Matt Chandler, lead pastor of The Village Church in Texas, recently preached against abortion from the pulpit, doing what many U.S. pastors apparently avoid like the plague, according to a survey's findings and the observation of some Christian leaders.
Chandler, married father of three, president of the church-planting Acts 29 Network, and co-author of such books as The Explicit Gospel and the upcoming The Mingling of Souls, took on the subject of abortion late last month as part of an on-going sermon series.
It was just in December when Chandler shared a stage with respected theologian and former pastor John Piper, who stated his belief that "there are cowards in the pulpit who won't touch the subject of abortion with a 10-foot pole."
It was at the "A Time to Speak" panel event where Piper made that scathing remark, and also included race as one of the rarely-, if ever-touched sermon subjects.
Chandler, who has spoken from The Village Church pulpit on racism and white privilege in the past, made it clear in his Sunday, Jan. 25 a sermon titled "The Sanctity of Life," that he is not among the alleged "cowards in the pulpit."
"I don't believe this is a political issue," Chandler says to the multi-campus Village Church before launching into his sermon, the video of which was made available online. "I believe this is a scientific issue and a deeply theological issue. I'm not trying to make political statements."
Chandler goes on to state that by delivering his anti-abortion message, he was "treading a strange space." He also acknowledges his need for the Holy Spirit to grant him "all the boldness" to "tell everyone in this room that abortion is murder."
"It is the murder of a human being. I'm going to have to say it. I'm going to show it to you in the Word. I want to prove it to you with science. I want to just lay it before you and say abortion is murder. It's a holocaust like the world has yet to see," he adds.
Chandler then notes the tens of millions of deaths attributed to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and Germany's Nazi Party leader Adolf Hitler.
"The United States since Roe v. Wade, not globally but the United States, has blown past both of those brothers and have made them look angelic as we have slaughtered wholesale 55 million little boys and little girls."
He adds, "I gotta say that. If I don't say that, then all the things that the secular world says about megachurch pastors become true about me: that I want you to like me, and I want your money, and I want to be famous and I want… I'm far more afraid of God than I am of you."
But "I am no fool," says Chandler. "There are murderers among us.
"At the same time that I prophetically and boldly and courageously say, 'Abortion is murder,' I also need to step into this space knowing we are guilty of it. Many of us are guilty of it. Maybe we weren't the ones who had the abortion. Maybe we coerced and pressed somebody to have the abortion or just paid for the abortion. I need to say to you…listen to me…where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more."
Watch a clip excerpt of Chandler's remarks below:
The pastor also said in his message, according to a published transcript:
Here's where I need to chat with you. If, as we progress today, you become more and more aware and painfully aware that you are a murderer, the default position of the human heart is to downshift into shame, to begin to feel dirty, to begin to feel like you don't fit, like there's no place for you, there's no way God can forgive you. I'm trying to just head you off at the pass and lovingly tell you that even in your murdering, you need to get over yourself.
The grace and mercy of God covers sin. What you need to do is lean into that rather than downshift into a pity party for yourself. Holy Spirit conviction always has a sweet edge to the ache. See, Holy Spirit conviction reminds us not only are we guilty but that Christ has paid the bill for our guilt. Without that sweet edge, you're not hearing what the Bible says. You're actually trying to sow seeds of bitterness and anger and rage in your own heart.
This is what I want to talk about this morning. I'm going to try to walk this line. So I'm going to be passionate. I'm going to look upset. I think all those things are right and good. We're talking about 55 million souls and counting. A thousand every day, almost all under the guise of convenience, not medical emergency. It's a horrific, brutal, disgusting practice. Many of us are guilty, but most of us are indifferent.
The Village Church community, which has published a list of resources related to the "Sanctity of Human Life" sermon, has heard several messages related to a multi-part series titled "Prayer" since Jan. 4. Chandler, lead teaching pastor, picked up the series on Jan. 11, when he preached a message titled "Racial Reconciliation."
His "Sanctity of Life" Jan. 25 sermon used as a primary text Psalm 139, a common go-to Bible passage for issues related to life. For example, the psalm, attributed to unified Israel's fist king, David, and directed to God, reads in verse 13, "For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb."
Watch the full sermon, titled "Prayer (Part 4) - The Sanctity of Human Life," in the video player below:
Why Don't Pastors Preach About Abortion?
Surveys have consistently shown that religious Americans remain split in their stances on abortion. The Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan fact tank, reported in 2013 that 49 percent of U.S. adults personally believe that it is morally wrong to have an abortion. White evangelical Protestants were the largest group to express that belief (75 percent), while 64 percent of Hispanic Catholics and 58 percent of Black Protestants expressed agreement.
The American Culture and Faith Institute, a nonprofit promoting "Judeo-Christian principles" and led by George Barna, found in its 2013 survey of "412 theologically-conservative pastors" that less than half (47 percent) had included abortion in their sermons 12 months piror. The survey also found that "almost all of the pastors (95 percent) believe that the Bible provides principles that relate to the morality of abortion."
Robert Craig Sproul, Jr., son of the popular Calvinist pastor and Ligonier Ministries founder Robert Charles Sproul, shared in January on his radio program, "Jesus Changes Everything," that he has heard at least three reasons from pastors on why they choose not to preach about abortion.
"From that list of what I hear most frequently, the first thing I hear is that they think this issue is a political issue, and we're not supposed to preach political sermons," says Sproul in the episode titled "Silence Of the Shepherds."
Sproul, a teaching fellow at Ligonier Ministries and a professor at Reformation Bible College at Ligonier Academy, notes in regard to the second reason that "pastors have told me that it is just too upsetting to their congregants. These pastors are thankfully aware of what too many miss, that their pews are filled with women who have murdered their own babies, and the husbands/boyfriends/fathers who have helped them. They rightly recognize the crushing burden of guilt that these people can feel. And they wrongfully refuse to address it."
As for the third reason, "I have heard pastors proudly insist that they only preach the Bible, and abortion is not mentioned in the Bible," says Sproul.
Sproul goes on to suggest the three "real reasons" he believes many pastors avoid preaching to their members about abortion: 1. these pastors think "their congregation is already persuaded on the issue;" 2. these pastors "don't know how to encourage the saints to respond to this great evil;" and 3. "pastors won't preach against abortion because of their own guilt."
Listen to Sproul's remarks in the audio player below or at his website: