Nearly a million abortions will take place in America this year. Since 1973, when Roe v. Wade effectively legalized abortion nationwide, we have seen more than 50-million abortions in this country.
Given such daunting and tragic statistics, is it possible even to dream about ending abortion in this country?
Justin Reeder, who leads Love Life in Charlotte, N.C., says yes.
“Our mission is to unite and mobilize the church to create a culture of love and life that will result in an end to abortion and the orphan crisis,” he told me during an interview this week at his office in Charlotte. “We believe what the Bible teaches about the church, that the gates of hell cannot prevail against it. We believe that God has called the church to shape the culture.”
Justin Reeder’s life is in some ways a metaphor for the evangelical church’s relationship to the life issue. He was raised in the church, and considered himself pro-life, but until four years ago he was not very active in the pro-life movement. He was a successful entrepreneur whose business had just celebrated 10 years of operation, and he was looking for new challenges. Several pro-life friends took him to the largest abortion facility in the southeastern United States, A Preferred Women’s Health Center on Latrobe Drive in south Charlotte. In fact, Reeder was doing business with a company on the same road.
“But I had no idea what was going on there,” he says.
Reeder met faithful pro-life activists demonstrating in front of the facility. Some offered sidewalk counseling. Reeder was challenged and convicted by what he saw. He believed God was calling him to stand with these faithful few.
While Reeder’s heart was convicted, his entrepreneurial mind was also spinning. He could see that the efforts of these pro-lifers was having some success. Individual lives had changed for the good. But these efforts would need to be scaled up to have an impact on the region.
After two years of praying and planning, Reeder launched Love Life Charlotte. Today, more than 100 churches and, over the past two years, more than 23,000 people have joined the faithful few who Reeder saw in front of the Latrobe Drive facility four years ago. On one recent Saturday, the culmination of a 40-week effort, thousands showed up to pray for an end to abortion in Charlotte. On that Saturday, a day when 50 women would normally come to the facility for abortions, only five women showed up.
Reeder says one reason Love Life Charlotte has been successful is its approach to the church. “We don’t ask them to carry signs, or to protest, or to provide sidewalk counseling,” he said. “Initially, we just ask them to educate themselves, to pray, and to show up.” Each participating church is assigned a week to pray and study, and on Wednesdays and Saturdays, members of the church show up at the abortion facility to pray.
Love Life Charlotte also hopes to promote adoption. “More than 10,000 children are in foster care in North Carolina,” Reeder said. “About 2000 of these children are ready for adoption-ready,” meaning they have cleared all legal hurdles and could be adopted today. “Our goal is to get all these kids adopted, and have a waiting list not for kids to get adopted, but a waiting list of Christian families waiting for kids to adopt.”
Reeder says that in the past two years more than 800 women who came to the facility for abortions ultimately chose life, most of them on Wednesdays and Saturdays, the days when Love Life Charlotte has the largest presence at the facility.
The growth of Love Life Charlotte has not been without challenges. The dramatic growth in the number of people showing up at the Latrobe Drive facility caused the business owners and other pro-abortion activists to petition the Charlotte City Council for a change in local law to restrict the pro-lifers. The effort was unsuccessful, but it generated controversy in the city for weeks.
Also, though Love Life Charlotte has more than 100 churches taking part in its activities, that is just a fraction of the more than 700 churches in the Charlotte area. Nonetheless, the group gets high marks from local pastors, who get almost daily requests from ministries to participate in projects that benefit the ministry but not the church or the church’s members. Dan Burrell, a long-time Charlotte pastor who is currently executive pastor of Life Fellowship, said, “Love Life Charlotte has done more to bring churches together on any issue in this city than anything I’ve seen since a Billy Graham Crusade.”
Kelvin Smith, pastor of Steele Creek Church, praised the group’s “well-organized, low-hurdle, high-impact events.” He said, “Many who are not comfortable with sidewalk confrontations can still take part with great effectiveness.”
Will this concept work in other cities? Reeder and his team think so. In 2018, Love Life will drop its “Charlotte” suffix and begin efforts in other North Carolina cities. Reeder says they believe what has happened in Charlotte can happen in cities all across America, but they want to test their ideas and learn valuable lessons in cities close to home first.
So while each city is different, Reeder believes that the God he serves and the mission of the church will remain unchanged, to be a part of “restoring all things,” starting close to home, with your own neighbors, as the Good Samaritan did in the famous biblical story. Then, one person’s actions becomes an example to many.
“The problem is not the darkness of the culture,” Justin Reeder said. “The problem is the absence of light.”