Sunday, September 19, 2021

Podcast: The Church and Unexpected Pregnancy

A conversation with Amy Ford from the Church InTension podcast

One in every four pregnancies ends in abortion. Even more shocking? That statistic is the same inside the Church as it is outside. How can the Church help these young women with unplanned pregnancies? In this episode of Church InTension, Dr. Jon Chasteen talks with Embrace Grace founder, Amy Ford, about how churches can bring this once taboo subject out in the open and reach an unseen group within their communities.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: This is one of those topics that may seem or in some circles, be considered a tension point but what we’re going to talk about today, how it’s really not. It’s not a political issue. It’s nothing other than a people issue. I have a really awesome guest us today. Her name is Amy Ford and she is the founder of an organization called Embrace Grace, which is a nonprofit that equips churches to love and support single and pregnant young women in their community. This is amazing, in just under 10 years, Embrace Grace has helped more than 6000 women. I love one of the statements that they say, they say the church has a powerful opportunity to be a catalyst of change in women’s life as well as broaden their community outreach to help moms be brave. She has a brand new book out that we’re going to talk more about through this podcast. It’s called Help Her Be Brave: Discover Your Place in the Pro-Life Movement. She has a podcast called Help Her Be Brave. Amy, we’re so excited to have you on the podcast. Thanks for being here.

Amy Ford: I’m so excited to be here. Thanks for having me on.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: I love talking to people who are passionate about this topic because it just oozes out of you.

Amy Ford: I’m a little passionate.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: That’s what I love and I want us to talk about this today because I was looking at your website and right there, I believe it was on the homepage, but it has this quote that leads into your vision of what your organization is all about. I’m going to read it, it says, “If abortion became illegal today, the church would not be ready to help women with unplanned pregnancies, practically, spiritually, and emotionally.” That is such a powerful statement. Talk to me about that. What does that mean to you?

Amy Ford: I know. I always feel like pastors have a light bulb moment when we think about that because so many believers are passionate about life and maybe they vote a certain way but what does it look like if that actually happened? What if Roe v. Wade was overturned tomorrow and all of a sudden women they don’t have access to abortion? They’re pregnant, they’re really upset, they are worried, maybe they already have a kid and now they’re pregnant again and they can barely afford the one that they have right now and now they have another one and childcare is like $350 to $400 a week just for … It’s hard to survive. If you have two in daycare?

Amy Ford: They’re at a real issue of like, “I can’t afford this child” and so then all of a sudden if we, as the church, we’re like, “Good luck. Hope it works out for you”, that’s just wrong.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: It’s practical … They have to be processing through the practical but also just the emotional, the shame, who is going to think this, they’re going to judge me so they’re balancing both sides of that.

Amy Ford: For sure. I think there’s two … We have girls that are thinking about abortion that were raised in the church and some that were not. There’s two different types of perspectives. What we figured out is fear is the root of all of it. Fear of being alone, fear of my parents hating me, fear of schooling being interrupted, education, fear of my baby dad being really mad and he doesn’t want to have anything to do with me and he’s going to leave me.

Amy Ford: Fear is the root of all of that so that’s why Help Her Be Brave, the book title, the podcast title, that’s our tagline with Embrace Grace, the ministry that I run. How can we help her be brave? How can we see how to help her come up high and not be in this tunnel vision of panic, crisis moment? Because fear makes you do crazy things. We want to help her see the bigger picture and if you did have the help and the resources and the empowerment along the way, what would that look like? How can we help you be brave and choose life?

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Help us understand Embrace Grace even more. It’s not that this is a ministry for those who have had an abortion, not that you don’t care about that and you don’t think that’s important but to use the analogy, instead of building a hospital at the bottom of the mountain, you want to build a guardrail at the top. You’re focusing more on those who become pregnant, who are considering having this abortion?

Amy Ford: Yeah. For sure. We believe that a girl with an unexpected pregnancy, the church should be one of the first places a girl runs to instead of the last because of shame and guilt, which is the same with abortion. If you’ve had an abortion, the church should be the safe place you go to as well.

Amy Ford: With Embrace Grace, we have support groups in churches all over the nation for these women. We partner with local pregnancy centers, we invite these girls in. Also, just word of mouth within your church, “My hairdresser’s daughter is pregnant.” You know? Things just start coming out and we want to be that first response team, how can we help? How can we invite her into a spiritual family? How can we promise and make her feel and know that she doesn’t have to walk through this alone? Because it’s very isolating going through something like that.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: It’s such an important topic and a lot of our listeners are in the ministry, whether it’s in full-time ministry or they see themselves as in the ministry in their marketplace, so I want to get into the what but before I get into the what of what this looks like and what can I do and what can my church do, I want to talk about the why.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Amy Ford, talk to us about where did this come from? Did you when you were eight years old want to grow up and start an organization helping single women that are getting pregnant? What happened in your life? What experience? What did the holy spirit say to you? Just tell us that story of how Embrace Grace came about?

Amy Ford: Yeah. Well, I had an unexpected pregnancy when I was 19, grew up in a Christian home, had an amazing family but I didn’t have a relationship with the lord. God created us to have an intimacy, a God sized hole, and so I was looking at guys to be there. There was one specific guy I was with for a really long time, I call him my baby daddy. He’s actually now been my husband for 23 years.

Amy Ford: At the time, we found out we were pregnant and we were so terrified to tell my parents, for our friends to know, everything, even though we knew and grew up knowing abortion was wrong, we just thought, “We could just have an abortion and we’ll deal with the consequences of a broken heart later.” It’s almost like robot mode. You want to just not feel and you just want to get through it and then just be done with it.

Amy Ford: We went to the abortion clinic. We paid for it. I ended up hyperventilating and passing out in the abortion room. When the nurses were fanning me, trying to give me a drink of water, they said, “You’re too emotionally distraught to make this decision today. You can come back another day but today, you’re not getting an abortion.”

Amy Ford: I went back out in the waiting room, told my baby daddy, “We’re still pregnant.” He could see my face was swollen from crying. We just decided in that moment, “Okay, we’ll just figure it out together. We’re going to be homeless.” The enemy lies to you, tells you all these worst case scenarios that can possibly happen.

Amy Ford: Of course, our parents were disappointed in the timing but it wasn’t as horrible as what we thought it was going to be. We had been together a long time so we decided we would just go ahead and get married. We got married when I was 16 weeks pregnant and the man that had led my husband to the lord years before, had discipled him, we asked him if he would marry us. He was a pastor. He said, “No, I can’t marry you because you’ve sinned and so I will not bless this marriage.” We were like, “Oh my gosh. We’re such horrible people. We can’t even get married and be blessed by someone that we love.”

Amy Ford: We had a beautiful wedding but it definitely felt like it was a scarlet letter on our wedding day and just the shame that overshadowed it all and after that we tried to go back to church but it’s like the elephant in the room. People don’t know whether to say congratulations or I’m sorry so they just don’t say anything. As you can tell, I’m very extrovert, I have a lot of friends so it’s really obvious all of a sudden when people are distancing themselves. Again, looking back, it’s not that they didn’t like me. It’s more like they just don’t … “What do I say to them? I don’t know what to say.”

Amy Ford: We didn’t really like the way it made us feel so we just stopped going for a while. We were church hopping. One thing that’s really cool is that pastor that wouldn’t marry us, he called my husband out of the blue two years later and he said, “I have been thinking what I did every single day and I feel like it was my worst mistake in pastoring history that I’ve ever made. Will you forgive me?” My husband was like, “Yes, I forgive you.” Still to this day, he’s a pastor in Austin, Texas, they are the best of friends, they talk all the time, and they are so close. It’s such a sweet relationship.

Amy Ford: I ended up having a son and he’s actually 23 now. He just graduated from Oral Roberts University and got a degree in theology. Now he’s getting his masters. He’s passionate about the lord. He just got married. He’s just amazing and I can’t imagine what my life would have looked like if I didn’t have him.

Amy Ford: Whenever he was 16 years old, that pastor that wouldn’t marry us asked me to come speak at his church on Mother’s Day and he asked me to do a pro-love message, which is one of the things I talk about a lot. I say pro-life is a stance and pro-love is an action. That’s what’s going to make abortion unthinkable.

Amy Ford: I did my whole thing and he was very open with his congregation before I had gotten there about what he had done years ago and he said he had a religious spirit and a heresy heart and all this stuff.

Amy Ford: Well, so I did my thing, spoke, and afterwards he asked me to come back on the platform and he asked my son Jess, 16, to come on the platform and he said, “Amy Ford, years ago I asked your husband for forgiveness but I never really asked you. Will you forgive me for what I did 16 years ago?” I was like, “Yes, of course. Embrace Grace has started, I forgave you a long time ago.”

Amy Ford: Well, then he looked at my son, 16, in front of the whole church and he said, “Will you forgive me for planting seeds of rejection in your heart before you were ever even born and while you were in your mother’s womb, I rejected you. Will you forgive me?” My son, 16, in front of the whole church says, “I forgive you.”

Amy Ford: It was such a powerful moment. You could feel church wounds being lifted in the room. People were like, “Oh my goodness. The fact that the pastor would humble himself in this way was so amazing” and there was a lot of healing that happened. Even with my son, my first book came out when he was 13 and I had never really told him his story and I was super worried like, I was a dumb kid, I didn’t know what I wanted, I never wanted him to think that we didn’t want him. 

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Right.

Amy Ford: … rejection. Right. I knew I had to because it’s all coming out and all this stuff. I have four kids now and we had just taken him to the Cheesecake Factory. That’s just odd to take one kid. He knew something was up. I had all my friends praying. I was like, “Please just let him just receive this story.”

Amy Ford: We told him and he’s a middle school kid. I’m like, “How does this make you feel?” He’s like, “I don’t know.” You know? He didn’t really process it.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: He’s like, “I’m in eighth grade, mom.”

Amy Ford: Right. Then over the next six months, I found out later, he kind of did struggle a little bit like, “What is my purpose? Maybe I wasn’t supposed to be here.” You know, the enemy lies to him and tells him all the crap.

Amy Ford: One day, we go to Gateway and a Gateway youth pastor asked him to speak five minutes on how you’re an overcomer. He came into my room and he’s like, “Mom, how does this sound?” He said, “I was an overcomer before I was ever even born and that Satan had a plan to take me out but I’m here, I’m going to use my life to change the world.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Wow.

Amy Ford: He has a whole story in between there of how God spoke to him. He is amazing. I just love that. That’s how we’re all here and we all have a purpose and that is why I’m passionate about we can be the answer, we can make abortion unthinkable. God put specific talents, gifts, passions inside each one of us in order to do the good works that he’s called us to do. How are we doing that?

Amy Ford: Really even following that thing of like what makes you pound your fist on the table and say, “Someone needs to do something about this”? There’s a reason why you’ve got that burning passion inside of you, probably God put it there. How do you follow that? Or even following your story if you’ve experienced an abortion, how can you be the person that you wish you had years ago in your life when you made that decision?

Dr. Jon Chasteen: In somebody else’s life. Yeah.

Amy Ford: For someone else. Right. We really can change the world with this and to make it unthinkable.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: I love your story because my head is exploding with all the things I want to talk about. We’ll have to just get there on all of them but my head’s exploding because you experienced it firsthand but you also experienced the church firsthand and the hurt and the pain of that. There’s people who experience the hurt and the pain of the church in a lot of different areas but this is, obviously, one specifically but I like how you put, and I’ll talk about that in a minute, but I like how you … I don’t know if you coined the phrase, I’m guessing you did, let’s make abortion unthinkable. Most people think, let’s make abortion illegal.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Imagine if we focused on the ministry side and not saying we don’t vote right, I’m not saying we don’t do those sort of things, please don’t get me wrong, listeners, but what if we shifted our thinking to say, let’s just make it unthinkable. Then maybe it’s not as big of a deal if it’s illegal or not if we come at it from a ministry side, let’s make it unthinkable to where it doesn’t even cross people’s minds. Where did that come from? Was it just your story? 

Amy Ford: Yeah. I mean, I think about if … I grew up in church my entire life and, number one, there’s pro-life pregnancy centers everywhere. I had gone to church my entire life, no one had ever told me about a pro-life pregnancy center. I didn’t even know there was a pro-life movement. Even with starting Embrace Grace, I didn’t think I was starting a pro-life organization because I didn’t know there was a pro-life movement. In fact, what I thought was the movement was, “Oh, that’s the people that picket” because that’s what the media makes it.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Political.

Amy Ford: Yeah. There’s thousands of organizations that are boots on the ground that will say, “I will help you” but the biggest thing is, because I had grown up in church my entire life, if I would have thought, “I’m pregnant. I’m scared. I don’t know what to do. Maybe I should call one of the pastors at my church and ask them for wisdom, prayer and guidance of what to do in this situation”, that was the last place I would have called. You know?

Amy Ford: I talked to a girl the other day that told me … I forgot what state she was in but she said that she had found out she was pregnant on a Friday night, totally freaking out, she called three churches and left a voicemail because it was after hours and saying, “I’m scared. I’m pregnant. I don’t know what to do. My boyfriend doesn’t want to have anything to do with me. I’m so scared.”

Amy Ford: One church called her back.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Wow.

Amy Ford: One church.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Wow.

Amy Ford: If we can’t even return a phone call, we got some problems.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Right.

Amy Ford: Going back to your question, how amazing would it be that … Thinking about if a girl felt forced, “I didn’t have access to an abortion so I’m forced to have this baby”, and there’s a bitterness and, “I never wanted this baby in the first place”, I mean, it can go in so many different directions, right? Whereas why would I need to have an abortion when there’s so much hope out there? There’s so many resources that can help me finish school, that can help provide childcare, whatever it might be, what can we do as the church to be able to help her have her baby and her dreams to? How can we empower her so that her baby doesn’t feel like it’s something that held her back?

Amy Ford: Sometimes you see these celebrities that go up onstage and they accept their awards and they say something about they’re so glad they had an abortion, why is a baby, life, is something that would hold you back from your dreams? We have to change culture to … I mean, babies are amazing. They are miracles. They are a gift.

Amy Ford: I could go on and on. I mean, even with business owners, you know? I’ve talked to business owners that they have said if they have a man and a woman that have the same qualities, the same credentials, the same everything, but they’re both childbearing years, they’re going to go with the man because then they don’t have to mess with the maternity leave. That’s pretty messed up.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Wow.

Amy Ford: That is a patriarchy that is against having children whereas, first of all …

Dr. Jon Chasteen: It’s a culture.

Amy Ford: Right. The culture. First of all, the guy should have the same amount of leave as the girl.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Right.

Amy Ford: A dad is important and fathers are important.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Can I get an amen out there?

Amy Ford: Right. We need to have an even playing field here. There’s just so many different facets to this subject that it’s like how can we change every part of it to make it so this is a culture that is all about life and love and a baby … Yes, sex outside of marriage is a sin but a baby is always a blessing. A baby is not a sin.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: That’s so good.

Amy Ford: A baby is a miracle given by God. I’ve seen so many times that sometimes when God wants to woo his daughter back to his heart, he might just give her a baby to do it.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Wow.

Amy Ford: He might just give her the sweetest face that she’s ever laid eyes on so that she can maybe get a tiny glimpse of how much God must love her and he did it for me and he’s done it for so many Embrace Grace moms and he’s creative.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Yeah.

Amy Ford: If we’re acting as if that’s a nuisance or what … We’re going against here, how can we help her, empower her? A hand up, not necessarily a hand out but a hand up. My husband is like, “I’m a guy. What can I doing the pro-life movement?” There’s tons.

Amy Ford: In fact, there’s so many … The other side likes to say my body, my choice and all of that but the thing is is one of the top five reasons why women have abortions is because the guy … If he would have said he was with me, not necessarily that they’re even together but they would co-parent then she wouldn’t have felt like she needed to. That’s a huge reason we need men in this movement.

Amy Ford: My husband’s great at budgeting and financing and he’s always available. I’ve given several single moms of like, “Can you help her? Show her how to budget her checkbook.” Things like that. He’s good at it.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Men in the church can play a role in the same way.

Amy Ford: Yes. All of us have something to give.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: I want to talk to the people in ministry out there, people who are attending a church, because I’m sitting here, obviously, in my TKU hat but I’m also sitting here as a pastor processing this. I think a lot of pastors our default is, “Well, what do you want me to do? Preach a sermon on it?” We’re not saying you need to preach a sermon on it. We talked a little bit about this before the recording.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Before we get into this, I want to give the people in ministry some stats. Okay? You probably know way more stats than I do, Amy Ford, and you can rattle some off too but we have some here in my notes, in my show notes. Let me shoot off some. Okay, one in four pregnancies end in abortion. That’s staggering, 25%. The abortion rate is the same in the church as it is outside the church. That ought to light up pastors.

Amy Ford: That’s 25% of your church.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Crazy.

Amy Ford: Yeah.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: I found a study from Lifeway Research. They did a survey of 1038 women who have had an abortion, okay? The abortion has already been done. 70% of them claim to be Christians and 43% of them attended regular church attendance. 43% of them say I go to church regularly. Almost half of the 1000 that got an abortion. This is the staggering one, but only 38% of them consider the church a safe place to talk about it.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: That should make us mourn. When hurting people don’t feel like they can talk to the church about their pain …

Amy Ford: Something is wrong.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Something is wrong.

Amy Ford: Yeah.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: I found another study done by Lifeway where people admitted, these are people that are admitting this, imagine how many people didn’t admit it in the survey, but the 65% of Christians would say that they would internally think negative thoughts towards a single woman who was pregnant.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: You know, we talked a little bit about you don’t have to preach a sermon on it but we’ve got to talk about it. What would you say to pastors out there who are just like, “I don’t know what to do”?

Amy Ford: Right. They get kind of worried it’s political or they’re going to make people upset. This is a people thing. It needs to be talked about but, again, you don’t have to have a whole sermon on abortion. Everybody knows it’s wrong but it’s like what can we do?

Amy Ford: I’ll give you an example. One time I spoke at Pink Impact, which is Gateway’s big women’s conference and it was the last one at the convention center so it was at the big arena and they had 10,000 women there at the arena. Pastor Debbie Morris was interviewing me about Embrace Grace and everything. She’d always talk about women that choose life are brave, all my thing that I do.

Amy Ford: Well, she’s like, “Thank you so much, Amy Ford, for being on today.” I felt the holy spirit stop. I was like, “Debbie, can I say one more thing?” I said, “There’s 10,000 women in this arena. That means at least 25% of you have experienced an abortion and I want you to know that God loves you and that he sees you, he wants to heal your heart. In fact, even start the healing process this weekend at this conference. You are not disqualified from ministry. Revelation 12:11 says we overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony. Go share with someone. Tell someone. Tell one person and allow God to start healing your heart and that he wants to use you. Be the person you wish you had years ago in your life when you made that decision.”

Amy Ford: That was it. It was like 20 seconds. Then Debbie is like, “Thank you so much.” Cut off. Well, because it was such a big arena, Embrace Grace had two booths, one on each side of the arena. After that session was over, our booth was inundated.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Wow.

Amy Ford: With women. You could just see mascara. You just knew. One specific girl, oh my gosh, she wrecked me. There were three girls and they all had their same matching t-shirts. They were sisters and they were going to do this fun Pink Impact weekend and they had t-shirts made and all that stuff. Well, they were holding up the one in the middle and the one in the middle was bawling.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Wow.

Amy Ford: One of the sisters said, “We brought her to you. She wanted to talk to you. What you said really touched her.” She’s having a hard time getting her emotions together so I waited and just looked at her and she looked at me and tears streaming down her face. She said, “You mean to tell me that God can use me?” It was like it had never dawned on her that she actually could be used by God.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Wow.

Amy Ford: To think there’s women like that, and men, in our churches, in our congregations. I feel like, I’ve said this so many times, that there is a revival that can break out if we can help these women and men be set free. I told you a little earlier and I wish I knew the exact stat but it was something … In that same Care Net study, if you dig into it, there’s so many great … It was Care Net and Lifeway that did that study together.

Amy Ford: There was one that said something like, and don’t quote me on it but it was so high that I was like, “What?” It was something like 40 something percent of women or men that have experienced an abortion, when they hear their pastor do a sermon on forgiveness, they feel like abortion is excluded from God’s forgiveness.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Wow.

Amy Ford: If we can really … Even just mentioning the word, that there is hope and healing for you if you’ve experienced an abortion, something even just like that, at the end of your service when you’re having prayer time at your front, whatever that might look like, something just saying the word, an acknowledgement to say that God wants to heal you, that you can …

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Or if you’re pregnant.

Amy Ford: Or if you’re pregnant. Right. It changes everything. With that, free people, free people. It’s contagious. We have so many women that lead Embrace Grace groups that have experienced an abortion because they want to be the change. If we can help activate all of these people that need healing, number one, and then get them involved in the movement at their church doing something, helping single moms, whatever it might look like, we can make abortion unthinkable.

Amy Ford: It starts I think with a lot of the pastors talking about it and just even with us. If you’ve experienced an abortion, we can create a Me Too movement with this subject. The more we talk about it, the more what’s brought into the light is what God can heal, the more we keep in the darkness is what Satan lies to us and torments us with. We don’t have to do a whole sermon about it. I’m just saying here and there.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: It’s like you either see a pastor that’s screaming at people about abortion or…

Amy Ford: Two extremes.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: It’s a sin and it’s crazy or there’s just complete silence.

Amy Ford: Right.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: We were talking about this a little bit before the show, I think some pastors are concerned or … I don’t know if afraid is the word but we avoid the subject because we’ve associated it with politics and we’ve gone to where it’s so dangerous to say anything political on the stage that we just avoid it altogether. It’s the tension even that we live in now with masks where to say you’re not for masks is to claim that you’re a Republican and to say that you are for masks is to claim that you’re a Democrat.

Amy Ford: Or that you’re not pro-life if you don’t wear a mask. I hear that a lot.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Right. There’s these “unwritten rules” and so I think a lot of pastors feel that tension. It’s a tension we got to get over it, right? We just got to get over it and talk about it. I love what you said, you said it on the podcast but you said it before we started, that it’s not a political issue, it’s a people issue. That’s the leap we need to make in our minds, right?

Amy Ford: Yeah. For sure.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: This is not a political issue. It’s a people issue.

Amy Ford: And just pro-love, pro-whole life. We have t-shirts, pro-love. Like I said earlier, pro-life is a stance, pro-love is an action. Pro-life can be a political term. I was at I think the Gateway pastor’s conference and I had a pro-love t-shirt and an African American pastor from Brooklyn, New York came up to me and he’s like, “I like that shirt.” He said, “I’m pro-life but I can’t say that at my church but I can say that. I can say pro-love.”

Dr. Jon Chasteen: I like how you’re changing the narrative. You’re saying make abortion unthinkable, you’re saying pro-love.

Amy Ford: It’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: We’ve associated these phrases with political things, with division. Things that should unify us, have ended up dividing us.

Amy Ford: Right.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: That’s why I love what you’re doing. The thing I love the most about your ministry, Amy Ford, I love the local church. I am madly in love with it. I think it’s the hope of the world. I love how you haven’t just started this nonprofit off to the side who is doing your own thing. You are doing an amazing ministry but your real heart and your vision is to partner with the local church. Tell us the heart behind that. Why did you want to do that?

Amy Ford: Yeah. I mean, we’re a family and we don’t kick each other when we’re done. We pick each other up when we fall. We’re designed to create community. With our heart is that we want these moms to not feel alone so, number one, get plugged into a church. I’m always on a radar of looking for girls that are pregnant. I’ve gotten myself in trouble before, which that’s awkward.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: You look at the belly and then you look at the finger.

Amy Ford: The ring. Right. Exactly. Sometimes their fingers are swollen. It’s complicated but I have mastered it. If anybody ever wants to know just contact me at Embrace Grace dot com. I’ll tell you how to do it.

Amy Ford: I invite them to church and they always feel like there’s strings attached like, “Wait. You want me to go to church?” We want to change that, to get over the barrier. What I figured out is that they think church is about behavior modification. That is what they think it is. They have to fix their life first or make the decision right this second.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: You’re inviting me to church because I’m jacked up.

Amy Ford: Right. Exactly. When really, the church is about heart transformation.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: That’s good.

Amy Ford: It’s falling in love with Jesus. Part of Embrace Grace is they get a baby shower and so sometimes that’s the hook. Sometimes they’re like, “I’m coming for the free stuff. But I don’t care what you have to say. I’m bracing myself for the wrath that’s coming.”

Amy Ford: Exactly. Sit through this thing. What is so cool is if we can get them in the door, the first class we’re very strategic. We want every leader to share their story. They’re like, “Okay, that lady’s story is way worse than mine. If God did that for her then maybe God will do that for me too. Maybe it is a safe place for me to share what I am going through.” It’s all of a sudden their walls start coming down and we’re very strategic in it and it works.

Amy Ford: Then they’re coming back the next week. It’s relationship. We’re not going in and saying, “You need to stop doing this and you need to stop doing that.”

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Not trying to fix you.

Amy Ford: Right. I’m not trying to fix you. We’re just loving you because it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. That is what just makes their walls come down and they want to have a relationship with him and that we want them to fall in love with Jesus. That is where our heart is and we have front row seats to miracles as we watch this happen because they’re at a place where a lot of their friends have left, they’re totally alone, and it’s always a good time to share the gospel for sure but at this point in time, they’re at a place and a crossroads in their life.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: So true.

Amy Ford: What am I doing? Yes. I need help. I need a rescuer. Savior means rescuer.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: That’s good.

Amy Ford: They know they need a rescuer. It’s the perfect time to say let us introduce you to your rescuer.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: You know, we certainly don’t bash the church on this show but we do want to call out the tension points in the church. It’s almost like the church has become so … I don’t know if obsessed is the word but focused on making the people happy that are sitting in the pews that we fail to recognize one of the greatest ways to grow your church is not by doing gimmicky stuff to attract people into the church, I’m not saying I’m against those things, but one of the best ways to grow your church is to reach out to the people that are hurting in your community. What a great way to do it. People all around your church and all around your community who are suffering and hurting in these ways of single pregnancies and what a way to bring people into the kingdom.

Amy Ford: Right. For sure. There’s two kinds of pastors. Sometimes pastors are like, “Oh, we don’t have pregnant girls in our church.” We’re like, you do.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: You do.

Amy Ford: You did and you probably do and then they’re gone.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: That’s right.

Amy Ford: Number two, say it is like a super tiny church and it’s all senior citizens and maybe they just really don’t, this is outreach.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: 100%.

Amy Ford: You feed the homeless, you do all this stuff, pro-life isn’t outreach. Go partner with your local pregnancy centers. They are boots on the ground, totally free, giving these girls free sonograms and they want to be able to connect them to a local church to be loved on. They have all these HIPAA rules because they’re medical and their hands are tied on sometimes the way they can but knowing there’s a local church that’s going to say you’re welcome here and they know they can safely refer her to this church that’s not going to tell her what a screw-up she is.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: That’s going to throw her a shower or something.

Amy Ford: It’s going to throw her a shower, that’s going to disciple her, love on her, she’s going to meet other girls going through the same thing that she is. It is such a blessing to even the pregnancy centers. There are ways. I find them on Facebook buy/sell trade pages. We train all our leaders. They post on there, “I just found out I’m pregnant. I’m totally worried. I don’t even have a car seat. Does anyone have anything? I can’t afford …” We have found so many girls through that. We can tell you where to find them all.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: You’re being proactive.

Amy Ford: Yes. Exactly. Just like with the lost sheep, the first single mom in the bible was Hagar and she referred to God as the God that sees.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: That sees me. Yeah.

Amy Ford: Then Ishmael, the first kid that was born of a single mom, his name means God hears. We hear the prayers of these kids and we see these moms and single dads and how can we help them, empower them, and get back on their feet? We can change everything if we can do that. We can prevent future abortions if we’re helping these single moms along the way.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: It’s generational. You’re saving generations.

Amy Ford: For sure.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Let’s talk about the super practical. Right now you’re partnering with over 700 churches doing practical ministry. If there’s a pastor out there who is saying, “We need to do this in my church” or maybe there’s somebody that’s like, “I attend a church. I’m not on staff there but I need my church to do this”, what does that look like practically? For them to partner with Embrace Grace and begin a local ministry with the partnership with you. Give us the practicalities of that.

Amy Ford: Well, for sure, leading an Embrace Grace group is super easy. There are women and men in your church that will want to pick this up and run with it and lead it. It’s very practical. We have digital curriculum. It’s easy to press play. We teach you how to go find the girls. It’s like your own small group at your own church. It’s your group. It’s not ours. We’ll help you, give you the training and the tools. We get your church group on the website so that if girls go to our website, they can put in their zip code and all the churches that have Embrace Grace groups pop up with that leader’s information. That’s super important.

Amy Ford: Also, partnering with your local pregnancy centers. You need to know who is in your community, boots on the ground. I talk to so many pastors. They’ll come to our office and do a tour and I’m like, “Do you know what a pregnancy center is?” They’re like, “Yeah. I know what it is.” We have this thing called love boxes and we give them out for free to girls with unexpected pregnancies. It’s got a onesie that says best gift ever. It’s got my book with 20 stories of girls that chose life. It’s got a journal about being brave and fearless, and an invitation to a local Embrace Grace group.

Amy Ford: I say we give these for free to pregnancy centers and they’re like, “Wait, are you talking about a Planned Parenthood?” I’m like, “No. Okay, let’s go back. A pregnancy center is a …” It’s okay if you don’t know because I grew up in the church and I didn’t know but I feel like your whole congregation needs to know this because we need to be sowing into our communities because they are serving the girls in your community that just found out they’re pregnant.

Amy Ford: They get a free pregnancy test, a free sonogram, free counseling, everything is free. Planned Parenthood charges. This is free and they will talk to you about all of the options you have and they’ll talk to you about abortion but they’re going to tell you the real truth about it, that it’s a trauma, that it’s hard, and they’re going to help these girls and empower them.

Amy Ford: They want to be able to refer. Sending volunteers there, showing up at their gala and their benefits, sowing into them financially is huge but they have boutiques where they have gently used baby items. You can go serve there. Men, if you are great at resume writing, help a girl with her resume. If you’re great at helping a girl finish her GED, help her get connected to GED. There’s maternity homes in your community that you can serve at.

Amy Ford: In my book Help Her Be Brave, it literally has over 300 practical ideas of how you as a pastor can get your church involved or you as a believer that goes to a church can individually help a woman be brave. I always talk about Pastor Robert Morris. He talks about how … He’s not wired to do kids’ ministry but he’s passionate about kids’ ministry.

Amy Ford: Don’t go serve somewhere that you’re not passionate about. Really dig into what strengths, gifts, passions did God place inside of you. What’s a weird hobby that you have? What can that be translated … I met a mom the other day that was really great at coupon cutting and she’s obsessive about it. I’m like you need to teach single moms how to do that.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: That’s so true.

Amy Ford: There’s another guy I know, Peter, I just did a podcast with him and he’s a financial advisor, super passionate, and he’s like, “I see these girls and they get burdened.”

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Yeah so he uses his gift.

Amy Ford: He is trying to train them. He has all these videos that he’s made of this is how you can be a good steward of your money and have your dreams and work towards your dreams and don’t waste it on tote the note stuff. I saw a guy on YouTube the other day that he never had a dad so he, as a dad, is teaching these other kids that don’t have dads, “Here’s how you fix a flat tire.”

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Wow.

Amy Ford: “Here’s how you change the oil on your car.” He’s teaching single moms and single dads how to do this. It’s his little shtick that he does on YouTube.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: I love the creativity.

Amy Ford: Right? There’s so many different ways. You could partner with an organization that’s already doing something. That’s good. Or also just ask God.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Use your gift.

Amy Ford: Yes.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: You just talked about your book but I really want people to check it out. It’s called Help Her Be Brave. Describe what it is, discover your place in the pro-life movement. We all have a role to play. What does that look like? If they want to get this book, where can they do it?

Amy Ford: Amazon, EmbraceGrace.com, there’s some bookstores that have it. It just came out on January 5th. Yeah. Like I was saying before, I never knew there was a pro-life movement and when Embrace Grace started, we started as a small group at Gateway. Never in a million years thought we were going to have a nonprofit. It wasn’t even on our radar.

Amy Ford: Other churches started calling us saying, “This is really cool. Will you show us how to do it too?” We’re just like, “Sure. Here’s Word documents.” God was like, “You’re supposed to help people help people. You’re supposed to help the church be the church.”

Amy Ford: I got invited to speak at a pro-life pregnancy center training conference. Never heard of this organization. It’s huge now. I’m shocked I didn’t know who they were but I didn’t. I was like, sure. I showed up and just shocked. There are so many people, so many organizations that are really empowering these women. The church needs to know about it. If you are pastors that are listening right now, your people need to know about these organizations. You should have a resource list of all the help that’s out there in your community that can help if you have a girl that’s pregnant, Embrace Grace is great.

Amy Ford: Also, one more thing, have abortion healing groups at your church because you need to help set these people free. There’s Surrendering the Secret. There’s Support After Abortion. There’s really great organizations that have abortion healing groups that can … Just like Embrace Grace, you get the curriculum and you lead it and to be able to say from the pulpit, we have abortion healing groups if you’ve experienced an abortion, is huge.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Yeah. I think it’s important the pastors give their congregations other ways to serve. We inspire our people to do … We’re limiting our people by saying … Greeters are important, ushers are important, kids ministry is important but we also need to be encouraging and empowering our congregations to serve other purposes outside Sunday morning. This is a really, really, really valuable one, a really, really important one.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: I want people to follow you, Amy Ford. I want people to check you out and follow you. What’s the best way to get in touch with you? Just give your personal cellphone number. I’m kidding. Don’t do that. How do people follow you?

Amy Ford: Yeah. Embrace Grace.com for sure. There’s also Pro-Love Church.com. Pro-Love Church.com, there’s actually a pastor’s toolkit that people can download. If you’re like, “I don’t know how to talk about life”, we just passed Sanctity of Life Sunday but really, this should be something that’s taught often. There’s two sermon note downloads. In fact, my son, Jess Ford, the one that I almost had an abortion with, who just majored in theology, and he’s so passionate about this. He works for a pro-life organization. He wrote the sermon notes.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Wow.

Amy Ford: One is about the theology and what is the importance of life and the value of life. The second one is more focused on the action.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Free sermons?

Amy Ford: Free sermon downloads. There you go. Making it easy for you. There’s social media graphics you can share. There’s a download of 10 ways your church can be pro-love. Great stuff on Pro-Love Church.com. Just click on pastors. Then also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, all of those things.

Amy Ford: We’re really big on not … We’re not going to do a ton of articles about abortion is wrong or anything. We’re very much known more for what we’re for than what we’re against.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: That’s so good.

Amy Ford: It’s safe to share that you’re not going to tick anybody off. What’s cool is even pro-choice people can’t argue with loving people.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: That’s so good.

Amy Ford: You can’t argue with what we do. We’re just loving people.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: I want you to share the story of the call you got at Berkeley.

Amy Ford: Oh, yeah.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Just share with the listeners real fast. The reason is because I want Christians to get a view of how the outside world sees us.

Amy Ford: For sure. Yeah. I was actually at a pro-life conference and this lady came up to me. She’s a pro-life atheist and her story is in my book. She already gave permission for me to share it. She’s a pro-life atheist and she’s over Pro-Life San Francisco. She said, “Amy Ford, I want you to share about pro-life. I’m going to have pro-life speakers at Berkeley College all day in San Francisco. Will you come share?” I was like, “Uh, you know I talk about the church and God? Is that going to be a problem?” She’s like, “No. It’s not a problem.” She said, “I don’t believe in your God but I believe in the power of your people and if you can get your people to do actually do something this issue wouldn’t be an issue anymore.”

Dr. Jon Chasteen: That right … I don’t believe in your God but I believe in the power of your people.

Amy Ford: Of course, that’s the holy spirit working.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Absolutely.

Amy Ford: Yeah.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Wow.

Amy Ford: That she could recognize that. It’s so true. There’s over 300,000 churches in America. If we all were doing something, we really can make abortion unthinkable.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: If it became unthinkable, how we started the podcast, we have to have the resources, spiritually, emotionally, practically, all of those things in place, right? I love that.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Amy Ford, I love what you’re doing. I love your ministry. You’ve inspired me as a pastor to be more focused in on this and I pray that our listeners are getting the same. What would you say, just as a parting thing to pastors or people that are listening, any parting words? Any last words of encouragement or inspiration or conviction? Whatever you want to say.

Amy Ford: Well, I’ll say one more thing. There was a pastor in Dallas that told me one time that his daughter had an unexpected pregnancy and she had really rebelled and so when she came back, “I’m pregnant. Dad, will you forgive me? Can I come home?” He let her come home. She had a little girl. They did a baby dedication at their church and he said she asked then, “Can I dedicate my baby?” “Yes, of course.” He’s a big pastor in Dallas. He said, “You have …”

Amy Ford: The way they did it is they would say, “Is there anyone here that represent …” They have five families up that day. He says, “Is there anyone here that represents this family and their child? Will you please stand?” People would stand and they pray a prayer over the first family and they did each one.

Amy Ford: Well, then they get to his daughter and her baby. He said, “Is there anyone here that represents this woman and her child?” And something amazing happened, the whole church stood up.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: The whole church. Wow.

Amy Ford: What that must have meant to her to look out at the church and see a whole church rise and say, “We’re with you and we’re not going to kick you when you’re down. We’re going to pick you up when you fall and we’re going to point you back to Jesus.” As a single mom, that meant the world to her. That is the picture of what the church is supposed to look like.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: That’s so good.

Amy Ford: Don’t let the enemy lie to you about, “Oh, it’s going to tick this person off” or this person off. It’s all about loving people. It’s all about that there’s hope and there’s healing, if they’ve had an abortion. If they’re pregnant, you’re a safe place for them to go to, you’re not condoning sin, you’re not rewarding bad behavior, you’re just loving people. Read the prodigal son. Read that story. I always say the baby showers are a big prodigal party. It’s amazing.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Don’t be the one to cast the first stone.

Amy Ford: Right. Exactly. We all can do something and don’t think it applies to everyone else. It applies to you too. Even if you have a church with 80 year olds and a small little senior citizen church, they need grandmas, they need grandpas.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: That’s right.

Amy Ford: We all have a part to play.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: Well, if you’re listening, I pray you’ve been encouraged. I really encourage you to get her book. I encourage you to follow her ministry. I also more so encourage you to activate her ministry in your life and in your local church. Listeners, thank you for listening. We love you. We appreciate you. If you can rate this podcast, if you can make comments, it helps us get the word out. If you can mention it on social media, share it with your friends, we would appreciate you helping us spread the word. We love you. Thank you for leading well, thank you for all that you do in the kingdom of God, and we will see you on the next podcast.

Church InTensionhttps://church-intension.simplecast.com
The Church InTension podcast is a place to have healthy conversations about areas of tension and the intentions of the Church. Hosted by Dr. Jon Chasteen and powered by The King's University and Gateway Church.