Over 1,200,000 babies are reported as being killed by abortion each year. What are you doing as a believer to promote life? You and your church can do much! Baptists for Life (BFL) started twenty-one years ago with the purpose of helping people from Bible-believing churches to appropriately engage in pro-life ministries in their communities and around the country. In this interview, BFL Executive Director Tom Lothamer challenges us to know about life issues and to get involved in saving lives.
Why should believers be concerned about pro-life issues?
God is very concerned about life. In Scripture we see His concern for the downtrodden, the naked, the destitute, the orphans, and the widows. Christ put a high priority on children and needy people during His earthly ministry. Who would be needier than the child in the womb? Scripture teaches that from conception, the fetus is a life, created in the image of our Heavenly Father (Genesis 1:26). For us to make light of that fact and to take life is sin. Scripture commands, “‘You shall not murder'” (Exodus 20:13). When someone takes that human life, he or she is committing murder. Proverbs 24:11 admonishes, “Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter.” Verse 12 concludes, “If you say, ‘Surely we did not know this,’ does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?” When we start to make light of those babies in the womb, the rest of life is not sacred anymore. Acts of euthanasia, assisted suicide, and suicide bombings are evidences that the life ethic is gone. We who are believers need to stand up for life.
A pro-abortion website (www.abortionisprolife.com) states, “A fetus does not have a right to be in the womb of any woman, but is there by her permission.” What rights does a fetus possess?
Genetics and the technology of 3-D ultrasound have shown us that from conception the fetus is an individual human being. The mother is needed for the continuing development of that child, but a separate human life exists. Someone could say, “I want to kill a two-year-old toddler. He is a nuisance; he is hindering my work. I really don’t want this toddler anymore.” If we would ask people if this view is appropriate, they would say, “No, you can’t kill that two-year-old!” The question is, “What is that child in the womb?” If it is human, then we have to determine that we can’t kill the child. He or she has the right of every human being-the right to life.
When we talk about life issues in the context of our churches, is abortion solely a secular problem, or are our church families affected as well?
We have demeaned the sanctity of life in our culture because of the focus on rights-“It’s my right to. . . . ” The issue of rights has crept into our churches. It’s a selfish mentality of thinking, “This is what I want to doâ€ or â€œMy career is most important.” Church members might look at a fourteen-year-old pregnant girl and say, “Yes, she shouldn’t have been having sex, but having an abortion would help her get on with her life.” Our organization has come into contact with pastors who have wanted their daughters to have abortions. In any size church, if I asked the question, “Have you or someone close to you had an abortion?” people would raise their hands if they were being honest.
What would you say to a reader who has been involved with an abortion?
It’s important for this person to understand that what he or she has done is sin, yet there is a loving Father Who has great mercy and Who will forgive. As His people, we should be willing to wrap our arms around those individuals and lead them through confession and forgiveness, bringing them back to a place of service for the Lord. If they don’t know Christ, then we want to introduce them to the Heavenly Father, Who is willing to forgive them.
Regarding the other end of life, the Terry Schiavo case attracted much media attention. What was wrong with letting her die?
Terry Schiavo was not dying; she was not on life support. She was able to communicate in various ways. Food and hydration were the only things she was receiving. What would happen if I decided to not give you food or hydration? You would die. It comes down to the fundamental question of who has the authority to take life. Only God has that authority. The matter is one of commitment and looking out for the other person. People might think, “What’s the big deal? She was in a vegetative state. She wouldn’t want to be in that state.” It’s good to remember that a sovereign God wants to rule over our lives in a very loving, compassionate way. Are we going to rule our lives instead?
Medical advancements have created unusual situations for extending life. How does a Christian decide whether to accept or reject treatment?
When a person has an accident or is experiencing a life-ending illness such as cancer, some people think that being pro-life always means placing that person on life support. That’s not really true. We have to place ourselves in the hands of our Heavenly Father and consider the situation. For example, when my father-in-law was in the final stages of cancer, giving him food caused him more pain. We did not put him on life support, and God took him Home. Our organization has a form, Preventive Medical Decisions Declaration (PMDD), which walks people through considerations for the end of their lives, such as whether they want to be tied to life support systems. Every state in the U.S. has a durable power of attorney that, when combined with a PMDD, becomes a legal document (see www.nrlc.org). Someone might say, “If I go into cardiac arrest, I do not want to be resuscitated” and be within the confines of being right with God. It’s not a one-size-fits-all decision. We need to make those decisions while we are healthy so our loved ones will know what we would like to have happen.
We hear through the media reports of Christians’ breaking the law in their support of pro-life. What is your reaction?
Baptists for Life does not condone the breaking of the law in the name of pro-life. We would not bolt ourselves to the door of an abortion clinic, nor would we condone the killing of an abortionist. We would rather be praying for that abortionist, that God in His mercy would bring him or her to the Light.
How can a pastor help his people learn to make Biblical, ethical decisions?
A pastor can become well informed with what Scripture says about decision-making so he can help his people develop a Biblical worldview. I would counsel the church to teach from the perspective of looking at the big picture: What did the Lord intend for creation? What are the consequences of the Fall? What does the Lord provide in redemption? It would be helpful for a pastor to emphasize this Biblical worldview in his messages and in the church’s educational program for all ages. I recommend having a Sunday School curriculum that addresses various life issues and the process of decision-making. We need to change our whole way of life from the heart-our intent of why we are here, why God has a claim on us, why we want to be a living sacrifice-so we recognize that life is a series of day-to-day choices.
How does the ministry of Baptists for Life promote the sanctity of life?
We assist local churches by helping believers understand what Scripture says about life and to know how to act upon that understanding. We help them develop a Biblical ethic that they can apply to pregnancy issues, care for others, and end-of-life matters. Our vision is to see churches engage in compassion ministries as a means of fulfilling the Great Commission. They can participate in pro-life ministries such as working in a pregnancy center, sponsoring a clothing resource room, or providing respite care through our Loving Individuals in Final Transition (LIFT) program. Our organization has three major focuses: the development of pro-life ministries in local churches, respite care, and missions. We provide manuals and counsel in developing pro-life ministries for pastors and churches. Our LIFT ministry comes alongside community hospices and uses God’s people to provide spiritual, emotional, and physical care to chronically or terminally ill people and their caregivers. Our missions work includes helping pregnancy care centers develop and providing them counsel in the areas of spiritual leadership, board governance, team and ministry building, fund-raising, and counselor training.
Do you work with foreign missions?
Yes, we work with missionaries and nationals in the development of pregnancy care ministries around the world. In March we assisted in pregnancy care center counselor training in Columbia. In July a new center opened in Bogot¡, and we have already seen women coming to Christ. In South Africa we are working with Evangelical Baptist Missions and the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE) to develop respite and pregnancy care ministries in local churches. Also, ABWE has held pregnancy care counselor training in Davao City, Philippines, leading to 1,700 Filipino students being taught abstinence and to the planning of two new pregnancy care centers. In August I returned from Quito, Ecuador, where we are planning for a pregnancy care ministry and a medical center. We are ministering in the Far East, Europe, and South America, working with missions agencies to develop pro-life ministries with the purpose of reaching people for Christ.
If a church should contact Baptists for Life, what could your organization do to help the church in its efforts to promote life?
Our website, www.bfl.org, is a tremendous resource for pro-life information on medical ethics, bioethics, pregnancy, and end-of-life issues and for educational tools that help churches gain an understanding of what Scripture says about life. We offer training manuals, pastors’ manuals, consultation to churches, Sheltering Church Ministry training, bulletin inserts, curriculum, and brochures. Also, we are available to speak at missions conferences and church services. Our goal is to help God’s people articulate the pro-life message and to engage them in effective, evangelistic ministry for Christ.
Does Baptists for Life focus on political or lobbying activity?
People ask us if we are the “Baptist” Right to Life, and we say no. There are two important sides to the pro-life community-the political/legislative side that is handled by organizations such as Right to Life and the compassion side of using pro-life compassion ministries as a tool for reaching people for Christ. Virtually 100 percent of our ministry is directed toward evangelistic pro-life efforts. The greatest way for a church to become alive is to start partnering with another like-minded church in the community and to think together, How can we do a better job of reaching people and representing Christ in this community? When churches do that, their people get engaged and excited as they see God working.