By Herbie Newell
President, Lifeline Children’s Services
Sam behaves like a typical teenager. He loves music, junk food, baseball and hanging out with friends. He stays up late on the weekends, watches videos on his iPad and loves to attend his high school sporting events, clubs and functions. The only difference between Sam and his typical peers is that Sam has Down syndrome.
Tragically, between 60% and 90% of women in the U.S. who learn they are pregnant with a baby with Down syndrome choose abortion. But Sam’s parents consider him an abundant blessing.
Eighteen years ago when doctors advocated for abortion as the “best answer” to his genetic condition, Sam’s parents heroically chose life for him.
Sam’s family is not at all rare in their thinking. Many families are raising their children or young adults with Down syndrome. They love and cherish their sons and daughters deeply and see them as the true gifts they are.
Tragically, the lives of too many people with Down syndrome have been extinguished through the grievous act of abortion. This occurs even while we have families lined up domestically and internationally hoping to adopt children living with Down syndrome.
All life is precious, no matter the label or syndrome attached. We must speak up and defend life because all life bears the image of God. People living with Down syndrome — or people with any special need, for that matter — are created with unique talents, gifts, and abilities, just like everyone else.
Sam’s unique ability is that he can remember most people’s names, making his fellow peers feel special and seen — it’s a gift that’s needed in the oftentimes lonely world of Gen Z.
As image bearers, those living with Down syndrome or other special needs are uniquely created by God for exceptional works as they glorify our Father in heaven, just as Matthew 5 implores.
Author of life
We are not the author of life — God is. Therefore, we don’t get to determine another human’s value or whether or not a person is worthy of life. As a society, we have lost our way when we fail to see the dignity and value of every single human being, no matter what condition, syndrome or disorder they bear.
When we classify others and deem their inherent worth according to their IQ or productivity rather than their God-given intrinsic value, we diminish the humanity of every individual placed on this planet.
It’s fair to say that spiritually each of us has special needs. We are all spiritually disabled and in desperate need of a Savior to redeem us.
Physically caring for someone with special needs is a tangible reminder of how Jesus cares for us spiritually.
This is why we can’t just be pro-birth; we must also be life-affirming — and that translates into wrapping ongoing care around people with special needs and their families.
As the Church, we are called to serve the broken, the poor and yes, those with special needs. Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 25 that we are serving Him when we do so.
When the Church steps in and embraces people living with special needs — through adoption, providing respite to families caring for a special needs child, or teaching people with unique needs about Jesus, we are fulfilling Christ’s vision and mission. In return, we are drawn close to the heart of the Father, and we are blessed.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Herbie Newell is president of Lifeline Children’s Services, based in Birmingham. The organization serves vulnerable children and families through private domestic and international adoption, family restoration and pregnancy counseling. Newell is the author of “Image Bearers: Shifting from Pro-Birth to Pro-Life.” Learn more about special needs adoption at lifelinechild.org/special-needs-adoption.
Learning to love Psalms
For most of my life, I underappreciated the psalms. They weren’t narrative. They weren’t letters. They were often-confusing poems with too much figurative language for my liking.
But the more time I spend reading, praying and singing the psalms (thanks to Shane & Shane), the more I see their beauty.
The psalms are glimpses at the raw emotions of God’s people — the fear, sadness, anger, confusion and joy that we are invited to lay at God’s feet.
God gave us our emotions. Jesus experienced all kinds of emotions. We don’t have to hide our feelings from God. The psalms demonstrate for us how we can express those emotions.
We all have days when we are carrying big feelings — frustration, anger, sadness, insecurity. Not only does God give us the psalms to show us how to bring those emotions to God, the psalms also give us God’s response.
“A God Who Sees”
Giving people a reason to come back
We’re currently living in the largest and fastest religious shift in U.S. history. Some 40 million adult Americans who used to go to church at least once per month now attend less than once per year.
This shift is larger than the number of conversions during the First Great Awakening, Second Great Awakening and the totality of the Billy Graham Crusades combined.
But people aren’t leaving the church for the reasons we thought. And one of the misconceptions is they aren’t willing to come back.
We’ve conducted the most comprehensive study of dechurching ever commissioned. In total, we heard from more than 7,000 respondents over three phases.
The single best piece of good news is that more than half of those who have left evangelical churches are willing to come back right now. That’s nearly 8 million dechurched evangelicals who are willing to come back to church.
The reasons they’re willing to come back vary from group to group, but on the whole, people are looking for two things: healthy relationships and a local church that actively demonstrates how the gospel is true, good and beautiful.
Those two factors are almost entirely within our control. Church leaders can grow in their ability to exercise relational wisdom and build healthy communities. Our local churches can grow institutionally to be bolder and clearer with our doctrine, religious affection and cultural engagement.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Excerpt from “5 misconceptions about dechurching in ‘the largest and fastest religious shift in U.S. history’” by Jim Davis and Michael Graham, authors of “The Great Dechurching.”
According to a recent Lifeway Research study, churchgoers are more likely today than in 2017 to believe God wants them to prosper financially (76% v. 69%) and that they have to do something for God in order to receive material blessings from Him (45% v. 26%).
Today, 3 in 4 churchgoers (76%) believe God wants them to prosper financially, including 43% who strongly agree.
“In the last five years, far more churchgoers are reflecting prosperity gospel teachings, including the heretical belief that material blessings are earned from God,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research.
In Christ’s Kingdom, we recognize that apart from Jesus Christ, we can do nothing.
We come to understand that EVERYTHING we need is found in Him and only in Him. Jesus is sovereign. He has all of the power and all of the control. We don’t have to climb the ladder of success to feel valued or loved.
We don’t have to be in control to feel safe. We don’t have to use people to get what we selfishly want. Our ego isn’t big because our identity is not in what we do, but our identity is found in what Christ has done for us.
Pastor Andy Frazier
If our expectations of ourselves and others are excessively high, we may experience disappointment and/or varying kinds of
Efforts to achieve or demonstrate consistently a near-perfect stance in everyday life almost always lead to major disillusionment, defeat and disorientation.
We have to monitor our expectations in order that our ambition does not outweigh our ability.
Morris Murray Jr.
“I want to be that relatable person they can go to and listen to music and feel like they can relate to someone who is their age and just know that they can be confident in who they are and that their value comes from God, not the world,” said 17-year-old singer-songwriter Estella Kirk.
My very first job in a church was as a janitor (no kidding, the full-time guy quit and they needed me for 6 months). Little did I know how much God would use that experience to shape my leadership.
At our heart, we are called to be servants. The building doesn’t clean itself.
X (formerly Twitter)
“Coming to classes taught me what a man, what a father, should be,” said Richard, who attended parenting classes at Sav-A-Life in Vestavia, Alabama. The greatest gift I received from coming to class is my knowledge of being more of a father for my kids and more of a husband for my wife.”
“It was truly an inspiring experience to see how the Ukrainian believers, especially the youth and young adults, were engaged in gospel-centered relief work,” said William Maxwell, chief administrative officer for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, who recently traveled to war torn Ukraine. “There will be many more [opportunities to serve] when the war is over.”