Jesus often used pictures and stories to create a vision. These parables gave His message more impact and power to His listeners. Stories are useful to convict hearts and portray spiritual truths. This is also helpful in guiding others to understand the motivation, purpose, and role of prolife Gospel centered ministry in front of abortion centers.
Sidewalk counseling can be depicted using Biblical analogies to exemplify who we are, what we do, and what is our purpose as Sidewalk Counselors. In training our Cities4Life sidewalk counselors, there are three major areas that we cover. First, what is our philosophy and rationale behind the value and Biblical calling to counsel abortion-minded women at that last ditch moment in front of an abortion center? Secondly, what is our practice, our role and expectations or actions we should perform as sidewalk counselors? And finally, what is our purpose, our primary goal, and how do we remain focused on that goal?
In this article, we will present three “parables” that help to illuminate each of these important concepts of sidewalk counseling.
Philosophy of Sidewalk Counseling
The first story is the parable of the Good Samaritan. This story is the basis for Cities4Life’s philosophy in our prolife ministry in front of abortion centers. Our sidewalk counselors unabashedly share the gospel but also offer tangible help. We find this dual approach most effective in reaching abortion-minded women. Not all prolife ministries agree with this approach, but we believe it is a biblical approach.
In that well-known parable, the religious leaders of the day pass a wounded man left for dead in the ditch and offer no assistance to help him out of the ditch. On the other hand, the Good Samaritan binds the injured man’s wounds, puts him on his donkey, and takes him to an inn where he pays the innkeeper to provide for ongoing needs. Jesus reminds His followers that we are to be like that Good Samaritan and love our neighbors with tangible acts of service.
The man in the ditch is like the abortion-minded mothers and their unborn children. We should not leave them there on that destructive path. The Good Samaritan is like the Sidewalk Counselor who pulls them out of that place of crisis, determines how best to heal their wounds, and provides the vehicle by which they will be brought to ongoing and hopefully permanent help. (The donkey/resources). The Inn is analogous to our local mentorship program and other resources to keep them from ending up in the ditch (at the abortion center) again.
Practice of Sidewalk Counseling
So how do we do what we do?
We can paint the answer using a second visual image derived from the verses in Proverbs 31:8-10.
Open your mouth for the speechless,
In the cause of all who are appointed to die.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
And plead the cause of the poor and needy.
These verses are depicting an image in which legal language is repeatedly employed. The “cause” or the case is that those who are speechless (without a legal voice) need someone to advocate or be, in a sense, their lawyer, pleading their case for them. Those speechless ones are “appointed” to death, or in danger of execution. There is someone who must “judge” this case righteously in order to help those who are poor and needy.
Parallels can easily be drawn to the scene in front of an abortion center. The sidewalk counselors are the advocates, or the lawyers, pleading the case for the “speechless”, or the unborn. Those unborn children are sentenced to die unless those pleading the case can make persuasive and righteous claims that will help the final judgement to be a righteous one. The executioner of the sentence of death is the abortionist. The poor and the needy is the unborn child. In a sense, the mother of the child is the judge. It is to her we are appealing and presenting the case for why this child should live.
Purpose and Primary Goal of Sidewalk Counseling
The third visual image is how to remain focused on the mission and not be distracted and lose sight of the primary goal. There are so many tangents that can take the attention of those involved in pro-life ministry. The political tangent: abolition or incremental laws regulating abortion. The world-views tangent: pro-choice vs. pro-life. The philosophical tangent: evangelism or prophetic proclamation. The differing approach tangent: Gospel centered or women centric.
The primary goal in front of an abortion is to first glorify and obey God, and secondly, through God be used to save that baby.
The story of Moses might be a good visual picture of how sidewalk counselors can be derailed in their calling. Moses was called to lead God’s people out of slavery to the promised land. Slavery is a picture of sin and the Promised Land is a picture of restoration and reconciliation with God. A very noble purpose was given to Moses by God.
Poor Moses discovered he had a multitude of people with a host of problems and issues that repeatedly surfaced over those forty years of wandering in the desert. He was largely successful keeping his eyes on the goal, but there were times that distractions threatened to overwhelm him. One example of this was when the people kept coming to him to solve their disputes and petty issues. Moses tried valiantly to be a wise and fair judge, but soon found himself drowning in the deluge of complaints. He could not lead if he was mired in the mess of daily decisions he was being requested to adjudicate.
“The next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?” And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God; when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and his laws.” Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.” So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And they judged the people at all times. Any hard case they brought to Moses, but any small matter they decided themselves. Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went away to his own country.” Exodus 18: 13-27
Fortunately, his father-in-law, Jethro, saw the trap that was threatening to engulf Moses. He advised him to appoint others to deal with the daily issues that required attention. Moses agreed, and delegated the bothersome and distracting responsibilities to other Godly advisors. This freed him to do what he was called to do: Lead his people back to God and to the Promised Land.
In sidewalk counseling, we are similarly in danger of “swatting at flies” and losing sight of the “pile of manure” we have been called to clean up. For example, pro-abortion advocates are continually seeking to distract us. (Another helpful word picture!) It is tempting to set them straight and challenge their lies or their misperceptions. We know how desperately they need Jesus, and long to lead them to God. We often are lured into extended discussions that drag us away from our attention to the mothers walking into the abortion center.
Of course those pro-abortion advocates need the Lord! However, in our verve to witness to them, we often are less effective in keeping a laser focus on the people who most need our help to whom God has specifically called us: the abortion minded moms and the babies apportioned to die. We need to learn to keep our attention on the goal and not be sidetracked by the good, at the expense of the best.
These three stories can help us as we minister to abortion-minded women. We need to be clear on our philosophy, practice, and purpose. As in all ministries to which God has called His servants, we can be confident that the Holy Spirit will guide and lead us. Our strength and our words should always come from His prompting.
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