Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Why I am not a part of AHA

Over the past year, like many, I have been witness to the rise of the Abolish Human Abortion (AHA) group.  With chapters in various states and regions, they have quickly become one of the more recognizable groups of any in recent years.  They have harnessed a truly untapped area of marketing with their unique and yet simplistic logo designed to invoke a inquiring response from even the most ardent of opponents.

About a year ago, as I was gearing up the formation of an abortion clinic outreach for our church, I began looking into AHA as a possible ally and assistant in our future endeavors.  With a quick search I was able to locate a chapter in North Carolina on Facebook and began browsing their page.  To my dismay I quickly noticed that this particular chapter of AHA had made the abolition of abortion their sole cause and placed the Gospel in a chair in the far corner of their room.

At that time, on their site they boldly stated that they were willing to partner with anyone (key word) to end abortion.  I sent the administrator of the page a message asking for clarification fearing that I might misinterpret what they typed.  My concern was that they would partner with non-Christians to end abortion which would require them to ignore the Gospel in doing so.  The response never really answered my question but instead reiterated their belief that abortion must be abolished.  The decision at that time was a very simple one for me; I would not partner with any group that would hold hands with unbelievers to end abortion no matter how repulsive and ungodly it may be.  Doing so would mean the compromise of the Gospel or its complete suppression under the banner of social correction.  I remained quiet for some time as I continued to watch the issues with AHA grow and come more into the light.

Fast forward many months later and AHA affiliates began emerging in larger numbers.  Starting with their “Church Repent” project and then their “Project Frontlines”, they became a notable face in the abortion contention.  While many Christians applauded their efforts there was still the nagging issues that loomed just under the surface to which many knowingly ignored either for sake of being ostracized themselves or for the “greater good” as they perceived.

My more recent interaction has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that AHA is not an organization that should be joined nor supported.  Alan (I purposely have not sought out his last name), or as he is calls himself on Facebook “Rho Logy”, commented on my post of a Gospel Spam article dealing with their “Church Repent” project.  While cordial at first, Alan insisted that we should Skype to discuss the issue offline on a more personal basis.  First, I do not accept “Skype” offers just because one calls themselves a brother in Christ.  I only Skype with those whom I have personally met beforehand and have a one-to-one relationship with.  Secondly, AHA has made all their materials, videos, and blogs public which therefore means they are to be addressed in public.  And no, Matthew18:15-17 does not apply in this case because that passage deals with a private sin committed between brethren and not a public issue such as this one.

Our online discourse resulted in other AHA proponents coming to his aid and what eventually became the longest comment thread I have ever had on my page.  Interestingly, some commented that such strong public discussion between brethren was a disgrace and brought shame to Christ.  Withholding the apparent hypocrisy of the person posting this publically, I continued onward in the discussion.  A charge was incorrectly made against an AHA member that was later corrected in a private message between several of us. 

After this engagement ceased I was resolved that AHA was quickly becoming one of the unhealthiest works aimed at the local church from within Christendom that I had personally seen in recent history.  For this reason I drafted up the five reasons why I am not nor will be a part of AHA or an affiliated chapter.  These are not intended as personal attacks against individuals but of the apparent representation of the organization and its chapters by some who support, are directly involved in, or have organized local chapters themselves under the banner of AHA.  While I have personally met some great brothers who link arms with AHA and are a part of a local chapter, this is not directed at them but at the overall sub-culture and the issues that it has manifested.  But these issues must be stated for the sake of clarity regarding my position in relation to AHA:

1.  They have no true love for the local church.
Their “Church Repent” project clearly shows this.  While they say they are exhorting the church to take a stand, they are completely unaware of the difference between exhort, admonish, and rebuke.  To admonish someone means to lovingly warn them.  This is sometimes accompanied by a call to repentance but also occurs before an offense as a warning.  Paul uses this word in 1 Corinthians 4:14 while calling the believers his “beloved children”. 

Exhorting is closely related to admonishing but its Greek root is derived from the same root as Christ's description of the Holy Spirit as the “Comforter” in John 14:16.  Therefore, it describes a closer relationship to the recipient and one which is more personally encouraging toward correction rather than standing outside of a church's building with signs and a loudspeaker. 

Rebuking is much more stern and serves to call out a sin directly.  While it is used in Luke 17:3 regarding brethren, it must also be noted that it is done so with the clear identification of the specific sin of that brother personally.  Rebuking has become equated with protesting in today's culture because of its public display.  While AHA insists that their presence outside these church buildings is not a protest, it is not only pereceived that way by passers by but is in fact in line with the practical application of the word more than it would be if they were actually exhorting or admonishing according to Scripture.

What the "Church Repent" project has also done is fuel the disdain many have developed for the organized local church.  Seeing posts of AHA members and supporters easily reveals this.  They have nitpicked their way through the issue negating the element of sanctification still occuring in the lives of believers around them.  While there are evidently unbeleivers in the local churches disguised as false converts, many AHA proponents treat these local churches as though they are solely filled with false converts and have no placement in the Body of Christ.

What are these churches truly guilty of that they must be called to repentance?  To what extent does AHA exhaust themselves by speaking with the leadership of that church personally?  Do their "non-protest" protests show love as Paul exemplifies it in his epistles and as Christ demonstrated His love for the Church?  When dealing with the local church, AHA misses the point that their approach must differ from how one speaks to the unsaved.  This approach as exemplified in their videos is a far cry from how Paul addressed the church in Corinth, one of the most disobedient churches in the New Testament.  One can only imagine the length to which AHA would go for a modern day Corinth church.

2.  They are becoming, if they have not already become, an entity unto themselves
One of the most beautiful things about the local church is the accountability that lies therein.  Every member is accountable to the assembled body and its leaders (Hebrews 13:17), its leaders and the assembled body are accountable to every member (Ephesians 5:19-21).  There is no final authority on such matters aside from Scripture.  Discipline is lovingly carried out for the care and sanctification of the local church and Church universal.  How then can a group which is not a local church hold those who are a part of it accountable?  What prevents rogue abolitionists from infiltrating its ranks and altering the course of the group or inserting false doctrine?

One of the ways to root out the pride in a heart is the use of a single word.  One word which pride hates and leaves it lashing out toward moments after it is spoke.  That word is "submit".  Submission requires humility against which pride stands as the staunch opponent and is layered throughout Scripture.  It is a picture not of weakness but of meekness.  Yet many proponents of AHA cringe at the idea of submitting to a local church and its leadership.  Some use recently coined words like "quasi-papist" as personal attacks against those who propose such. 
AHA makes no claims to leadership within its formation.  It steers clearly away from such terminology and prefers the idea of mutual cooperation instead.  This sounds nice and friendly but if all are mutually cooperating with no leadership, how many hands are on the ship’s wheel and who is the Captain to which they turn when the ship is off course?  AHA members have answered questions like these by asserting that Christ is their “Captain”.  And yes, He alone is in control but He does appoint responsibility to others in the government circles of the civil arena (Romans 13:1), family (Ephesians 5:22-6:4), and church (1 Peter 5:1-3).  By AHA’s own structure and teaching, they do not fall into any of these three arenas and therefore are left “leaderless”.  They have become an entity with no accountability as prescribed in Scripture aside from their own individual discernment.  One wonders how to discipline if there is no structure or guidance from Scripture to do so.

3.  Their misinterpretation and misapplication of Scripture.
My discussion with Alan (Rho Logy) proved one thing to me:  some AHA members will use any Scripture they can to get their point across even if it means twisting it to do so.  I was regularly referenced to the epistles to the Corinthians and Galatians as well as Revelation 2-3 as to examples supporting AHA’s “Church Repent” project and other actions.  However, if anything, these verses show why their actions are not in line with God’s Word. 

Take Revelation 2:1-7, where Christ directly admonishes (there’s that word again) the church in Ephesus.  The church's orthopraxy is beyond reproach.  They have shown great endurance amidst persecution but their love for Christ had waned.  They had forsaken that which is of greater importance for the sake of…wait for it…social action.  They had elevated the external beyond the internal to the point that their fervor for these issues was not fueled by love of Christ.  Apply that as you see fit!

Elsewhere, Rho Logy had posted a call to repentance for brothers such as Tony Miano, Jon Speed, and Marcus Pittman (among others).  Comments, which were uncorrected at the time, by other supporters of AHA stated that AHA should just “wipe the dust off their feet” of these men.  While the passage was not cited in this comment, the reference is obvious. 

In Matthew 10, Christ appoints the twelve disciples and sends them out to proclaim the Gospel first to the Jews.  He gives them clear instruction as to what they are to do and what they are to preach.  In verse 14 He states

“And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town”. 

Who is this action against?  Is it fellow believers who will not hear correction or admonishing?  If the verses beforehand did not answer this, then verses and 16 certainly will:

“Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgement for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.  Behold, I am sending you out as a sheep in the midst of the wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

Christ is speaking of an open reaction to unbelievers resisting and trampling over the Gospel.  This is not an action demonstrated towards brothers in Christ…unless of course AHA is now asserting that these men and others like them are not born-again.  Either they are playing fast and loose with Scripture or they have revealed their hand in their belief that those who do not oppose abortion as they do are not Christians.

4.  They elevate one horrific issue over many others
Abortion is a horrific issue which should be abolished.  The idea that anyone could murder children in the womb is sickening…but it is not the only horrific issue we must face in this world.  Child pornography, the sex-slave trade, domestic violence, pedophilia, rape, drug abuse, and a plethora of others problems manifesting from sin are a daily reminder of the fallen world in which we live.  So take your pick.  Which of these is more important than the others?  Is the abolition of child porn more important than the abolition of domestic violence?  Is the abolition of rape less important than the abolition of abortion? 

Abortion is deplorable.  The depravity of the murdering of a child which has barely been given the chance to live cannot be understated.  But is it any less important to abolish than other issues?  If so, why and who gets to make that decision?

Flip the tables for a moment and imagine that another group (let’s call them ACP) has formed to abolish child porn.  They contact AHA and ask them to partner with them to accomplish this task.  AHA states that their focus is on abortion and cannot lend themselves to assist but they agree with ACP's position.  ACP believes AHA should engage the issue in the same way as them and begins a campaign against AHA to stand outside their meetings with signs just as AHA does with churches today.  Would ACP’s action against AHA be just and biblical?  If a supporter of AHA is consistent then they must also join ranks with ACP against AHA.  While I think this point will fall on deaf ears for some, ponder this one thought:  whether someone was shooting a child in the head across the street from you or committing other unspeakable acts against them, does either somehow diminish the impact of the other and the action we as Christians should take against both? 

5.  They condemn anyone who does not have the same fervor as they
This final point is given from experience as one who has been fully guilty of doing the same himself.  I have stood before a congregation over which I once pastored and condemned them for not having the same practical zeal for the lost as I did just because they were not out on the streets weekly with me.  I have since repented of such and still hang my head in shame of this past event.  I openly condemned others for not acting the same way as I, and in turn made myself the standard and not Christ.  There were believers in this church who humbly shared the Gospel with family members, co-workers, and in various ways that I believed was just not at the level it should have been. 

I see this same grave error in many who are a part of AHA.  Just because their brother or sister in Christ does not have their trunk full of signs, tracts, a megaphone, and other items to openly stand against abortion outside of a local clinic they are labeled as not “loving their neighbor”.  Just because a Pastor does not mention the horrors of abortion from the pulpit each week (a point Alan and others have stated must occur), these faithful men are condemned for not “loving their neighbor”.  But loving one's neighbor is manifested in various ways and to various neighbors.

A final plea
I do not want to paint with a broad brush in these 5 points nor do I wish to add fuel to the already growing fire.  I readily acknowledge that there are brothers who support AHA and participate in local chapters, some of whom I have had the distinct pleasure of fellowshiping with.  I also recognize the fervor and passion those within AHA have regarding the abolition of abortion but along with this passion must come accountability.  Not accountability to YouTubers, Facebook friends, or around a cup of coffee with fellow abolitionists.  While this is some level of accountability, it does not replace the biblical mandate of the local church and the loving accountability that lies therein.

With this said I cannot partner with an AHA chapter.  I will treat a professing brother or sister in Christ who does the same way I would any other brother but with a clear explanation of my position.  I would no more question their salvation than any other brother or sister.  I would lovingly admonish them to abandon AHA completely and work through their local church to engage in a ministry outreach at the abortion clinic.  I would further encourage them to be patient with their church and Elders/Pastors as they work through the practical application of this issue as well.  Do not undermine their leadership but love and respect them enough to realize that this issue is among the many that need to be addressed. 

If they are not a member of a local church I will completely ignore the abortion issue and admonish them to find a Christ-centered church.  If they refuse to do so they will find themselves in rebellion to to the Word of God and in danger of becoming their own authority in discerning truth and error.  The example and command to be a part of a local body of beleivers cannot be ignored unless one reads Scripture with a black marker in hand.

The Gospel is primary.  I realize that some in AHA say this but their actions show otherwise.  Brothers, if you are at an abortion clinic and you are not preaching the Gospel first then you are wasting the breath God has given you.  We are heralds, ambassadors of the King and we come to proclaim His Good News. 

And finally, take a step back….in fact, take several steps back.  Spend several months in prayer over this issue.  Shut off your social media and resist the temptation to engage in the discussion of this with anyone other than those in your local church.  Ask your Elders for prayer over this.  Seek their counsel and guidance as they walk with you through Scripture.  Ask them and the rest of the church for their support of you abortion ministry.  This support may come in the form of prayer, physical presence, financial assistance, or simply positive promotion of your actions.

Put a hold on your AHA blogs, posts, or other public mediums as you seek to examine this issue in its entirety.  Know that myself and others who have made such public statements against AHA do so out of love and concern for those involved as well as love for the local church and our Savior.  Sometimes clarity over an issue comes when we actually stop talking and start listening.

May the Lord guide and direct your paths.  May whatever facet of ministry you are equipped to engage in glorify Him and be served through your local church.  May the Lamb who was slain receive the reward for His suffering!

Shackled to the Savior,
Adam