Why Prison Ministry?
My Friday nights are usually not glamorous by the world's standards. Many of my weekends begin by finishing up at work, going home for dinner, and then heading to the Butler County Prison to share the gospel with the inmates. Why would someone who has a million things to do spend time at the jail, especially on a Friday night?
There are really only two reasons:
1) People need Jesus.
Convincing a prisoner that he is a sinner is usually not a hard sell. Most of them know that they have done wrong. They have broken the law. They admit that they've committed some horrible crimes. They've wasted their lives in various sinful addictions. In some cases, they've ruined the lives of other people. They've experienced great hurt and brokenness in relationships. Their lives have been shattered by the effects of their own sin. Many of the men aren't even sure if anyone loves them or cares about them anymore.
There are obviously occasions when some inmates come to the Bible study for the wrong reasons. But often times there are guys there who understand that they are broken and they want to be fixed. They are lonely. They are confused. They want answers and they aren't sure where to turn. They've heard advice from so many different groups - 'This Anonymous' and 'That Anonymous'. Ten steps to 'this' and twelve steps to 'that'. While some of these groups may provide some help to the prisoners, what they really are missing is the life-changing power that is only found in Jesus Christ Himself.
In their own words, what the prisoners really want is to be delivered from the things that cause them such anguish in their lives. Jesus Christ is that Deliverer that sinners so desperately long for. God has called upon those of us who know the truth to share it with the people who do not.
2) I need Jesus.
Doing prison ministry forces me to study God's Word. Putting lessons together for the prison bible study takes discipline. When I know that someone else is depending on me to explain something to them from the Bible, it creates a situation that requires diligence in my own personal Bible study.
Establishing a relationship with Jesus that has vitality and life takes time and effort spent in His Word and in prayer on a regular basis. That's what the prison ministry does for me personally: I need Jesus every bit as much as a criminal behind bars; and spending time building relationships with the inmates is futile if I am not drawing from the endless well of grace and mercy myself. Over the years, this single greatest cause of my growth as a Christian can be attributed to my involvement in prison ministry.
Prison ministry has many disappointments. Sometimes you just never know if you're getting through. Many times an inmate will leave the jail and you don't know whether he's going to make it out there or not. But there is also great reward. When you see the light bulbs going on... when people get it... when you know that they understand what you are saying from God's Word... they are getting Jesus. And so am I.
For more information about prison ministry and how you can be involved, email the church at firstname.lastname@example.org