September 2013 will forever be seared in my mind as when I received the phone call every seminarian hopes for: God had called me to my first pastorate.
Recognizing the weightiness of it all, one thing became quite apparent: I was going to need major help. In God’s providence, that help came in a multitude of ways. One in particular was John Piper’s book, “Brothers, We Are Not Professionals.”
With a passion and precision that he is known for, God used this veteran pastor to help shape my understanding of what it means to shepherd the flock of God. His thoughts on preaching were priceless, especially knowing I was to be responsible for the weekly preaching of God’s Word.
Within the wisdom of that book, one practical thought on preaching still reverberates in my ministry today. Piper made sure he preached on abortion at least once a year in his church.
“Pastors should put their lives and ministries on the line in this issue,” he writes. He was appalled at the “cowardice of some pastors when it comes to preaching against abortion.”
“If anyone should take up the cause of the unborn, it is the man of God in the pulpit.”
The gauntlet was thrown, and I felt the challenge deeply. I can’t fully explain it, but for me, reading those words was one of those moments when a truth concretized in an instant. I was resolved. There would be no cowardice on this issue on my watch.
Tony Merida (an author and pastor in North Carolina) said, “At its most basic level, expository preaching is preaching in such a way that the listeners get wet with God’s Word after the sermon.” Of this I was convinced. But it was Piper who convinced me that if I was going to discharge my pastoral duty faithfully, then I must make a point to preach the truth of God’s Word on the matter of abortion. He persuaded me that some topics are worthy of deliberate considering because they are just that important. The sanctity of human life is one of those topics.
God’s people are immersed in a culture of death. Whether it’s through the world at large, the onslaught of social media posts, or the inescapable daily news cycle, the spiritual forces of evil work overtime to diminish the value of life.
The cosmic powers over this present darkness are crafty in their attacks against the imago dei. They don’t care how they devalue life.
God’s ordained counter-offensive against this attack is preachers who lead their people by their preaching—empowered by the Spirit of God and armed with his Word. If anyone should take up the cause of the unborn, it is the man of God in the pulpit.
That’s not to say everyone else in the church is off the hook on this matter. But it is to say that if everyone else were to remain silent, there ought to be at least one champion for God’s image-bearers in the womb (and out of the womb, for that matter). That’s you, pastor.
In my own pastoral ministry, I have sought to lead in this way. Over the years, my definition of what I mean by “sanctity of life” has broadened. We generally think of it only being about abortion. But a legitimate category under sanctity of life is the desire for the flourishing of life.
This means in my preaching I’ve not only tried to expose the evil of abortion, but I’ve also sought to bear the gospel on racial reconciliation, proclaim the goodness of God’s design in gender, uphold the roles of men and women in the church and home, and lead God’s people in how to think through issues of euthanasia/suicide.
Now you might be thinking, “Why sanctity of life? Why this issue? Surely there are other matters to fight for as well.” If you think this, you’re right.
The sanctity of life is not the only issue. But it is worthy of a pastor’s prophetic voice in a world full of ears itching for teachers to suit their own passions.
My encouragement to you is the same mandate from Piper that fell on me: “Brothers, blow the trumpet for the unborn.”
–Jonathan Davis is pastor of Delta Church in Springfield.