Not all churches are the same. Besides theological, denominational or even regional and cultural differences, there are other ways to categorize and group churches when it comes to the vast variety there is in the United States, alone. Some churches are unhealthy; some are not. Some churches have adventurous personalities launching mercy ministries and outreaches left and right, while some are not. Some are more fellowship in style hosting potlucks in abundance while others are deeply entrenched in the way they did ministry fifty years ago. Some churches are bursting at the seams with numbers, and new programs and others are struggling to keep the lights on with their meager thirty faithful members yet skeptical of fancy programs and flashy strategies for church growth.
To the small-town church three hours from the abortion clinic, it may seem unnecessary to have Life Team at first glance, or just another external structure the church doesn’t need. To a larger church, it may just sound like another typical pro-life curriculum or program. With all those differences, stripes and personalities, is the Life Team something for every church?
Yes, it is. And no, it most certainly is not.
The model of Life Teams that Churches for Life has developed isn’t a one-size-fits-all. It is indeed flexible, malleable and adjustable to suit the needs of the local church, large and small, program embracing or not. In fact, the training to develop and launch a Life Team is versatile enough that we know of many churches that have used the training as a launching point to build their own kind of a Life Team, though it’s not officially called that in several cases we can name. In another instance, the Life Team model is flexible enough to be utilized and adapted within Chapter styled structures as well as seminaries and universities. But when we speak of the church primarily in view, there are two minimum basic characteristics of churches that enrich the soil to make Life Teams the best fit to flourish. These minimal components are just that, minimal marks needed to fit with the vision of Churches for Life to nourish churches. They must be:
The Gospel-Driven Church
The Reformers recognized that the true church was present anywhere the Word of God was preached and the sacraments were faithfully administered. Interestingly, CFL collectively and ecumenically holds many churches and backgrounds together that disagree on the use of the sacraments whether they are Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist, Charismatic, Evangelical, or of the independent Bible church variety. But that first mark, that distinctive of having the Word of God preached- that is not just an issue to divide over, it is the hill to die on.
Being a Gospel-driven church presupposes not only that the Word of God is being faithfully preached, though. It assumes that the motivation to engage in life issues is found in the resources of the Gospel itself. To be a rescued rescuer means to embrace the Gospel as the message of salvation that calls us to bend the knee in submission to Christ. Any other motivation will wilt and die when held up to the gloriousness of the prize of the Gospel, which is Christ. It is precisely this point, being Gospel-driven and uncompromising that Churches for Life, despite the collective and beautiful mosaic of different churches held together, cannot take a minimal stand that eliminates the Gospel from its foundation. We know and you know of many groups we speak of that we can be thankful for their faithful work in the life-arena, but because they have surrendered the Gospel we will gracefully and respectfully decline to reduce what a Life Team is and would look like without the Gospel motivation and drive.
A Healthy Church
Mark Dever, pastor and author of the book Nine Marks of a Healthy Church has provided an excellent starting point to think of marks beyond what makes a church minimally a church. A healthy church should exhibit more than just the minimum; it should express a fuller function in its ecclesiology. And he’s right. Besides, a Life Team needs the soil to be minimally Gospel; it does even better when it’s maximally tilled. Though we could quibble over what is on the list or perhaps missing, we should agree, a healthy church is better than an unhealthy one. A healthy church is the eco-system in which a Life Team thrives. In fact, a healthy church is the eco-system that a Life Team is supposed to be. Life Teams are a thing because, to our own regret as the church in North America, there has been a retreat from engaging life-issues in addition to many unhealthy churches swamped with putting out their own fires.
So, does your church need a Life Team? Maybe. We want more Life Teams in more churches, for sure! We desire to see more churches connected to more people, more crisis-pregnancy centers, more nursing homes, more resources, etc. But before you answer that question, wrestle through and ask if you church is truly gospel-driven and secondly if it’s healthy. If you cannot say “yes” to both questions then the priority isn’t a Life Team, it’s first to get plugged in with a church that proclaims the gospel. Everything in the life arena stems from being gospel motivated, gospel-driven, gospel-rooted.
If you know that your church is indeed a gospel-proclaiming church but unsure of the second, that it is healthy, then it isn’t an automatic “yes” or “no.” It will take discernment with you and your church leaders, with any assistance we can provide through our Mission Discovery Process and above all, it will require prayer and reflection. But if, you can answer “yes” to both questions straight away, let’s talk! We would love for you to take our Life Team Basics workshop and get equipped as you learn how you can champion life in your context.
If you are interested in participating in the Life Team Basics workshop, please click here and fill out the contact form. If you are interested in starting a Life Team in your church, let us know! We want to walk with you in the process.
If you are interested in signing up for Live Training, please click here and fill out the contact form. Or click here to purchase our materials.