By Jonathon Van Maren
R.C. Sproul, the well-known Reformed author, pastor, and founder of Ligonier Ministries, passed away at the age of 78 on December 14, 2017. A life-long advocate for classical apologetics, a renowned speaker, and the author of dozens of books, obituaries describing his life achievements are pouring in from every corner.
I only heard R.C. Sproul in person once, at his church in St. Andrews in Sanford, Florida. I was there with a group of pro-lifers, on our annual outreach trip to university campuses. I don’t remember much of what he said—I was fixated on one pew, near the front of the church, where John Barros sat in the middle of a long line of young women, many of them cradling young babies and lugging car seats. Unless you knew John’s story, you wouldn’t realize that he had met those young women in front of an abortion clinic in Orlando, and pleaded with them for the lives of their children. They had listened to him.
John Barros spends all day, every day in front of the Orlando Women’s Center, calling out to the women as they walk from the parking lot to the front door, begging them to reconsider. His church, St. Andrews, is completely behind his efforts, and has commissioned him to offer the women and girls whatever assistance they need. My colleagues and I have joined him several times when we are on our outreach tour, and we have been privileged to see women turn away from having their babies killed at the very last moment. They are always deeply moving and emotional days. They are also what every day looks like for John Barros. He’s been in front of the clinic for seven years. Around thirty women per month change their mind and keep their babies—almost 1,000 in all.
Those who join him in front of the clinic express awe at the work being done there, but John will never hear a word of it. Always, he reminds everyone that he is simply a tool in God’s hands, and that he is only being used to save babies from destruction. Always, he is so thankful for those who support his work, whether it be from afar or those who join him on the frontlines. His late pastor, R.C. Sproul, was one of the biggest supporters of his ministry and shared his passion for saving babies from abortion. I asked John to share a few stories about what R.C. Sproul meant to him, and to the pro-life movement.
What did R.C. Sproul’s support mean for your ministry?
R.C.’s support for my Ministry is very important. Through R.C., Pastor Burk, the elders and deacons of St. Andrews, real care for the people that come to the clinic will continue to happen. It is so refreshing to know that everything I tell them we can do for them my Church will back.
Did he ever join you in front of the abortion clinic?
R.C. was the busiest man I will ever meet. Pastoring St. Andrews and overseeing Ligonier Ministries and Reformation Bible College was a formidable task, but he came down to serve at the abortion mill with his son R.C. Sproul Jr. After his health had begun to fail, he wanted to come a lot but couldn’t. He loved seeing the Gospel preached outside at “The Gates Of Hell.”
Every morning R.C. and his Dear Wife Vesta would pray for me and the Ministry down there. He would follow all my Facebook posts [describing what was going on at the abortion clinic each day] and would get on me if I didn’t post to let him know what Jesus did that day.
He loved the ladies that chose life and would come to St. Andrews, as well as other addicts and prostitutes that would come. He Loved this ministry and would encourage the church to come down. Eventually, St. Andrews “adopted” this clinic. There isn’t an hour that they are open that someone from St. Andrews isn’t there.
I remember when I went before the elders to share what was going on down at the clinic. I put nine pictures on a sheet of paper. R.C. asked, “What is this, John?” I said, “Sir, I know you all have lots to do, and just thought if someone would point to a picture I could tell you what Jesus did.” Well, one elder picked one and I told the story. Another asked and I told that story. I began to pick up my stuff and leave when R.C. said, “John, I want to hear all of them!” After I went through the rest of the stories, he thanked me for coming. I looked at him and said, “Sir you have a pretty good thing going on around here, but I think I’ve got you beat by a mile.” He smiled and said, “I think you do, John. I think you do.”
What sorts of things did R.C. Sproul do to rescue babies at risk of death from abortion?
Ending abortion was his passion. He wrote a definitive book on it. He had a DVD series on it. Besides helping me, he supported two pregnancy care clinics. He wanted a group of the ladies at St. Andrews to love and take care of the ladies that chose life and their families. He preached against abortion regularly.
So many people, some very well-known, over the years have had a relationship with him. I am just a guy that stands in front of an abortion clinic. I didn’t even deserve to know him, much less have him love me. He is the greatest pastor I could ever have met. He always wanted to know what more he could do. He had me speak before 5,000 People at a Ligonier Conference. He had me do videos, and had me do a “Renewing Your Mind” radio program. He had me be interviewed for “Tabletalk” Magazine. Me, just a nobody…
He wanted the word out to get people in front of clinics all over the country. Well, they came. Over the last few years, between 100 and 200 pastors and elders have come to learn how to do this type of ministry. Thank you for asking me how R.C. fought abortion. He was the bravest, most loving, caring, wisest man I have ever known. By just reading my Facebook posts about what was going on in front of the clinic, he was able to coach me.
Like so many I miss him terribly. It feels like there is a hole in my heart. We should do what he would want. Put on our boots, and get back to the frontlines. Where-ever your frontline is…
For anyone interested, my book on The Culture War, which analyzes the journey our culture has taken from the way it was to the way it is and examines the Sexual Revolution, hook-up culture, the rise of the porn plague, abortion, commodity culture, euthanasia, and the gay rights movement, is available for sale here.