Today, Brad Lindemann interviews Roland Warren, President and CEO of CareNet, the nation’s largest network of pro-life pregnancy resource centers. A graduate of Princeton University and the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, Roland is an inspirational servant leader with a heart for Christ and a mind for business. After 20 years in the corporate world (with IBM, Pepsi, and Goldman Sachs), Roland spent 11 years as president of National Fatherhood Initiative before joining Care Net in 2012 as president and CEO. For more information about Roland, including a moving testimony about him and his wife, Yvette, click here. Roland and Yvette are In Business For Life!
Brad: Since 2008, Care Net and its affiliates have saved more than 748,000 babies from abortion through their uniquely inspiring approach. Today's guest on In The Business for Life podcast is Roland Warren, CEO of Care Net, a pregnancy help network, and the creator of that uniquely inspiring phrase. You believe that God downloaded that phrase to you a few years ago and it's had a very significant impact upon the Care Net mission. First of all, welcome to the podcast.
Roland: Well, thank you, Brad, for having me on. I appreciate that and I appreciate what you what you do. It's a pleasure to be with you. Yeah, it’s interesting, God downloaded this phrase of being not just pro-life of being pro-abundant life, and that really has inspired Care Net and the work that we do. From our standpoint, we feel like we're leading a pro-abundant life movement. That's really what we feel like God has really called us to do.
Brad: What does pro-abundant life mean?
Roland: It basically sort of -- it kind of looks at the life issue through a different lens and basically kind of anchoring in Scripture specifically, first with it with the birth of Christ and the model that you see with Mary and Joseph. The fact that this was an unplanned pregnancy from Mary's perspective and what did God do and what was his response there? He did a couple things. Well, first, obviously Mary was inspired to choose life even though from a circumstance perspective, she didn't understand what was going to happen. There was a lot of uncertainty. Despite the uncertainty, she chose life.
Certainly women that are at our pregnancy centers are in a similar dilemma. They have hopes and dreams for their life that did not include a child at this time and in this way and there's a lot of uncertainty. So, what we really try to encourage them to do is to tap into their inner Mary. As Mary said, “Let it be on to me as you have said,” and chose life. It's interesting that God didn't just go to Mary, He also sends an angel to Joseph. Joseph was a man with a plan and that his plan was to put Mary away quietly, which, in many ways was sort of like a cultural abortion, you couldn't put the baby away. So, you put the woman and the baby away.
The angel came to Joseph and said, “I know you're a man with a plan, but I got a new plan for you, man, and it is this, I need you to be a husband to her and a father to the child growing inside of her.” So, what you really see there is that God, in the midst of this unplanned pregnancy, He created a family. A father and mother united in marriage, loving each other, loving their child and loving God. What I was really inspired around was that that is sort of the model what we should be solving for that said. That’s the [inaudible 00:02:52] and envision that we should be solving for in terms of the work that we do. So, that's the first pillar of this pro-abundant life perspective that's really based on John 10:10, where Christ said, “I came that you might have life and have that life abundantly.”
So, that first pillar of how you kind of put that roof on that perspective, which is kind of the pro- abundant life perspective, that first pillar that holds it up is God's designed for a family. Once God gave me that, He’s kind of walked me through that. That Matthew, the first book of the New Testament, right, Matthew, that story of the birth of Christ, to the last chapter of the first book of the New Testament, which is kind of focused on God's call to discipleship. The epiphany I had was that if helping someone who's facing a pregnancy decision is a good work, all good works that Christians do should lead to discipleship.
We don't do good works for the reason that the world does. There’s nothing wrong with that, but we do good works for the reason that Christ did good work so that folks might become disciples of Jesus Christ. The epiphany that I had was that many people don't look at the life issue, Christians specifically don’t look at the life issue, as a discipleship issue, but it is. Water for the thirsty, food for the hungry, clothes for the naked; we understand that as a on ramp to discipleship. But we've taken this compassion for the pregnant and not linked it there, and sort of made it something that’s sort of outside the church. It's in a political realm or whatever realm, but it's not core to the ministry of the church.
So, what God downloaded to me in that construct was that there are two pillars. One is God's designed for a family, and the other is God's call to discipleship. So, when you see someone who's facing a pregnancy decision, as a Christian, your first thought should be, “This person needs to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. The child growing inside of her needs to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. The guy who got her pregnant needs to become a disciple of Jesus Christ.” Then you start framing the issue early as a discipleship issue.
Brad: When you're on the front lines, and you've got a relatively narrow window, particularly if you're dealing with a pro-abortion client, it's a matter of weeks in most cases before that decision is made and executed, when you take this very gospel-centric approach, which I'm certainly a proponent of, that can be a much longer process. Can that sometimes get in the way, Roland, of job number one in the immediate, which is saving that child's life?
Roland: Yeah, it's interesting because I do that in a time, so there's this dichotomy between sort of saving the baby and saving the soul, so to speak. We don't we don't really wrestle with that because our approach is the same approach that Christ used. He offered compassion, hope and help. So, the first thing He did was He led with compassion. He met the person at their point of need. So, with Bartimeus it's like, “What do you want me to do for you?” He says, “I want to see.” So, he met that physical need right there and then you notice that Bartimeus became a disciple, a follower of Christ because when Christ said go, he followed.
So, we see it as a continuum. So, the first thing you do really is you offer that compassion, which gives a person hope and then you give them the help that they need, but we don't stop there. That's the difference between social services and Christianity. Social services just kind of focus on the meeting that physical need, but when you look at Christianity, it's a physical, emotional and spiritual way of viewing things and that's what we do with our work.
So, that's what our folks in the pregnancy centers do. They first meet that person at their point of need, and they wait for the leading of the Holy Spirit for opportunities to have that discussion with someone, always with the mind that we need to be need to be helping to make that connection. The other piece I would add is that all this is sort of integrated in an important way. In pregnancy centers, we can do evangelism. That's all that we can do in that short window that you talked about from conception to birth, but we're not called to make converts, which is what evangelism does. We're called to make disciples, which is what Christianity -- which is what happens. The church is a sea of discipleship.
So, one of the big paradigm shifts is really helping pregnancy centers see that they're the first step in this discipleship process. We’re going to move that person from this evangelistic experience into a discipleship relationship with folks in the church, and that really is the call of the church to make disciples.
Brad: So, from having heard you speak on this before, I know that long-term the church plays a very significant role. Can you briefly just give us a progress report on how you think they're doing?
Roland: Well, interesting. It's sort of a mixed bag. I mean, unfortunately, a lot of churches only see the life issue as something that's important and will provide support to pregnancy centers and things of that nature. But the reality is, most churches do not have a ministry on ramp for someone who's facing a pregnancy decision. Several years ago, we developed a ministry kit called Making Life Disciples in partnership with Dr. Tony Evans, specifically to put a pregnancy care ministry within churches. We did a national survey and we found that 4 out of 10 women who had abortions were attending church at least monthly at the time of their first abortion.
[Inaudible 00:08:21] says that at least 54% of women who have abortions profess to be Catholic or Protestant. So, we have a big issue in the church. When you look at the typical church, and if you say, “Well, listen, if some young lady in your church woke up Sunday morning, took a pregnancy test and it's positive and that's not good news, exactly who she's supposed to talk to given that we have roughly a nine-day window between the time that she confirms her pregnancy too often has an abortion.”
There's not a ministry on ramp. We have a ministry on ramps for all kinds of things, divorce care, grief care, and all kinds of things, but we don't have a ministry on ramp in the church specifically for someone who's facing a pregnancy decision in the church, but also, for someone who needs to transition from a pregnancy center to the church for ongoing support and discipleship. So, we have a goal of about 1,000 churches by the end of 2020 that are becoming making life disciples churches.
What that really means is that you've got a group in your church that's trained specifically to come alongside someone who's facing a pregnancy decision, rather than someone outside the church, who needs to be brought into the body of Christ, and met at their point of need. Or someone inside the church who is having a difficult time applying the gospel of Jesus Christ to the pregnancy that they're facing. So, we're very encouraged in terms of what we've seen. We've seen a lot of churches start to really see this, but the key to this is really framing the life issue primarily as a discipleship issue because when you do that, then you see it as something that's integrated into the church.
Brad: So powerful. So powerful. Thank you for listening when God was speaking to you on that pro-abundant life. I wish I had thought of it. I thought, “Oh my goodness…” Even before I knew fully what you were talking about, I thought, “Yeah, that was a download. I get it. Awesome.” Well, listen as we move on every soldier in God's life army looks forward to the day when a woman's right to choose no longer trumps her child's right to live. Yeah, political activism is not central to Care Net nets mission, why not?
Roland: Well, it's interesting. I kind of look at the life issue is basically two components. One I call compassionate advocacy and the other side I call compassionate care. On the advocacy side, there are lots of amazing organizations who are doing that. But the reality is that the more effective your advocacy, the more care you need. Really, in a lot of ways we have to come to think about do we have the right balance between advocacy in care in the pro-life movement and candidate, at times, I don't think that we really do. Because on the advocacy side, you have a lot of wonderful organizations that are advocating for overturning [inaudible 00:11:10] way or restricting it in some way, shape, or point.
But on the care side, if someone makes a decision like that there's a personal advocacy. So, you're sitting with someone saying, “Listen, I really would encourage you not to have the abortion.” Then the person says, “Well, okay. What should I do?” I mean, you're not going to say, “Hey, will you sign this petition? Will you go to this march and vote for this candidate?” What you're going to say is, “You need care.” On the care side, you have adoption agencies, maternity homes, pregnancy centers, and the church.
So, our role in this battle, so to speak, is on the compassionate care side of this issue. The biggest player the care side actually is the church and that's part of why we see mobilizing the church as a key part of what we do. So, it's really a balancing act between advocacy and care and making sure that we have the right balance in this movement between advocacy and care.
Brad: That makes perfect sense. I appreciate you for clarifying that. In Business for Life, Roland, we strongly encouraged now what we refer to as pro-abundant life business people to support their local pregnancy resource centers. Financial supports are given, but how else can life-minded business people support their center?
Roland: Well, I think one of the key things that we've been encouraging folks to do is to really make sure that your church has a ministry on ramp, and that you're working with your local pregnancy center to the best of your ability to try to make that connection happen between the church. So, that we're not just viewing this issue as sort of baby battles with changing diapers, which is important, don't get me wrong, but it really is about also helping people become disciples of Jesus Christ. The church is the seed of discipleship and we as followers of Christ have to be disciple makers. So, it really is about viewing this issue primarily as a discipleship issue.
I think the other thing too, which is very important, I mean, business people have enormous impact in the church. A lot of times, business books have the ear of the pastor. I mean, frankly, financial supporters and influential folks in the community. If you start having a conversation with your pastor say, “Well, Pastor, how are you thinking about this life issue? Are you thinking about it through a political realm or a material support realm? Or are you thinking about it primarily as a discipleship issue?”
If the pastor is not, then you can help the pastor understand that this is really discipleship is really what this is about. When you think about it, it’s what our faith is about. I mean, our entire faith started with an unplanned pregnancy from a human perspective. So, it's not an extra issue. It is a core issue. I think that business people, in particular, have that influence. A lot of times they get together with pastors, and taking the breakfast and things of that nature. I think they can really play a leadership role in terms of helping every church have a ministry on ramp for this and seeing this as, to your point of, as an issue of our day.
Pastors need to be not in the background, but need to be leading this issue because it's primarily a discipleship issue. Pastors are, obviously, the head of the church, so to speak, in terms of leadership role, and the church is the seed of the discipleship.
Brad: What a great time it is to bring this issue before the leadership in our churches because I think sociologists would tell us that one of the, shall we say, unintended consequences of the current pandemic will be an increase in births seven to nine months from now. It's timely, that we'd be talking to our church leaders about that. Speaking of that pandemic, Roland, centers, I'd be curious on a percentage basis, what percentage of your centers around the country actually shut down versus were able to at least at some stay open at some level during this time? What do you see is some of the positive takeaways from this unprecedented pandemic experience from a pregnancy center perspective?
Roland: Yeah, Brad, it's a great question. We surveyed our pregnancy centers and about 90% of them were able to stay open in some fashion, providing some type of support. Life decisions need life support, and we call volume at our pregnancy decision line, which is a line that we have here at Care Net where we talk to women and men who are facing pregnancy decisions at risk for abortion. We saw an increase in our call volume. So, this is the time really, to your point, where either the abortion clinics were closed or just made a person stop and think and that's really what we wanted to do is kind of get ourselves into the conversation, they're looking for support.
So, we actually saw increased support from that perspective, increased call volume, rather, from that perspective, and I'm sure I pregnancy centers did too. One of the silver linings out of this, frankly, was it really gave us a tremendous opportunity to work more with our network of pregnancy centers around phone consultation, phone coaching. Often with pregnancy centers, a call comes in and really what you're seeking to do is help the person get an appointment as quickly as possible. But what do you do when you don't have that option because of Covid?
Well, pregnancy decision line which we started in 2012 actually provides coaching and tries to coach someone to a life decision. These are long calls. What we were able to do is to get that training to our network of pregnancy centers through a series of webinars that we did that were very, very well received. We think the benefit of that is that our pregnancy centers, they are going to be even better once we're able to folks one on one to do a better job on the phone when they first call in to help move them along to a life decision. Then certainly move them to an appointment, if that's what needed. So, that was just sort of a silver lining of what happened as a result of that.
Brad: Wow. I can't imagine what it's like to be on the end of one of those phone calls. Upon saying goodbye, you know, of course, you don't know what happens after they hang up, but if you've been able to persuade someone to choose life for her baby, that must be a very poignant moment just after saying goodbye on one of those calls. I just can't imagine what that feeling would be. I'm sort of [inaudible 00:18:00] man on those line, Roland?
Roland: Well, all of our coaches right now are women, but we're certainly open to men doing it as well. Frankly, a lot of the folks that we talk to are the father of the baby. A prayer request that I got from one of our coaches because they send them out pretty much daily, just the specific calls they want us to pray for. It was really from a father that she had talked to, and he was panicked because their abortion clinic was not open and he wanted an abortion strongly for his girlfriend. It's interesting, our national survey, the one that found that 4 out of 10 women at risk for abortion were attending church at least monthly. We found also that the father was the most influential in her decision to abort and so we get a lot of calls for men.
It's one of the reasons with the pro-abundant life perspective that's so important because it's God's design for family which you have to be engaging men. Remember, God sent an angel to Joseph to be a husband to her and a father to the child growing inside of her. I think that God was signaling something very specific. There's always been a role for men when it comes to unplanned pregnancy and so we're really trying to encourage that high idea in terms of what we do in terms of the messaging.
Brad: That's such a powerful picture. You’re probably familiar with the same survey given to post aborting women saying that had at least one significant medical in their support system stood with them for the life of their baby, they would not have aborted and that's not limited to the father. That can be their father, a brother, just a close male friend. Bottom line is when men man up it frees women up to follow their God given hearts.
Roland: Absolutely. You may not know this about my story, but that was sort of my story. My girlfriend and I got pregnant when we were undergraduates. I was 20 and she was 19. We were encouraged to abort. We followed the path that we felt that God wanted us to marry and we did. So, we got married. Even though the Student Health Services was very encouraged in that regard, our health plan wouldn't pay anything for the delivery of the child.
I look back at my wife now of 38 years, and she went on to accomplish her dream. She graduated from Princeton, and became a doctor and all these different things. But a key part of that as I look back on it was my willingness to kind of tap into my inner Joseph, to say, “I'll be a husband to you and father to our child growing inside of you.”
So, we definitely want to inspire men to do that as much as possible because they -- I call them the first responders. Typically, he's the first one that knows and how he responds really controls everything. Same way, if I was having a heart attack right now, the first responders, how they respond, whether they left the paddles in the car or whatever, the truck or whatever, determines the trajectory of my life. The same thing happens here. So, when she says, “I'm pregnant,” and then there's the pregnant pause, how he responds determines the whole trajectory here. So, it's been one of the things that we haven't done as much in the pregnancy center movement that we've really encourage certainly since I've joined Care Net, which is that we have to see reaching men and encouraging them and inspiring them to tap into their inner Joseph. It’s not just extra work that we do, but central to what we do because the women say he's the most influential in her decision to abort.
Brad: Oh, my, so much that -- I think there's a book -- and that phrase you just quoted, the pregnant pause, I think you should write that book, Roland.
Roland: That's a good pick.
Brad: I've never [talked about it? 00:22:00] in, shall we say, the original context and that's just so powerful. Well, listen as we wind up just to reminder to our audience, In Business for Life equips and encourages business people to take on winsomely positive stand for the sanctity of human life. Towards that end, Roland, as we wind up our audience is primarily business people, they think in terms of 32nd elevator pitches for their whatever their line of business is. But as they're considering taking a winsomely positive stand for life, what would your 32nd elevator pitch be to them encouraging them to do so?
Roland: Well, I would just encourage them that we can't just be pro-life; we have to be pro-abundant life because that's what Christ was. He said so. His wise statement, John 10:10, said, I came that you might have life and have life abundantly. In order to be pro-abundant life, which is what God calls us to do, that means that you have to be focused on God's design for family, and God's call to discipleship.
I would just challenge any business people out there as you think through that and walk through that to say, “Am I doing that in terms of how I view the life issue? Certainly, if you want to learn more about that you can come to Care Net’s website, which is care-net.org, care-net.org to learn more about that. If you want to find out more about making life disciples, which is the ministry model I talk about, you can go to makinglifedisciples.com in order to learn more there.
Brad: That's awesome. I wish we had more time but that's it for now. Roland, you are a, not only [inaudible 00:23:51], but a life minded hero to me and many others in pro-life movement. Thank you for spending a few minutes with us. We look forward to following the progress of all the pregnancy help centers around the country as we come out of this pandemic. We trust and pray that many lives that have been created during this time will be saved from those wavering during that pregnant pause you so eloquently described. So, Roland, thank you for being with us on the In Business for Life podcast today.
Roland: Well, Brad, thank you so much for having me and also, thank you for just your leadership in terms of inspiring business folks to be involved in the life issue.