Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wise Choices for Young Pro-Lifers [SK]

Per a request, a few thoughts on how young, highly motivated pro-lifers can lay a solid foundation for a lifetime impact...

1) Read more books and fewer blogs—At least twice a year, scale back social media and hit the books. To get the big picture and avoid some costly youthful errors, pick up Hugh Hewitt’s “In but Not of: A Guide to Christian Ambition to Influence the World.” Next, tackle J.P. Moreland’s “Love Your God with All Your Mind.” Then, move toward mastering the moral logic of the pro-life view. Begin with Kreeft’s “Unaborted Socrates,” Beckwith & Koukl’s “Relativism,” and my “The Case for Life.” Master those three titles. That is, read them many times over and mark them up so thoroughly they are almost unreadable. All pro-life Christians should master those titles. If you are thinking of pro-life apologetics as a vocation, devour Beckwith’s “Defending Life,” Kaczor’s “The Ethics of Abortion,” Lee’s “Abortion and Unborn Human Life,” and Arke’s “Natural Rights and the Right to Choose.” Again, re-read these gems until you master them. Then, re-read them again every year.

2) Take more speech classes—Mastering the pro-life position will make you smart. Public speaking will make you useful. Here’s the bottom line: Good speakers are not born. They are organized. They march into a speaking event knowing exactly what they will say, how they will say it, and why it matters to their audience. With a little sweat, you can be that organized. You don’t have to be cool or clever. But you do need training. Get it now, while you are young. My friend Marc Newman—a speech and debate professor—is a good place to start. Watch for his speaker's training seminar and be willing to travel to get there.

3) Consider grad school—Not because you need it to master the pro-life view (tackling a good reading list will do that), but so you can get past the gatekeepers who control access to the audiences we most need to reach. Now, you can certainly start speaking prior to finishing grad school—indeed, I know some excellent pro-life speakers who have no college degrees—but if you want to reach the widest audience possible, credentials help. While no Christian university that I’m aware of offers an applied bioethics degree aimed at equipping pro-life apologists for effective service (sad), that shouldn’t deter you from enrolling. Biola University and Houston Baptist University both offer excellent M.A. programs in Christian apologetics, with classes covering many of the worldview topics that surround the abortion controversy.

4) Aim to be a change agent not a celebrity—Mastering the pro-life position—both intellectually and rhetorically—will not land you a keynote address at the Southern Baptist Convention or World Youth Day, at least right away. But it may put you in front of the very audiences most at risk for abortion. Let’s be honest: Most people attending adult Christian conferences aren’t contemplating killing their unborn offspring. But three blocks over is a Catholic high school with 400 students, half of them secular. Two blocks beyond is an evangelical one filled with kids who struggle articulating a biblical worldview on a host of topics, including abortion. And in between are 20 church youth groups, almost none of which have ever featured a pro-life presentation. The keynote speaker at the Christian conference won’t be reaching those kids. But you might. There’s no better place to sharpen your speaking skills then a high school classroom. Get to know the teachers. While an all-school assembly may be out of reach, many teachers will let you speak to their classes if you present a good outline and demonstrate you can graciously handle questions. Later, you’ll get the assembly.

5) Deepen your intellectual skills outside of school—Consider attending Summit Oxford Study Center, run by my friend Kevin James Bywater. If you can’t attend Summit Oxford, spend two weeks at Summit’s student conferences in Colorado or Tennessee. You might also join us for the Clarkson Academy in London. In short, do something that broadens your horizons and ruins you for a normal life.

6) Find a good horse to ride—That is, pick a good mentor to help get you into the game, preferably a gracious but demanding pro-life leader who will make you read tons of stuff and force you to take reasonable risks. Forget all this silly talk about being a self-authentic individual. In your 20s and 30s, what you really need is someone to copy. You will never find your own voice until you master someone else’s. Once you find a mentor, copy his or her speeches, writing style, platform manners, etc. Indeed, you might get lucky and have a few mentors before you launch. Take them one at a time, though. I started with Gregg Cunningham, then Greg Koukl. I spent six years with the first and seven with the second. Both men were invaluable to me. Later you can become your own man/woman.

7) Get over your fear of support raising—I’ll put this bluntly. Pro-life groups are broke, nearly all of them. Most have little money to pay you. So what? Why should that stop you for getting paid to work full-time saving children? Learn to raise your own financial support like missionaries do. Yes, it’s scary. But ask yourself this question, courtesy of Gregg Cunningham: “Are any of the fears you have about support raising worth the price of human lives that could have been saved if you were fully funded?” Here at LTI, we’re offering support raising training in June at the annual Friends for Life Camp. Stay tuned for details.

8) Ask the right questions—and ask them often!

Wrong question: What can I do to be a pro-life rock star right now? 
Right question: What can I do now, in my youth, to lay a foundation for making a maximum impact after age 40 when my intellectual and speaking skills will be honed to a razor sharp focus and, through age and maturity, I’ve earned the right to be heard on a national level?

Wrong question: Will my generation of pro-life advocates end abortion?
Right question: Will my generation of pro-life advocates work harder and smarter than ones before and what can I do to make that happen?

Wrong question: How do I know if God has specifically called me to pro-life work?
Right question: Why do I need private revelation from God when I already have the clear command of Scripture to rescue those being led away to death?

[Edited to add #8]

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your excellent article. This is really helpful. I'm a young doctor working in a sexual health clinic which provides abortions, and am deeply convicted about this. It is great to have some specific information on how to form the best strategy to make a powerful impact in the long term. "Be as shrewd as the serpent and as innocent as the lamb." We all need to learn to be shrewd.
    God bless.


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