By Rhett Burns
I went to minister at our local abortion clinic for the first time like a safe and respectable Christian: I showed up to pray outside the entrance as part of the 40 Days for Life campaign last fall. One of the ladies serving at the gate kindly explained their ministry. They prayed, handed our literature, and tried to stop cars pulling in and point them to the crisis pregnancy center across the road. Then, she pointed at a big gold extended cab F250 truck parked just up the road.
“That’s Matt,” she said. “He stands on top of the hill and preaches.”
Her voice betrayed neither approval nor disapproval, just a noted difference. Matt preached. On a ladder. Via a loud speaker that boomed over the twelve-foot tall privacy fence that surrounds the clinic.
I didn’t get to hear him preach that day. He was too busy hauling wood away that pro-abortion demonstrators had used to block the makeshift stairs cut into the bank that Matt used to climb the hill from the road to the fence.
But I would soon.
MATT BROCK is not a preacher. Or, at least, he wasn’t. He’s a Marine. Two tours in Afghanistan left him with what is most easily described as PTSD. Bouts with depression and anxiety followed. Doctors put him on medicine, but that only plunged him deeper into despair.
He turned to alcohol. A bottle of vodka a day seemed to do the trick for a while, but in time everything spiraled out of control. Eventually, he would medically retire from the Marine Corps.
A conversation with his father-in-law, an associate pastor at a Baptist church in South Carolina, turned his life around. On one visit, Matt confided his deepest struggles with him.
“Matt, have you ever really heard the Gospel?” he asked.
He had grown up in church, knew all the Sunday School stories, and had heard the Gospel hundreds of times. But that night, as his father-in-law started with Adam and Eve and patiently explained Matt’s powerlessness to overcome sin on his own and pointed him to Christ, God saved him and set his life on a new course.
BACK IN SOUTH CAROLINA Matt and his family settled into a new life. He volunteered at his church and became very interested in theology. An interest in eschatology led him to watching Jeff Durbin videos on YouTube, which is where he was introduced to the fight to end abortion.
Very interested, but not knowing what to do about it, Matt reached out to Zack Morgan from Apologia Church. Zack graciously answered all his questions about abortion ministry, but the conversation boiled down to this:
“He said, ‘you know the Gospel, right?’ I said yes. ‘You have a Bible, right?’ I said yes. ‘You know where the abortion clinic is, right?’ Again, yes. Zack said, ‘you just need to go out there and preach the Gospel from your Bible. I’m here for you, call me if you have questions. But if God’s laying it on your heart, you just need to go.’”
So, he did.
MATT MET UP with another couple who would go to minister at the abortion clinic on some Saturdays.
“I will never forget that first drive to the abortion clinic. I had to stop at every QT gas station on the way to use the bathroom. My nerves were shot. I was so nervous.”
Steve, a native New Zealander, set up a ladder and preached the glories of the Gospel with love and compassion that morning. Matt was hooked.
He bought his own ladder, microphone, and speaker, and began to go out every Saturday to preach.
Before long, however, he realized that this clinic didn’t just kill babies on Saturdays. They performed abortions six days per week. But no one was there Monday through Friday to preach the Gospel.
That fact weighed heavy.
A year earlier, Matt and his wife opened a furniture store. Business was booming in 2019. Their bank account had never been as full. The store was also fruitful for ministry, as three or four guys per week would come by for one-on-one discipleship.
But he still couldn’t sleep. Forty minutes down the road they were killing babies. And no one was preaching to them.
Matt began to fast and pray.
MATT’S SITUATION is unique because his medical retirement from the Marines provides him with some passive income. Even though the furniture store was doing well, he didn’t have to do it.
“I would wake up on a random weekday, and I knew that as I was getting ready to go out and make money, there were babies that were going to be murdered today. And I have the time and the ability to go there and try to stop it.”
When the lease for the store came up in March 2020, he didn’t renew it. Instead, he got into that big pickup truck and drove forty minutes to Greenville.
While the world shut down for Covid-19, God ramped up the Gospel advance outside the Greenville Women’s Clinic. In the last seven months, at least forty-three babies have been saved through the preaching of God’s Word.
But it’s not all talk. Baby showers, financial help with rent or utilities, and referrals for free medical services are among the practical ways local believers serve families who choose life. Still, discipleship through God’s Word and God’s church remains the primary goal.
One family, pregnant with twins, drove from over an hour away to abort their children. But hearing the Gospel, they changed their minds. Matt’s Facebook friends contributed $1200 to stock their pantry and provide other necessities, and he connected them with a faithful church in their hometown where they are worshipping each week and meeting with the pastor for a weekly Bible study through the book of John.
A few weeks ago, a lady pulled up to the gate. She saw Matt and another man named Jack. “Y’all were out here a year ago when I came one Saturday,” she said. “I left without talking to anybody. But y’all were preaching, and that’s why I got this one-month old baby in my backseat.”
JACK IS IN HIS MID-70s. A veteran of the construction industry, he started bringing his scaffolding out to the clinic on Saturdays to preach from during retirement. When alone, he would haul that metal scaffolding up and down the hill by himself. Anything to get the Gospel out.
Matt and Jack teamed up to cover the weekdays for about six months, but began to pray for more laborers last fall.
Wouldn’t you know it, God answered. Every day is covered by different preachers. Andrew, Austin, Bob, Matt, Jack. Sisters like Allura and Mare hold signs, stop cars, and call out to ladies with love. Ordinary believers with love for God and neighbor who are willing to go out and proclaim the kingship of Christ. More and more churches are getting involved.
Every month approximately 600-700 people hear the Gospel while waiting in the parking lot or waiting room of the clinic. They hear God’s law and God’s Gospel. They hear the attributes of God and the grand narrative of the Bible. They hear pleas to not murder their babies and exhortations toward holiness. Men are challenged to protect their children. All are met with compassion and offers of help.
Some take it, some don’t. Some walk away from abortion, most don’t. Some shoot up the middle finger, some argue, some cuss, some want to fight. Most ignore.
But all hear the Gospel.
GOD HAS BLESSED and grown the abortion clinic ministry in Greenville, SC. More and more churches are getting involved in sending members to preach and pray outside the clinic. Families are receiving help, and babies are being saved.
A bill to end abortion and permanently defund Planned Parenthood in South Carolina was filed recently, and Jeff Durbin will be headlining a rally at the Statehouse on May4 to promote the bill.
But those first few days carrying that ladder up the hill in March were lonely. And if Matt the Marine is honest, a bit scary.
But God can do a lot with a little bit of obedience.
Rhett Burns (@rhett_burns) is an associate pastor and small business entrepreneur living in Greenville, SC with his wife and four kids. He publishes Get Your House In Order, a newsletter about building a household that lasts.
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