For those who are unfamiliar with AHA (Abolish Human Abortion), it is a ministry that stands for the abolition of human abortion. The name itself speaks about something we should all be supportive of, which is the complete eradication of human abortions in our land and throughout the world. The Bible indeed calls us to speak against and expose the darkness in our world (Eph. 5.11). However, a recent set of encounters with this group has caused me great consternation concerning my assessment of the entire identity of the group itself. Although slated as a Christ-centered ministry, their seeming incessant and impenitent practice of protesting outside of churches has relegated this ministry to the fringe groups that leech onto the church of God and often cause great harm in the process. They claim to want to work with other churches, and yet their approach is to break down the doors of your church, overturn the tables, and call the entire church to repent of not being involved in abortion ministry to their satisfaction. If your ministry or your church does not have an overt effort to stop abortion, you are a target for AHA. They will show up outside of your church to protest with their signs, and may even go inside to try to speak to leadership to not only persuade the pastors but also to call them to repentance. Some of their advocates even believe they have a prophetic ministry and thus a prophetic voice for every church until each one complies with their demands. This is probably why I could not find a single reputable, respected, Reformed pastor that supports them; especially after become aware of their disorderly ways. In fact, since my initial encounter with AHA, I have had numerous pastors reach out to me and warn me of similar grievances they have had with the group.
Because of these elements, AHA is shot through with controversy, divisiveness, and unbiblical anti-institutional and anti-church practices; some of their adherents do not even attend or submit to the authority of any church. In fact, many of their adherents would rather pledge their allegiance to AHA rather than their local church. They determine whether or not they will even attend a church or become members based on where the church stands in regards to the movement. You can’t make this stuff up. As far as I can tell, and based on the testimony of many of the former adherents of AHA themselves, the problems of this movement are systemic, not irregular. There is a consistent pattern of speaking against the local church, undermining the authority of the local church, and failure to identify with a local church, which is a path to apostasy (Heb. 10.25-26). Of course, the Christian life is to be lived out in the context of the local church, its auspices, and its execution of proper Church polity including church membership, the sacraments, the proclamation of the Gospel, and Church discipline. My brief exposure to this movement has already yielded so many troubling facts that I cannot keep up. Churches are divided, friendships are broken, individuals are isolated from friends and family, and even controlled by others in the movement being told that they need to be doing more. For example, one individual explained how he was pressured by the movement to put abortion mill ministry above his employment and providing for his family (such characteristics are in keeping with cult-like groupthink, and mind control groups and environments that are sub-biblical). They make a person feel as if a move away from AHA is a move away from the gospel. The problem with the AHA movement is that these types of testimonies abound, and the deeper you investigate, the worse it gets. Even those who have attempted to reason with AHA “leadership” have expressed concern about their low view of the authority of the local church. Furthermore, AHA has no control over those who associate with it only compounding the toxicity of this group. For these reasons and more, AHA is simply not a ministry that I can endorse in any form or fashion and in fact would strongly warn believers to reject completely.
But the basic message of the movement is worth interacting with. Do biblical churches have a mandate to stand in front of abortion mills or else risk being unfaithful to the gospel? Or even more precisely, do biblical churches have a mandate to approach abortion ministry to the same degree and in the same way that AHA is telling us we must? Recently one of the elders of our church was open-air preaching and in the context of communicating the gospel was confronted by an AHA proponent, who began shouting him down and interrogating him, asking what he was doing about abortion ministry and reaching out to orphans and widows? So the answer to the mandate questions above is an emphatic “no, not at all”. The mandate of the church is to follow the imperatives given to the church by the Lord Jesus and the apostles. Although part of the outreach of the church and the efforts of the Gospel is to expose darkness, which includes abortion, something we do regularly at our church, being engulfed in abortion ministry does not need to be the primary focus of any church or any believer. So if that is not to be the primary focus of the church what is? The answer is as simple as you may think, spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the Earth. AHA people seem incapable of having a single conversation without talking about abortion, and I’m curious how they avoid doing this with other sins listed in the Bible that are just as reprehensible as abortion, such as human trafficking, and slavery. As to the orphans and the widows, although AHA likes to cite James 1.27, I have no evidence whatsoever that they actually have a ministry to orphans or widows. Where are AHA’s orphanages? Where are their facilities for housing widows? When a ministry engages in this sort of deep hypocrisy, it completely discredits the entirety of the ministry.
Of course, God so wisely gave us a mandate in Scripture, and that is for the gospel proclamation to be central. And what is the central message of the Gospel? The cross! It is not alleviating human suffering; it is pointing us to the One who suffered. Only the cross has the power to change a murderer into a saint (cf. 1 Cor. 6.9-11). Only the cross has the power to change the hearts of individuals within a culture, and it is under the great sovereignty of God that we will see a change in that culture to whatever degree God ordains to change it. Our mission as the church is to herald the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Abortion ministry, like all other ministries, is a means to that end, not the reverse. This is the fatal flaw in all social gospel models; they make the cross a stepping-stone to the ‘real work’ of alleviating social ills. But of course the greatest social ill of all is not the fact that image bears are being put to death, but that image bears are going to hell and are under the wrath of God; something we are powerless to change. That is why the gospel is the power of God to salvation (Rom. 1.16). Claiming that the church is not doing enough about abortion is right because the church is not doing enough about all other social justice issues either. The church is not doing enough about world hunger, the church is not doing enough about poverty, the church is not doing enough about prostitution, sex trafficking, child abuse, molestation, rape, drunkenness, tyranny, communism, and fascism; these are not reminders of the church’s failure, these are reminders that the focus of the church is something greater! It was the fact that Paul had preached the whole counsel of God (especially in the context of the church!) that he no longer had blood on his hands (Acts 20.26). In the same way, if we preach the all-sufficient Gospel of Jesus Christ to a dead and dying culture, we too can have the assurance that we have done what God requires and what glorifies Him the most.
Emilio Ramos is the preaching pastor of Heritage Grace Community Church. Pastor Emilio is committed to the expository and exegetical teaching of the Word of God. Emilio is also the author of Convert, From Adam to Christ and the founder of redgracemedia.com- a media ministry devoted to the glory of God’s redemptive grace through Jesus Christ. He and his wife Trisha live in Dallas, TX.