Sean McDowell | January 21, 2020

A Pro-Life Message that “Sticks”

Have you ever stepped in gum? While it’s possible to keep walking, every step is a reminder of the gook on the bottom of your shoe. It stays with you.

In her presentation to the Biola University faculty last week, author and speaker Stephanie Gray began by asking how we can make the pro-life message “stick.” Like gum on the bottom of a shoe, how do we make the pro-life message memorable long after an encounter? Answering this question has implications far beyond the abortion debate.

After hearing her Google talk, and having her as a guest on the Think Biblically Podcast, I am convinced she is one of the most effective Christian speakers today. Her blend of heart and mind, as well as grace and truth, is remarkable.

So, how do we make the pro-life message stick? Simple, she says: Look to Jesus. After all, he was the greatest communicator ever. He made his message stick with two key approaches.

First, Jesus asked questions. In the only biblical story of his childhood, Jesus is found listening to the teachers and asking them questions (Luke 2:41-51). Jesus regularly asked others questions too.

How does this apply to conversations about abortion? According to Stephanie, our culture is actually pro-life, even though most people don’t realize it. Thus, the goal of asking questions is to draw out that conviction and help people realize their views about life, and protecting the vulnerable, are naturally at home with the pro-life movement (See Proverbs 20:5).

For instance, she often begins a conversation with a simple question, “Do you believe in human rights.” All say yes. Then she follows up by asking, “Who gets human rights?” The answer, of course, is humans. Then she asks, “When does human life begin?” The scientific answer is unequivocal: A new human being emerges at conception.

Asking questions draws out the existing belief that human rights are for humans, and since human life begins at conception, unborn humans deserve the right to life. A simple case can be made for pro-life by asking questions, and then connecting the dots.

Second, Jesus told stories. The Prodigal Son. The Good Samaritan. The Sower. Jesus told stories to make truth relatable, visualizable, and easier to embrace. Arguments help with understanding, but stories move people to action. As far as making the pro-life message stick, the goal is to tell a story first and then extract the principle from it.

Or, listen carefully to the stories people tell and decipher the underlying principle the person communicates without realizing it. What principle does he or she communicate without awareness? Listen carefully, and then use a story to find common ground between their beliefs and the pro-life position.

Using these two principles can make the pro-life message “stick.” In fact, it can make any message stick. Watch Stephanie use both these tactics masterfully in her presentation at Google.

And then try it yourself.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author, popular speaker, and part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell, TikTok, Instagram, and his blog: