting, and few individuals attend, or they have a different view point on what was said. I have questioned myself as to how I could have approached the topic differently or somehow done better at announcing the Bible study or event. (However, I know that my own congregation is life affirming as Lutherans For Life receives a portion of our monthly missions, they are more than generous with their support of the local pregnancy center, and they pray weekly for Lutherans For Life and me.) Satan puts doubt, not only into my mind, but also in others who are passionate about all life and want to be a voice for those who have no voice.
My experience with pastors is that they are generally life affirming and do mention life in many sermons. Often they will connect it to human beings originally created in God’s image. This is a life-affirming message—but not always the life-affirming message that some congregational members want to hear. They expect the pastor to be more focused on law as well as condemning in regard to life issues—especially abortion.
A few years ago, a pastor came to the Lutherans For Life display and prefaced our discussion with the assembly’s morning devotion on Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (NIV), and saying that an individual can interpret any verse in the Bible to say what they want the verse to say.
As this verse is especially personal to me, I instinctively knew this was going to be a discussion different from other discussions. The pastor also requested that I listen and not respond to why the individual was for abortion. For many years, this pastor had been a missionary in a third world country in Africa and was, at the time of the discussion, a pastor in rural Louisiana. The pastor had experienced children suffering and dying from starvation both in Africa and Louisiana. Because of this experience, the pastor believes that God views abortion as a mercy and starving children as an abomination. On the other hand, this pastor liked what Lutherans For Life resources say on end-of-life and physician-assisted suicide. Is this a contradiction? The pastor and I did have a good discussion on end-of-life issues, physician-assisted suicide, and suicide. I did pray and continue to pray for this pastor concerning this individual’s view on life.
So, how can you help your pastor or congregation be more life affirming? You could meet with your pastor to discuss having a Life Team at your church. Jesus sent His disciples out two-by-two as He did not want them to go alone. Paul traveled with at least one or more on his missionary trips and sent out others in twos and threes.
When I meet with pastors, they indicate they would like to have a Life Advocate or a Life Team in their church. The obstacle they run into is finding people to serve. The congregational member’s reply is that he or she is too busy, can’t fit one more activity into the schedule, or doesn’t understand what is expected, and the list goes on.
When I speak to a group about Life Teams and that the first step is to meet with the pastor, the response is, “my pastor isn’t interested in life.” My response is to request the individual set up a meeting with the pastor, the individual, and me and learn first-hand the pastor’s response. (The pastor’s response may be “not interested.”) Personally, I have not experienced a pastor unwilling to meet to hear about the possibility of a Life Team at their church.