If the gospel is not present at a church, then it is not a church. It could not be, no matter how hard it may try to appear to be so. It might be a moral social club, an ethical gathering of philanthropy, an assembly of good-will, but unless the gospel is present, it is not a church. If a church that desires to be an instrumental cog in the gears of the war to end abortion then they must rely upon the unyielding, unrelenting, transformative power of the gospel. Rooted, centered, motivated, driven, shaped — pick whichever adjective you wish, the church must ground itself in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Laboring in this niche of the Christian life called “the life arena” is fraught with decisions, perils, and challenges. One of the easiest and deadliest mistakes a church can make is to set aside the gospel-distinctiveness that defines a church and adopt a lesser standard in order to work alongside those who do not understand the gospel in the same way they do. In fact, the gospel is the only thing of worth that will overcome the domain of darkness, transform societies, and jettison wicked cultural practices.
At its very core, a gospel-driven church in the life arena loves what God loves and follows God’s example. Here’s what I mean by that. When you have been saved from the peril of your own sin, when you are given new life, your heart changes. What revolves around the heart of God will begin to revolve around your own heart. This comes about by learning God’s will —through the reading of His Word, through prayer, and through guidance of the mature Christian community. We learn that God is the author and giver of life. He loves life! And God is glorified when we love what He loves. God is also glorified when we have a repugnant distaste for things He hates. Before someone becomes a Christian, that person may well love their sin. In fact, many people who love their sin cannot or will not see that their sin is a crime against the character of God. Those people need more than what they need is not just a lesson in their logical inconsistency (as one who is alive making decisions about who should and should not be alive), or statistics to change their mind on the medical benefits of not killing your unborn — they need a heart change!
A gospel-driven church, in loving what God loves, is enamored with the mysterious wonder of the gospel. The gospel affects what we do as Christians; it affects how we answer the question that Francis Schaeffer pointedly titled his book, “How should we then live?” We want — with new hearts we truly want — to do what God has done for us. Our new life, our heart of gratitude that seeks to glorify God, to worship only Him, to be obedient to Him, and to love others, naturally expresses its gratitude in a desire to rescue others just as we ourselves have been rescued. We desire to bring the Rescuer of souls, the living God, to the very people who need rescuing. We desire to place before the lost a glorious Christ, clothed in the majesty of His benevolent character, and we plead that the Holy Spirit will give life to those who are in darkness.
Loving what God loves and, as a gospel-driven church, following His example in the life arena, will naturally cause our words and deeds to become more consistent with the gospel. Many gospel-driven churches are on the cusp of this consistency. The so-called “pro-life movement” needs more churches to live out the gospel in the life arena. Rallies and conferences are good; gospel consistency is better. Abortion in America might end with the reversal of Roe v. Wade. That is a legitimate possibility — and it would be a good thing. But faithfulness in being rescued rescuers in and around the areas where we live, work, and operate are of a more pressing nature. The gospel-driven church is, therefore, one that takes its locale and call seriously. It seeks to love what God loves as it engages with the brokenness and darkness in its neighborhoods and community. It seeks out those who are in imminent peril — not just those who may be killed by abortion, but also those whose souls will be lost if they are not brought into a right standing before God.
To look at the gospel-driven church from a different perspective, the life-affirming church is the church that takes the gospel seriously. The gospel compels us to love what is close to the heart of God, and that includes many pressing life issues. A church that loves the gospel will not just proclaim the gospel, it will live the gospel. As believers mature, becoming increasingly conformed to the likeness of Christ, the life-affirming church will become more consistent with the message of the gospel, opposing what God opposes and loving what God loves.