Saturday, June 18, 2005

My Visit to Learn About Prison Ministry

My eyes have been opened a bit. All these years of being in churches and never once have I learned of anything to do with prisoners. And let me tell you, the harvest is RIPE, but the workers are FEW. God is working in prisons in incredible ways. Why hasn't the church made a priority of touching these people? We are sent to make sinners free from their pasts, why not prisoners?

I almost even began to believe that though it was not good these people are in prison, it might just be God's perfect plan to show them the truth of God's grace that reaches beyond any sin one can commit. Amazing stories come out of these jails about men and women who have no fathers, but find THE father in heaven. God is good we just have to remember not to get in his way.

Also, are we, as churches, truly willing to be safe places for ex-offenders (yes, even sex offenders) to attend a be apart of a community of faith? How would we welcome these people if they came into our churches? Would we put our faith in them and in what God can do through them or would we be too worried about our children that we wouldn't let them near? Money seems to be a safe way to keep people from close relationship. We want to help people financially at times which is good, but sometimes I think it is a safe way to help without the strings of a real relationship with someone different than us.

This workshop was good, but it reminded me of some of my poorer experiences in Churches of Christ. I have been guilty at times of arguing for Churches of Christ and our positions in the "Lord's Church." As I sat in on classes and lectures I sensed a bit of this exclusivist bend. The last thing prisoners need is an indoctrination into a community that will only let you belong if you believe in uniformity with them. Rather than the behave, believe, belong model we have lived by in our churches, we need to be a community that makes sure people belong before they have to believe and behave. Sure, there are probably prison ministries out there that teach hurtful theology that is wrong, but if we can work with another denomination to further the work of Christ on earth in the prison ministry or anywhere else for that matter, we must do so as long as Christ is preached.

My eyes have been opened and my ears touched. The question is, "How will my legs and arms carry out the purpose God has called all of us to: sharing in God's mission to the lost?" That is the question we must be about.

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