“The most important duty of missionaries is to teach people about Jesus Christ, and His great commandment to love God and to love others. This means ensuring that their actions not only fulfill a need but also are sustained after they have left the community. Many missionaries focus on the needs of the communities they are serving and integrate those needs with evangelism.”
Are pro-life counselors on the sidewalk of abortion centers doing mission work? According to the definition above, we certainly are. Those involved in serving God as missionaries have two main purposes.
- The first purpose is to share the truth of the gospel and to bring others to the saving knowledge and submission of lives to Jesus Christ.
- The second purpose is to love the people in our mission field as we are loved and to bring about change in their community in areas of struggle.
Regarding the first purpose, Pro-life advocates on the sidewalks of abortion centers employ varying philosophies and approaches. Cities 4 Life maintains that the gospel is central to our approach. We teach our counselors that our first priority is to God. We of course want those unborn babies to be saved, but not at the expense of dishonoring God.
What is the reason for that purpose? It’s because we recognize that we are ambassadors of Christ and everything we think, do, and say is being watched and can affect those in our mission field and how they ultimately respond to Jesus. Our primary goal is not saving unborn babies although that is our mission focus. Our primary goal is bringing lost souls to a saving relationship with God. It is very evident that people are more willing to respond to evangelistic efforts if they see that those evangelizing have a sincere desire to provide help for immediate and ongoing needs.
The second goal as stated above in that quote from a missionary organization is loving others as ourselves. This closely reflects the philosophy of Cities 4 Life and the guiding Biblical parable which is that of the good Samaritan. In loving others as ourselves, we are to treat them as our neighbors which is clearly depicted in the parable of the good Samaritan.
When we see wounded people, we are to rush to their assistance. Not only are we to deal with immediate crisis, but to assess and provide as best we are able with ongoing help. That of course does not mean that in loving our neighbor we should make them dependent on us for our assistance. Our goal should be to point them first to God but also to personal independence and responsibility.
To be a good neighbor also means that if we see someone on a path of destruction, we should do what we can to guide her to a path of life.
Four Key Specific Areas in Which Missionaries and Sidewalk Counselors are similar:
1. The most effective missionaries are those who enter into relationship with the people in their sphere of ministry. Most missionaries spend a lot of time with the people the intend to minister to. Most move into the community of their target people group.
Similarly, The best and most effective pro-life ministries truly seek first to understand the issues of the people they are trying to reach. They are immersed in investing in the lives of those people and listen carefully to the struggles they face. Our sidewalk counselors largely do not live in the communities directly of the people they are seeking to reach.
However, they do seek to listen to, understand, and empathize with the struggles these people face. They enter into relationship with their target ministry group (abortive moms) through extended time in front of abortion centers, interacting with the moms. Cities 4 Life links moms who choose life with mentors in the Love Life organization. Those mentors do indeed often come from the same background and communities of the women we are seeking to help. This is ideal because most people respond best to those who truly understand what they are facing.
2. Missionaries understand that it is critical to build trust with the people they serve. To do so, they attempt to help in critical needs of the target community.
Cities4lIfe and other pro-life ministries try to do likewise. Trust is essential. Our sincere offers of help no matter what the abortive mom faces often break down barriers. Oftentimes, as the moms see that we are truly committed to linking them with resources that can change their lives, they also are more open and willing to hear about the source of our hope and our ministry. That is, of course, Christ himself.
3. Missionaries learn the culture they are entering and try to meet the people with an understanding of their culture, as well as emphasizing the commonality of human experience.
Sidewalk counselors who are most effective understand the cultural issues that might affect how willing abortive moms are to speak to them. For example, adoption is largely perceived negatively in the black community who often equate it with the foster system. Knowing this dynamic would make a good counselor careful in the timing or necessity of ever mentioning adoption. It can derail a conversation if not treated with an understanding of the community from which the mother comes.
4. Missionaries’ main goal is to share the Gospel. By being a trusted member of the community they serve and helping in meeting needs, they have access to share the Gospel.
In like manner, sidewalk counselors and their partner ministries that help meet the abortive moms’ needs help to dismantle barriers that prevent sharing the truth of the Gospel. A great example of that is the baby showers Cities4Life and partner ministries provide. The lavish outpouring of two years of equipment and clothes is a visible image of the lavish love of God. Some women have committed their lives to Jesus upon seeing His provision through the generosity of those who love Him.
In summary, yes, Pro-life ministries in front of abortion centers are mission groups. As missionaries to those who are coming to abortion centers in our community, this perspective can be useful in how we best serve our mission population. Both traditional missionaries and sidewalk missionaries to abortion minded moms have similar goals and methods.
The framework for missionary methodology in both groups can be distilled to three main principles. All three elements reflect Biblical guidance and truth.
First, connect to the humanity of the target group so that we can truly love them as God sees them. Remember and dwell on the fact that all are made in the image of God. All of us as human beings have value and worth before God. We all share our common humanity and that is the starting point of all fruitful relationships.
Secondly in loving others as ourselves, and in loving others as God loves them, do not shy away from speaking truth. The gospel and truth of who Jesus is and how to have a relationship with him is central to any transformative effect on any human being‘s life. The Gospel is key and should be central.
And finally, in loving our neighbor, empathize, listen, discern needs, and whenever it is in our power, strive to meet them. Always be cognizant that in meeting those needs the goal is that they would find first their sufficiency in Christ and secondly their ability to overcome their struggles without dependency on destructive or irresponsible behavior.
I believe with those key elements in mind, pro-life ministry as a missionary endeavor to people who are lost and on a path of destruction can find help, hope, renewal, redemption, and community transformation.