Winning hearts, not arguments: One man’s transformation is saving lives

Winning hearts, not arguments: One man’s transformation is saving lives (Beyond the Pews for Life)

The darkness of abortion is enough to stir up the flames of anger in anyone who values life. It’s a natural response, but catapulting judgment doesn’t help the pro-life cause. 

Just ask John Lewis.

He’s the founder of Beyond the Pews for Life, an organization dedicated to saving unborn lives. And his story is an important one that can inspire others. Maybe even you.

In the beginning 

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Lewis fell on the pro-life side of the abortion debate during the early 90s when he was in high school. But it wasn’t until the fall of 2010 that he began to get involved in the movement more directly. 

“My wife, Laura, noticed that 40 Days for Life was hosting an event outside of a Planned Parenthood in Memphis,” he recalled. “She mentioned the possibility of us going and I readily agreed.”

With their four small children in tow, the couple, based out of Lexington, Tenn., attended. Lewis held a sign that said “Real Men Are Pro-Life” on it. 

“There were many responses on both sides of the issue, and I went home personally feeling as if I had truly taken a stand in the fight for saving the unborn,” he said. 

“In retrospect, I remember looking at the women going in and out of the clinic, many of whom were certainly going in for abortions, and wondering why we weren’t trying to speak with them,” he added.

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For a time, his conscience was clear; he had protested. But as the years passed, something gnawed at him. Holding a sign didn’t seem to be doing much. 

“A nagging voice in the back of my heart was saying, ‘There has to be something else that can be done,’” Lewis said.

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Headed to Nashville 

In the fall of 2020, Lewis discovered videos of a Nashville man standing in front of abortion facilities, appealing to the women headed inside to kill their unborn children. The man in the video was able to talk one into changing her mind. 

Inspired, Lewis sought the man in Nashville out and the two met up. 

“When I arrived and began to take in the situation, it was not what I had expected,” he recalled. “I saw people showing love and compassion for the women going in and out instead of hurling judgment alone.”

The loving response confused him. 

“My attitude had typically been to make as many pro-abortion people as mad as I could in the short time, they were traveling from their cars to the clinic doors, and as such, were practically a captive audience,” he said. “This was a totally different approach. On the way home that day, I heavily contemplated what I had seen, heard, and felt.”

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That experience planted a conviction in his heart that would evolve into a “fiery passion,” he said, involving a new approach. 

“Incidentally, this ‘new approach’ would closely mirror the same one Jesus had taken nearly 2,000 years earlier,” he said, “and would be antithetical to what I had, up until that time, considered the proper way to be.”

“Predictably, I soon began to make regular trips to this same location,” he said. “What I witnessed continued to reshape my Gospel paradigm.”

But one of his most powerful and life-altering lessons was still in front of him.

You are never going to win a heart

It started when a man dropped off a young woman, whom Lewis believed to be the gentleman’s daughter or granddaughter, at Planned Parenthood. That man began driving out of the parking lot, but then he stopped to speak with a pro-life volunteer standing in front of Lewis.

And then Lewis heard the gentleman who had dropped off the young woman say she was not there for an abortion. 

“The statement was then made that he should not be patronizing Planned Parenthood for any reason because they were killing children,” Lewis recalled. “He quickly shot back, ‘Well, they are not my children so why should I care?’”

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Up until this point, Lewis had only been holding a sign—with zero participation in the conversation he was witnessing. 

But that man’s statement changed all that, as Lewis began to feel anger overtaking him. 

“I shoved my way past those who were talking to him and quickly began to shout at him words that I now cannot remember,” Lewis recalled. “Suffice it to say that they were not made, in any remote sense, with a spirit of love.”

The man looked directly at Lewis, flipped him the bird, and spun away. And that’s when the volunteer, who had been attempting to talk gently to the man, turned to Lewis and made a life-changing statement: 

“You just have to remember that we are not here to win arguments. We are here to win hearts and you are never going to win a heart like that.”

And then the volunteer pointed out the sign Lewis held, which featured the words BABIES ARE MURDERED HERE!!, stating that the sign and the temperament Lewis had displayed were not a good recipe for converting hearts. 

This upset Lewis for two reasons.

“One was that I had spent quite a bit of money having that vinyl sign made and the other, more basic issue was that it had simply dented my pride,” he said. “On the way home that day and for days afterward I contemplated what he had said.”

And that was when John Lewis knew he needed to change. He made more regular trips to Planned Parenthood, but gradually the new mindset began to take hold. And people, both men and women, responded. 

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“The next few months were filled with interactions that were quite different from the ones I had initially intended on experiencing,” said Lewis. “I began to see lives changed, not the least of which was mine.”

Tweet This: You have to remember that we are not here to win arguments. We are here to win hearts.

A birth 

After several months of going back and forth to Nashville, Lewis began to feel an emotional pull toward the place where his sidewalk ministry first began: Memphis. 

“I knew if I stepped out by myself, I would need financial support to help the women I would encounter there,” he said. “As my wife and I were contemplating what to call the new ministry I heard a friend say, ‘I just wish people would be more willing to go beyond the pews of their church.’”

It was a fateful comment that would stick with Lewis; he created a non-profit and named it Beyond the Pews for Life

“It is a registered 501c3 organization and exists to help people, ultimately, come in contact with Jesus through sidewalk ministry,” he said. “We not only talk to women about options other than abortions, we walk with them in whatever capacity is needed.”

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This includes helping them financially, spiritually, and emotionally. 

“If they require contact every day that is what we do,” he said. “If they need new tires on their car, we put them on. If they need someone to talk to at 2:30 in the morning, we are available to take the call or text.”

All in all, the organization doesn’t exist to wag a finger at women and tell them not to have abortions. 

“We help them to change their physical, emotional, and spiritual environments and by doing so we find that we are changed and brought closer to Jesus as well,” Lewis said. “Our involvement lasts well beyond the initial contact and indeed goes well past the birth of the baby.”

And that’s how John Lewis learned to win hearts, not arguments. Today, he is still out there winning. About 60 hearts at the time of this publishing.

You see, that’s how many babies Beyond the Pews has saved so far. 

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Lewis, who sometimes goes by Pastor John, given his zeal for shepherding souls to Christ, is still out there working, conducting sidewalk counseling three days a week. 

“For every hour we spend on the sidewalk, we spend two doing other things directly related to the ministry,” he said.

And that ministry is not limited to only Tennessee. They have also rescued unborn children in Mississippi, Illinois, and Colorado. 

To learn more about Beyond the Pews for Life, visit

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