In a prior article, The Fertile Soil of Life Teams, we mentioned the minimal characteristics needed for a Life Team to take root in a local church. Although we might say that this is the minimum threshold for a church to survive, it certainly is not the end goal for churches regarding life issues. We don’t want churches to merely survive; we want them to thrive and prevail. We want churches to flourish and to experience their full potential in their respective contexts.
In the next series of Inspire articles, we will delve into each of the nine qualities of a healthy Life Team. However, we will be considering those qualities not as they relate to the Life Team but as they relate to the local church. The question we will be unpacking is this: What do the nine qualities of a healthy Life Team look like in a life-affirming church?
To begin this endeavor, we need to lay out some groundwork. These qualities aren’t intended to be exhaustive or exclusive. Although other qualities could describe a Life Team or a life-affirming church, these particular qualities have been time-tested. They have been tried, revised, and sharpened — and they’re ready for others to know about. These nine qualities of a healthy Life Team and a life-affirming church are:
These qualities present a more detailed picture of what the church can and should be as it expresses itself in the life arena — or anywhere. The very term “life-affirming” is the chosen vernacular of Churches for Life and others who press back against the narrow meaning that “pro-life” denotes. Having sensed that language needs to change, other evangelicals have offered a variety of excellent alternatives in the life arena, including “comprehensibly pro-life,” “pro-abundant-life,” “holistically pro-life” and “consistently pro-life.” All of these terms possess their merits, but Churches for Life has chosen to stick with “life-affirming” because it represents more than just a position about abortion or in relation to it, but also what the fullest expression of the Christian’s championing life in opposition to the current culture of death and champion life in their respective contexts. The Life-Affirming Church, we will contend, demonstrates these nine qualities.
The long-term vision of life-affirming Life Teams is life-affirming churches and a life-affirming culture. You could realistically say that the ultimate goal of Life Teams in churches is to some day no longer be needed. The ministry of Churches for Life is hopefully a temporary endeavor that will equip the people of God, within churches, to believe and act like the people of God — not just in the life arena, but in all of life. We, of course, acknowledge that the primary function of equipping the people of God is in the local church, by the local church. As Life Teams and church leaders work together on their mission for God, we invite them to shepherd, teach, preach, equip, and discern with the richer picture of a life-affirming church in view. A life-affirming church is the noble and necessary goal, because it consists of mature believers who have been built up into the likeness of Christ. It helps to measure and label the impact of the church in the life arena. It allows room for denominational differences, church personality, and even cultural nuances within the larger visible and invisible church. We believe you will see that the life-affirming church is the one that aligns itself most closely with Scripture as its authority and with Christ as our sole savior. Over the next several articles we believe you will get a clearer picture of what the life-affirming church looks like.
It is our sincere desire that this series will inspire churches to eagerly establish Life Teams within their own networks so that the church as a whole can become a life-affirming church. Some of you may already by thinking ahead and trying to anticipate the challenges involved in doing that. You might already be asking, “How do I start a Life Team? How do we become more life-affirming?” While these are valid, necessary questions, and questions that we will answer, they are now a bit premature. They represent the wrong starting point. Before we answer “the how” we want to give you a picture of “the what.” What does a life-affirming church look like regarding each of these nine qualities? That is our starting question.
We want you, as members of the Body of Christ, to catch the vision of these qualities as you serve in your local church. We desire that pastors and other ecclesial leaders — shepherds guarding and nurturing their sheep — get a taste of the sweetness of a body of believers that is built up in maturity to stand for life, while being rooted in the Word and engaged in the world.