EDITOR’S NOTE: Jan. 20 is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday in the Southern Baptist Convention.
VIENNA, Va. (BP) — Obedience to the Great Commission leads Christians “inevitably to treasure the sanctity of human life,” David Platt told the audience at Evangelicals for Life Wednesday night (Jan. 16).
The opening session of the fourth annual conference — sponsored by the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission — featured a concert by Steven Curtis Chapman to benefit the Psalm 139 Project, the ERLC’s ministry to help place ultrasound machines in pregnancy resource centers across the country.
The two-day conference at McLean Bible Church in Vienna, Va., a suburb of Washington, D.C., continued with a full day of addresses, panel discussions and breakout sessions Thursday (Jan. 17). Evangelicals for Life (EFL) participants will be able to attend the annual March for Life Jan. 18 on the National Mall.
Platt — former president of the International Mission Board and now pastor-teacher of the host church — said the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 and the sanctity of human life have everything to do with each other.
“For into a world that devalues children,” Jesus gave the commission for Christians to make disciples, baptizing and teaching them, Platt told attendees. “The Great Commission was clearly and definitively not a call to sit back and stay silent in a world of evil.”
Jesus commanded His followers “to run to need, not away from it; to engage a world in need, not to turn a deaf ear to it,” Platt said. If it is not careful, the church — “instead of discipling Christians in the world” — can be “disinfecting Christians from the world,” he said.
The Gospel that baptism portrays in the Great Commission empowers people to treasure human life, Platt said.
“The first and most fundamental way we can work for the unborn is through proclamation of the Gospel to see hearts changed to want what God wants,” he told the audience. “The power of the Gospel message in and of itself possesses a dynamic charge that detonates the heart’s desire for abortion.”
Baptism not only is a new Christian’s initial public declaration of faith in Christ, but it also is a Christian’s public identification with a community, the church, Platt said. “God has uniquely designed and equipped the church to care for children and their mothers.”
As Christians begin to obey the Great Commission, they begin to see slaves, immigrants and refugees as God sees them, he said. The Great Commission compels Christians to “decry all forms of oppression, exploitation” and to work to overcome the racial divide in this country, he said.
Chapman — who has won 58 Dove Awards, the most of any artist in Christian music — shared the stories behind some of his songs before performing them, including “I Will Be Here,” “Fingerprints of God” and “When Love Takes You In.”
His songs during the last 32 years reflect his faith journey, he said. His family and he have learned through this pilgrimage, including the adoption of three girls from China, “God is inviting us deeper and deeper into knowing Him,” he said.
Chapman and his wife Mary Beth founded Show Hope in 2003 to help families adopt. Show Hope has assisted more than 6,200 families in adopting children from more than 60 countries.
EFL is a gathering to celebrate “God’s heart for everybody that He purposes and creates and knits and weaves together so fearfully and wonderfully,” Chapman told the audience. It is an opportunity to “lock arms and encourage each other and go out and keep telling” God’s story in the ways the participants already are doing, he said.
“This is an honor to stand with you, and so to get to encourage you is such a blessing,” Chapman said.
After the concert, Nathan Lino told the audience how the Psalm 139 Project had assisted the mission operated by the church he pastors, Northeast Houston Baptist Church. Flood waters from Hurricane Harvey destroyed the ultrasound machine of the pregnancy resource center in the church’s mission in 2017. The Psalm 139 Project and Focus on the Family’s Option Ultrasound Program collaborated to provide a new machine. The new machine was operational in eight weeks, and it has helped save hundreds of babies in the last 15 months, he said.
Lino asked attendees and viewers of the conference on live stream video to pray about giving to Psalm 139.
Since 2004, the Psalm 139 Project has helped provide ultrasound equipment for centers in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas.
All gifts to the Psalm 139 Project go toward machines and training, since the ERLC’s administrative costs are covered by the Cooperative Program, the SBC’s unified giving plan. Information on the Psalm 139 Project and how to donate is available at psalm139project.org .
The ERLC and Focus on the Family launched EFL in 2016 as an effort to help increase awareness among evangelical Christians of the March for Life and motivate them to participate in it. Focus partnered with the ERLC to host the event in its first three years.
More than 600 people had registered before Wednesday night’s session. The ERLC offered free conference registration to federal and contract workers affected by the partial government shutdown.