Message 20, OPTIONAL SESSION: Abortion Front Lines:
In this session, Lee Webb interviews Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr. and John Barros about the importance of sidewalk counseling at abortion clinics.
WEBB: John, thank you for your willingness to share your story with the many viewers who’ve seen that video, and many of you may have recalled the renewing your mind broadcast recently, in which we talked to John and he told us his story and we’re glad to have him here today along with a man who calls John his friend and colleague, and that’s —
SPROUL JR.: And hero.
WEBB: And hero, yes. John, you say in the video that you do not consider yourself a protester. What is it you’re saying there, as you hold that mouthpiece up to and speak into the clinic and speak to those women; what are you saying?
BARROS: Well, what I speak to them is the gospel. I go down there and I see myself as an evangelist, and that I — just come in to call out to them to trust God and that he’s bigger than any situation they can find their self in, and try to share with them the hope there is in Jesus Christ and then also have to share what God thinks of this and what the Bible teaches about this.
But it’s more gospel-centered than protesting a woman’s right to choose or not choose or any of the political kind of things. It’s just through the gospel and that’s what I see God turn the hearts of girls at pretty much every single day.
WEBB: You’ve had great moments of joy and jubilation, but also great times of disappointment and sorrow. Would you share just a couple of stories of maybe the jubilation and joys and triumphs you’ve experienced in this ministry?
BARROS: Well, one is a special girl in my life by the name of Jasmine. She was at 13 years old out on the streets of New York City. Her parents worshiped a cult called Santería. She was a drug addict, did everything drug addicts do in New York City to make money. Ended up down here years later, about 30 years old. She now has five kids spread out all over the country because she cannot take care of them. They’re at different people’s homes literally around the country. She’s a heroin addict. She’s with a guy that’s beating her, homeless.
And one day she came for an abortion, and God reached down and gave her the faith to trust him for just a day, and now that girl is a member of St. Andrews. God has redeemed all of her kids back to her, and she had the most beautiful little baby named Victoria. And that’s probably the high because I remain such good friends with her because she is a member of St. Andrews here all the time and all that, but she wanted to be here today. I don’t — she probably got lost, but she’s still a little crazy, but —
But, you know, that’s a high. And then there’s lows like just yesterday — a guy and a girl came up, and at our abortion clinic they do — they’re famous for labor and delivery abortions where they give the girls a shot on Wednesday to try and stop the baby’s heart. They do them up to 24 weeks and then they put these laminaria sticks inside their cervix to cause it to swell and open up.
And then they send them home and then they bring them back on Thursday, and they go through labor on Thursday, they’ll stay overnight if it’s still time through Friday, and they’ll deliver the babies into a toilet. But this girl came walking up yesterday and said — we told her, of course, we can still help. We can get you to the hospital. She looks and says, “It’s so nice of you to come” — or “So nice of you to attend our sacrifice.”
So sometimes those kind of things will take the wind out of your lungs. Or somebody that chooses life and returns, that doesn’t happen often, but there’s those kinds of things.
WEBB: R.C., 20, 30 years ago, the evangelical movement locked arms and made its voice heard with regards to this issue of abortion. There seems to be a great deal of complacency now in the twenty-first century. How do you account for that?
SPROUL JR.: I think there’s some understandable battle fatigue, and the understandableness of it I would suggest is grounded in the long time. But on the other hand, it’s really not understandable when you consider what’s at stake.
Christians are able to get up in arms about Disney’s policy of who gets insurance. They can get up in arms about this curriculum or that curriculum. They get up arms — we have these unbelievably short attention spans and we have this big basket full of family values, issues, and that issue which is here with us day in and day out, just becomes lost to us. Part of the reason I think also has something to do with the reality of the horror of it.
You know, John talked, just mentioned in passing about the rare occasion of people changing their minds. And all the times that I’ve been able to work beside John and minister beside John, I’ve not had the privilege of seeing someone change their mind and come out. It happens all the time, just not when I’m there for some reason, so far anyway.
But, one particular day I drove down, and I saw John by the wall and he’s talking to this young couple, and one thing I have seen regularly is, and you can see on the film as well, couples who do change their mind, do spare their child. Many of them come to faith, but not all of them coming to faith, but even the ones that don’t come to faith will come down and visit with John and get encouraged by John, and visit with him.
So I come in, and there he is talking to this young couple and I’m thinking, oh this is someone who was here earlier, they’re coming back to visit. I walk up to them, John introduces me, asks me to pray, and I find out, no, they just walked out a minute before I got there. And it was just a glorious occasion for me to be able to see this, and touch this reality. And that particular couple I found out two days later came back and killed their baby. I think it’s really important.
One of the reasons that John’s here, one of the reasons that I’m here to encourage John is that John wants to see what he does being done at abortion mills all across the country. He’s looking for men and women who are willing and ready and able to go and preach the gospel. And there’s a good theological reason why that’s the best place to do it. When I’m there, I’m often preaching about how utterly unnatural this is and how I know based on Romans 1 that the people that are there know that what they’re doing is wicked.
That old idea in evangelicalism that it’s a mental problem, an information problem, that this happens because poor women don’t know this is a baby is just not so. I don’t believe it was ever so, but it’s most certainly not so now. Everyone knows this is a baby. That’s why this woman says, “So, thank you for coming to my sacrifice.”
But it’s because of that reality, the wickedness, that we call them to repentance and their right for repentance because they’re now pushing back against the last toehold of the image of God in them by pursuing this. So we go and we call them to repentance.
All that’s to say that one of the other reasons to me why it’s so important for us to go and for me to go, even though I’ve never been blessed to see anyone change their mind, is that it changes me. And if you go it will change you.
And one of the reasons it will change you is because you will watch women walk into the building pregnant and watch out — walk out the mother of a dead baby. And you all of a sudden realize this isn’t an abstract issue. This is real people killing real babies in your neighborhood every day. So I — it’s important for us to go there and have our hearts broken.
WEBB: Yeah, I remember, John, before we did the radio program with you in the studios at Ligonier, your passion — and you communicated this to us with R.C. and me, that you wanted other men, particularly men, to see what you’re doing and feel the call of the Lord, to do this in their communities.
And, maybe the Holy Spirit’s working on your heart right now to be involved in this type of ministry. John will be at a booth that you’ve set up outside here and it’s called ‘Who Will Stand?’ Is that right, John?
BARROS: Yeah, I don’t really have a name.
BARROS: It’s just the —
WEBB: But —
BARROS: I’m not that professional.
WEBB: But I know that your desire is to talk to these men and women about what you do, and to see how it might be replicated in other communities across this country, right?
BARROS: Yes, sir. I know that there used to be like over 2,000 abortion clinics in this country, and from what I understand there’s like 587 of them now. And I just think if guys that are retired, or disabled guys — somebody would adopt the abortion clinic in their town and literally be there or have somebody there — like right now I’ve got RBC students are manning the post over here at OWC.
But just have a constant witness there. And I really believe it would — I really believe that’s the answer to ending all of this. I really do. And if not, at least to be there and just love our neighbors who are blind people that, like 2 Timothy tells us, are blind and caught in a trap, and just go there because perhaps God will open their eyes and just stand for him. I really think it would make a huge difference in this country.
WEBB: R.C., thank you for your presentation earlier. It was moving to say the least. You had me, by the way, when you started talking about your 16th birthday. But, I couldn’t help but think that your presentation, your talk today, provides a context for what’s going on in our society today.
SPROUL JR.: No question that it does. One of the things that it does I think that’s so important is that it gives us a sense of the reality of our being by nature children of wrath, our being children of the Devil, that, again, going there makes you realize that we’re the kind of beings who murder, not just babies, but our own babies. That’s the kind of being we are. That’s what it means to be human.
Now, one of the things I want to emphasize, however, that I try to every time — every chance I get so people understand this — statistics suggest that one out of every six women procuring an abortion is a professing evangelical. Now, every time I mention that statistic, everybody wants to stress professing because they believe surely no Christian could ever do this.
And I think that misunderstands the nature of our sanctification. It’s absolutely true that we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, that we have a new heart, that we’re growing in grace, we’re bearing fruit, we’re not slaves to sin like we once were, but we’re also not done yet.
And I believe that we’re quite capable even if we have been born again of doing even this great evil. In fact, we have an example in the Bible of a man who not only committed adultery, but committed murder to cover it up. That particular man is called a man after God’s heart, and God’s own friend. This is David, not early in his life before conversion. This is David the believer that did this.
Now, I don’t say that to say, so it’s no big deal. In fact, one of the hardships — isn’t it John — the case that when you’re there at the mill, you watch the clients driving in and they have the ichthus on the back of their car or the bumper sticker for the Christian radio station, or when they’re walking in the door and you’re trying to preach to them, they’re quoting the Bible back to you and claiming to be believers. Well, I don’t know people’s hearts. I do know it’s possible for believers to do this. I know it’s a horrible thing. But, again, it gives us a visceral grasp of what we’ve been saved from. This is how horrible we are.
Now, one the of great things about my being here is that I not only get to see this being done, I get to see this being done by the greatest man in the world that does this. There are other people — I have friends all over the country who do this kind of work, and I’m grateful for them.
But when we have all-star voting for who’s the best — well, actually we don’t bother to have voting because we all know who’s the best. And what — and the reason for that in my judgment is precisely what I’m talking about. John is not standing in front of this clinic either forgetting the heinousness of what’s going on, nor is he adopting a posture of I’m so much better than you — and this is what a protest is. A protest says you’re offending me in what you’re going. You’re offending my sense of justice and rightness, and that’s why I’m here to let you that you’re not measuring up to me.
John shows up as a sinner. John is that sinner, that starving man who’s telling others where to find food. And it’s just wonderful. And not only — and it’s because of that, that I’ve been blessed and comfortable and safe in sending my kids down there.
I don’t know if anybody happened to notice a little boy in the green shirt in the video? That’s the same boy that was standing right there with me an hour ago. And what you didn’t see, it’s not in the film, but he takes up John’s cone from time to time and he preaches, too.
WEBB: Yeah, John, would you share the story about the day that, R.C.’s daughter, Darby, went down there and started singing?
BARROS: Yeah, there’s a lot that goes on there other than outside of abortion. Down the street is a drug — methadone treatment center, so a lot of addicts come by when they see preaching, and they all have questions. And then there’s just things go on.
One day Darby came down to sing. She likes to come down there and sing, and she decided to go to the doctor’s office next door up behind where the exam rooms are, and she was singing ‘How Great Thou Art,’ which is Dr. Collins’ favorite song, and when she was finished she came up and sat on the wall.
And the door burst open and this lady was yelling, ‘Who was singing that song? Who was singing that song?’ And Darby looks at her like that. And this lady comes running around. And I jumped up. I thought she was going to hurt her, but she hugged on Darby, on her neck thanking her and thanking her because she had two years ago, lost her mother and her husband in the same week, and she had gone into some depression that she wasn’t able to get out of, and she was still back to the doctor to find out about it.
But when she heard that song, which happened to be her husband’s favorite hymn, come through the window of her exam room, it just broke that depression. And we’ve seen her — that was — she texted me the other day and said that was three years ago, but I’ve seen her a few times since and she’s just a whole different lady.
WEBB: It’s interesting. I had a chance to go down one day to see what was going on down there and it was an experience like no other, but you saw in the video the women’s clinic. As you’re looking at the clinic, there’s a driveway that goes along the right side of the building, and then Dr. Collins’ office is next to that. Tell them about, if you will, John, share with them Dr. Collin’s perception of what you do and what he’s told you.
BARROS: Well, Dr. Collins is a wonderful man. He’s a Roman Catholic. One day his priest came down to stand on the sidewalk out there, and Dr. Collins has been helping me for over five years. He lets us use his facilities, use his restroom, use his water jug in there, and he’s always encouraging.
And, one day the priest came and he went out to talk to the priest. The priest told him, “It’s awful nice of you that you let John and the people that come down here to use your facilities,” and he said, “Well, you know, Father, when we bought this building years ago, we thought we got a great deal and a great location, but the longer I live, I think that, God had me buy this building for them.”
WEBB: Willing allies, it’s pretty cool. R.C., how would, you know, for folks who are listening, and really are struck and admiring what John is doing, how would someone sense that they’re equipped, and I want to ask you as well, John, how would someone sense that they’re equipped to engage in this type of ministry?
SPROUL JR.: Well, I think the best test to see if someone’s equipped is if you, if you take your two fingers like this and you place them right about here. If you feel anything —
WEBB: You’re equipped?
SPROUL JR.: You’re equipped.
SPROUL JR.: You know, this is — it’s important, obviously, to be sound and to have the things that you’re saying be the truth, but it’s also important to realize that as wonderful as John is, and John gets this very much, that John’s a vessel for the work of the Holy Spirit.
First time I went down I took Darby, my first born, when she was about 15 or 16 years old, and we went down, prayed and Darby sang a little bit and I listed to John, and we were driving back and she said, “Oh, daddy, do you think next time you’ll also preach?” Now, Darby is an amazing young woman who has one deep weakness. She thinks I’m terrific. She’s a real bad judge of character.
And so I had this difficult challenge where I had to say to her, I said, “Oh, sweetheart, that’s really sweet of you to ask, but you really need to understand that your father is not everything that you think he is. I’m the kind of Christian who by God’s grace and with this prompting of the Holy Spirit, I’m able to go down to a place like that, and to pray, and I’m able to speak to my friend, John, and to encourage my friend, John.
But those people who actually preach, that’s like a whole different spiritual dimension that I’ve never been to. I don’t, you know, I can — honestly, unlike John, standing up here in front of 4,000 people doesn’t not frighten me in the least. No problem, I can do that all day long, and it doesn’t make me nervous. But going and preaching to a hostile audience really terrified me. So I said, “Sweetheart, that’s just not going to happen. You need to give up on that dream.”
So the next time I went, and I don’t know if John talked this over with Darby, but John, who was as guileless as a fox — John is preaching away and preaching his heart out and doing a great job, and — but as he’s preaching after 10 or 15 minutes you begin to sense that his body is beginning to slump and he’s running out of energy and he’s running out of voice.
And so I left Dr. Collins wall and I walked over to John and I put my arm around him and so he could hear me, I prayed to our Lord, and I began to pray that God would strengthen John and allow him to continue to preach God’s Word. And as I’m praying, John very slowly and gently is just dropping the cone lower and lower and lower until there was nothing for me to do but take up Elijah’s mantle and try to preach. So —
WEBB: Do you remember what you preached on?
SPROUL JR.: Yes, I do. One of the bizarre ironies that gives us a snapshot of the wickedness of our government is this: that inside that building you’re allowed to murder unborn children, but you can’t smoke a cigarette. So, a lot of times while the people are waiting they come out and smoke a cigarette, and there were people doing that this particular day.
But there was a young man who came out (and he wasn’t smoking), he was sitting in a little lawn chair right by the door, and he had on a hoodie and he kept tightening the hoodie until there was just this little opening. He’s sitting in the chair all hunched over. And that’s when I got the cone, and I thought, I’m going to preach right through that little hole. And I began to talk to this fellow, and I talked to him about how he believed that his being there was the solution to his problem.
And that the reason that we were there was to warn him that it wasn’t. That he thought, as uncomfortable as he was, as miserable as he was, he had it in his mind if I can just make it through these next few hours, then I’ll be on the other side and everything will be OK.
And I said, “Look, when you get through this thing, you’re going to go home tonight and you’re going to know what you did and it’s going to horrify you. You’re going to think you’re on the other side and you will have just entered into horror.”
But the worst thing I said, worse than that, is that that horror is going to diminish over time. The worst thing is that you’re going to forget you did what you’re doing today until the moment before you die and then it will come right back to you.” And I talked about how this place promises to remove your shame, and it’s absolutely true that this is the place to come to have your shame removed, but it’s not because of what they’re doing in there. It’s because of what’s being preached out here.
The solution to your shame is not murder to cover up your shame, but the promise of God is that if you will reveal your shame, if you will confess your sin, then the blood of Christ will cover your sin. And that was the first time that nothing happened when I preached.
WEBB: John, we have less than four minutes to go. My hope and prayer is that there are many who are motivated to follow your example, to follow your lead and — but they want to take that first step. Would you be willing to talk to them at some point today or this weekend?
BARROS: Sure, I mean, anybody that thinks you’d be interested in doing this, I got a booth down there by the mission T-shirt guy, and he’s got nice shirts, too. But I’d be glad, more than happy to. But the most important thing is — to know about all this — is that, in that video I said that I’ve never seen — I’ve never talked anybody out of one. I have not, that’s an absolute truth, but I’ve seen God turn the hearts of hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of girls over the last 10 years — five years being there every single day, but — during the week.
But, it’s pretty much 20 to 30 girls a month that he’ll turn their hearts. The last two weeks have been pretty incredible. They were incredibly difficult, but last week we saw 10 choose life and this week we saw seven. So that’s just in two weeks. It’s not always like that. Sometimes it’s very dark, people very cold. I don’t know why different days are different than others, but it’s all Him, it is.
You know, God calls us to go do this. The Lord Jesus goes forth before us and the Holy Spirit literally does the work he does and just crushes wills, crushes hearts, shows people hope, gives them new hearts, and there’s nothing as wonderful as this. I know, it probably doesn’t — I remember when I went before R.C. Sr. and the elders one time to report some stuff, and when I was done he was really moved.
And I told him, I said, “Sir, I know you got a pretty good gig around here, but I got you beat by a mile.” And he said, “I think you do, John.” But honestly, there is nothing like it, honestly. If you just, just go, just go try it out. I’ve got friends around the country that could help some areas and some of you would have to blaze the trail, but that’s what we’re called to do, I believe. I don’t believe this will ever be answered politically, I don’t.
SPROUL JR.: Let me add one other thing to that. One of the great blessings that happens when you go there. How many of you would love to have the experience of seeing God the Holy Spirit act in great power? If you want to see that, then you have to go where the great battle is. The Spirit is not hanging around comfortable places. The Spirit’s waging war at Orlando Women’s Center, so let’s go and join Him.
WEBB: Ladies and gentlemen, would you join me in thanking John Barros for being willing to answer the call?