Why is Ministry Inside of Prison Important?

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First of all, I would like to ask another question.  Why is ministry anywhere important? There are so many places we can go and so many things that we can do. Why do we do it?  The answer is simple, but also profound.  We do it because of our faith, to share Christ, to heal the wounded and brokenhearted, to serve others as Christ came to serve, to be ambassadors of the Kingdom in this dark and fallen world.  Jesus called us feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to take in the stranger, to clothe the naked, to visit the sick, and yes, even to visit those locked up in the prisons. And you know what? He didn’t qualify it. He didn’t say to clothe and feed the man who did everything right, but is just down on his luck.  He didn’t say to take in the stranger if he speaks and dresses well, maybe smells good.  He didn’t say to care for the sick or those in prison if, you know, maybe it’s not their fault they are sick, or because they were falsely accused or wrongfully convicted.  He made it very plain and without conditions.  When we do these things, these kind things and thoughtful things, to the least of these (the homeless, the vagabond, the HIV patient, the convicted criminal, etc.) we are doing it to Him.

 

Jesus Christ came to the earth, not to condemn, but to bring life.  Not to steal, kill, destroy, but to give life, and life more abundantly.  Speaking of those in prison, they have each allowed the devil (our true enemy) to affect their lives and the lives of others in horrendous ways.  It was the devil’s plan to steal their hopes and dreams, the devil’s goal to kill their aspirations and ambitions, and the devil’s delight to destroy their reputations and their futures.  But that was not Jesus’ plan, or goal, or delight.  He came to give life and life more abundantly.  Even to the prisoner.  Paul said in Philippians 2:4-5 “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”  We are to have the mind of Christ in all things. What He cares about, we should care about.  His goals become our goals, His desires become our desires.  Christ cares for the orphans, so I do.  Christ cares for the homeless, so I do.  Christ cares for the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, so I do too.  And Christ cares for the prisoner…so, what do I do? I do, too.

 

You know, I understand more that most the pain and suffering that many of these men and women have caused.  But I also know that, but for God’s grace, I could be there, too.  And so could most of you.  One bad day, one bad hour, even one bad moment, and you could be the prisoner.  Most of us just didn’t get caught.  But our wonderful Lord, He didn’t come to condemn us, but to save us.  He didn’t come to point a finger at our transgressions and sins and iniquities. He didn’t come to cast us away.  He came to free us from those weights that so easily beset us.  He came to break the chains of bondage and darkness, to set us free from the prisons we have found ourselves in.  To cleanse our sin.  His mercy renewing every day.  The men and women incarcerated are no different from us.  They desperately need our love, our compassion, and our commitment to share with them the love of Christ, the love that was shown to us.  We need ministry in prison, now more than ever before.  We need to be lights in dark places and prisons are very dark places.  I can bring my candle, my little light, and I can banish a little bit of that darkness.  But if you will come with me, and maybe bring a few friends, we can put our lights together and, pretty soon, if enough of us come, those dark places will be no more.  We will light every nook, cranny, and corner of those prisons for Jesus.  Jesus is encouraging us to let our lights shine.

8/24/16 Prayer Request

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “ ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “ ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ Acts 17:24-28

Prayer is a life-changing experience and a key component for all of the ministry at St. Clair. It is about embracing God and ourselves in all our complexity and mystery and realizing even when it seems we are all alone that God is actually not far from us. It is through prayer that we feel our way toward God and find Him. Prayer generates hope. Because of this we meet in the chapel several times a week for prayer!

This week I want to request the you lift up our weekly Prayer Meetings. These prayer meetings normally have about 25 men in attendance, who cry out on behalf of the violence in the camp, administration, the church, the unsaved, illness, injustices, and sins in their own lives. These men look forward each week for these Prayer Meetings and have recently often been disappointed due to security canceling it. Please pray that these men will be able to gather and pray this week! Pray that they would seek God and their life’s would continue to change and that their hope in God would be strengthened.

Episode 012: Jason Swindle, A Criminal Defense Attorney’s View On The Power Of Prison Ministry

In this twelfth episode of the Detention to Redemption podcast, I interview Jason Swindle a Criminal Defense Attorney from Georgia. Mr. Swindle shares with us his passion for his job as a criminal defense attorney and how that through his interaction with offenders he has seen the importance of prison ministry. Though not personally involved in prison ministry he has seen the effect of ministry behind the walls and shares with us a testimony of an individual that he was able to help. Mr. Swindle’s relationship with Christ gives him great insight and wisdom on our conversation of prison ministry and I believe you will be blessed by this interview.

As a Criminal Defense Attorney, Mr. Swindle has authored “The Verdict Is In: Fix the Criminal Justice System.” This book suggests that both the ideal of justice and that of rehabilitation have been lost, but there is hope. Right now, the Criminal Justice system costs too much, it punishes those with drug problems and mental illness who commit crimes, but doesn’t offer them the help that they need. “The Verdict Is In: Fix the Criminal Justice System” offers innovative new ideas and a fresh vision for fixing the broken criminal justice system in an effort to get this important national conversation started. “The Verdict Is In” pulls back the curtain of the legal system itself for the uninitiated to see “how it really works in real life.” You can buy this book by clicking here.  

You will be blessed and challenged by this interview so I encourage you to listen to it and share this podcast with your friends.

SHOW NOTES

To Kill a Mockingbird

Swindle Law Group

The Power of Prison Ministry

The Life Recovery Bible

 

If you have been touched by the music that is shared during this podcast you can buy an album that was written and recorded inside of prison at http://anothercaptivefree.com/

8/17/16 Prayer Request

Psalms 121  I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?  My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.  He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

We do ask for your prayers as we continue to serve in prison ministry. Pray that Jeremy would continue to foster healthy relationships with the inmates by sharing encouragement and friendship, while understanding the urgency of sharing the Gospel message with those who are not yet following Christ. Pray that he would help nurture personal growth and holiness to those who have surrendered their lives to following Christ, by mentoring them and offering spiritual guidance. Pray as he continues to teach and facilitate Biblical studies and practical life skills, to have an emphasis on preparing inmates for successful re-entry into society and a deeper communion with our God. Pray for our family as we continue seeking to serve God, wherever He places us!

The Power of Prison Ministry

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This following well written article by Attorney Jason W. Swindle Sr. and was originally posted on the blog at the Swindle Law Group. It highlights the power of prison ministry and how that the Word of God has a positive impact on many inmates. I recently did a podcast with Jason Swindle which will be shared next week on this website as well as on Itunes, Stitcher Radio, and Soundcloud at “Detention to Redemption.

Over the years, I have noticed a number of organizations going into jails and prisons for various reasons. One of the most important and powerful groups is the variety of prison ministries who take the message of Christ to inmates.

These groups of selfless believers represent many types of denominations and faiths. I am most familiar with the Christian groups who bring the Word to local jails and prisons in the west Georgia area. Most of the men and women who do this service work do not want to be mentioned or given any recognition. They provide ministry to inmates because Jesus advocated this type action.

Over 2000 years ago, before Jesus commissioned all of His disciples to make disciples of all nations, he commissioned a number of John the Baptist’s followers to carry on a prison ministry to their teacher. They were to answer the question whether Jesus was the Promised One or whether they should expect someone else.

With the commission went the message: “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me (Luke 7:18-23).” In that message there was, and is, also “freedom for the prisoners (Luke 4:18).” Jesus is the Son of God.

While most prison ministries are conducted by Christians who are not incarcerated, the Bible speaks of the importance of ministry within the walls of confinement.

Perhaps the most well-known prison ministry conducted by a prisoner was that of the Paul. Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament, was imprisoned and under a sentence of death. Notwithstanding his situation, he was filled with the Holy Spirit, ministered to other inmates and guards, and wrote some of the most important letters in the Bible.
Acts 16:25 records a prison ministry carried on by prisoners: “About midnight Paul and
Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.”

That event in Philippi also marked the first occasion, but not the last, when a prison official was also converted by the gospel preached in prison: “He and all his family were baptized…. He was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family (Acts 16:33).”

Based on my experience, I have also seen many inmates “find God” while they are incarcerated. Some of these people used religion or perceived spirituality as a vehicle to try to get out of jail or receive a lighter sentence. These folks are easily identified by most judges and prosecutors. The fake “finding religion” does not work very well when planning a way to responsibly handle a criminal case.

However, the Word of God does have a positive impact on many prisoners and inmates who receive the Word in a genuine way. Oftentimes, a trip to the county jail is the first time a person has ever heard or read the Bible.
While it would be impossible to determine a prison ministry’s impact on the rate of recidivism, I can personally testify that I have seen many of my clients change their lives for the better by receiving Jesus Christ as their Savior. Prison ministry does help individuals and society as a whole.

Lastly, I just want to thank those folks who spoke to me about their work with prison ministries. Your work may go unnoticed in society. However, you are fulfilling one of the great commissions of Jesus Christ.

God Bless.

8/10/16 Prayer Request

Acts 26:18 To open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

Pray for the many lost men at St. Clair Prison who are walking in darkness this week. Pray that the Lord would draw them to Himself in a mighty way, revealing to each man his sin, and leading each man to repentance and faith in Christ. Pray that I and the other believers (staff and inmates) would be a beacon of light throughout the prison system.

Episode 011: JR Woodgates, The Former Voice Of America’s Life Changing Story Of Redemption

In this eleventh episode of the Detention to Redemption podcast, I interview J.R. Woodgates from Washington D.C. Mr. Woodgates is a former radio personality for the U.S. Government working for the Voice of America for 27 years. Although a lot of things were going well for Mr. Woodgates in 2006 he spent nine months inside of a federal prison in North Carolina. He explains how that he found an incredible depth of Christian friendship and fellowship inside of prison like nothing he has ever seen on the outside. Mr. Woodgates already a Christian, shares how that prison was a sanctifying time for him and how he was very involved in the ministry inside of prison when he was incarcerated. Mr. Woodgates has a passion for the incarcerated and is now an advocate for restorative justice, he wants prisoners everywhere to learn about and experience the relief, restoration and empowerment they can enjoy as repentant, forgiven, and blessed sons of the Father.

510zioJQlRL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Being affected by his stay in prison, Mr. Woodgates has authored “Daily Light on the Prisoner’s Path.” “Daily Light on the Prisoner’s Path” is a comprehensive Christian resource available for men behind bars.  Pat Nolan the Director for the Center For Criminal Justice Reform and the former Vice President of Prison Fellowship says that this book is a treasure “This book inspires, consoles and helps focus the reader on his relationship with God. To a prisoner it will be a lifeline. Prisons are very dark places; the Devil owns the corridors. However, this book will shine brightly and give hope to prisoners.” You can buy this book by clicking on its picture.

You will be blessed and challenged by this interview so I encourage you to listen to it and share this podcast with your friends.

SHOW NOTES

J.R. Woodgates’s Website,  Prisoners Path Books

J.R. Woodgate’s Email, prisonerspathbooks@gmail.com

Books Recommended by J.R. Woodgates

Power Evangelism

The Super Natural Power Of A Transformed Mind

BloodLines

 

If you have been touched by the music that is shared during this podcast you can buy an album that was written and recorded inside of prison at http://anothercaptivefree.com/

8/3/16 Prayer Request

Today let’s lift up the needs of the children and families of the incarcerated as they struggle to rebuild their lives in the absence of their loved one. Pray that they would know that God loves them unconditionally and that they would experience the abiding presence of God in their lives. Pray that they will experience God’s comfort in their loneliness and that they would have wisdom and strength for raising their children during this difficult time. Pray for the relationships within the families, that they will be able to maintain an appropriate level of contact with the one who is incarcerated and experience reconciliation in strained or broken relationships. Pray that churches in communities across the nation will sense God’s calling to reach out to these families who are struggling.

Know God, Not the Plan

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For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

When working in ministry you are asked questions sometimes that are rather difficult to answer. Over the last several years I’ve asked many of these questions, “How long will you remain in ministry?” What if God had something else for you?” and “What is God’s plan for your future?” Answers to these questions aren’t always easy for several reasons. First, because ministry never ends, yes we may stay in certain areas of ministry for a season but as a Christian wherever you are and whatever you do, the need and importance of ministry is still there. The second reason these questions are difficult for me to answer is that I don’t know God’s plan. God has led me to have a passion and love for the incarcerated and I chose to follow His leading so that I may glorify Him through disciping men and equipping them to make disciples among the incarcerated. I can plan and map out the way in front of me if I want but it still only remains my plan. I can speculate changes in my future but it still only remains my speculations. There is one thing I don’t have and that God’s master plan.

Throughout my past I have heard numerous sermons about finding the grand and glorious plan that God has already mapped out for you.  If only we can figure out God’s plan, then we’ll be set.  But I have not found that to be true in my life. In fact out of curiosity I Googled “God’s plan” one night and had hundreds of results that came up, all about focusing, finding, and following God’s plan for you. I have come to this conclusion at this point in my life that God isn’t going to tell me His plan.  God’s plan is on a need-to-know basis, and apparently, He thinks I don’t need to know.

So does following God cause uncertainty at times in our lives? Yes and No! Yes it may cause uncertainty at times but it should never cause us to distrust God. The problem for many of us adults is that we don’t really trust God.  If Jesus himself drove up to our house and said, “Get in,” we’d have some questions we would want answered. “Where are we going?” “How long is this going to take?” “What do I need?” We would waste a bunch of time trying to figure out what Jesus had planned before we would agree to go along.  And that is how most of us live our lives.  We are obsessed with finding things out, especially as they relate to us and our lives.  We want to know where we are headed, how we are getting there, how long it will take, and what will we need. And we won’t budge until we have all those questions answered.

The secret to finding out God’s plan for your life isn’t to keep asking God to tell you the plan. It’s to get in the car and go.  It doesn’t matter where God is taking you.  Just go. The reality is none of us know where God is taking us.  And our obsession with knowing the plan is just our obsession with control.  We want to know so we can feel more in control of our destinies. God has never promised to tell us the plan for our lives.  He has only promised that if we want to, we can know Him. The reason most of us are obsessed with knowing God’s plan is because we don’t really know Him.  Faith is not knowing the plan.  It’s going even if you don’t know the plan.  And faith comes from knowing God.  God hasn’t promised a plan.  He’s promised Himself.

So my reply to the questions that have been asked of me is this. I am God’s creation and when he formed and created me, He put inside of me a passion and love for the incarcerated. God has opened doors and led me to serve Him through prison ministry and I am willing to stay where I am at and be faithful in service to Him or go and serve Him elsewhere if He leads me. Ministry will not have an ending date in my life as long as I live because as a Christian it is what I’ve been commissioned to do. I don’t know God’s master plan and rather than me trying to determine and know His plan I am choosing to pursue and know the God that is leading me.

7/27/16 Prayer Request

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. John 15:4-5

Let’s pray this week for the men at St. Clair Correctional Facility to grow in godly attributes. That they would seek out and abides the true vine, Jesus. Pray that they would respect the authority of the prison staff and be able to control their temper. Pray that their lives would exhibit the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, forbearing with one another, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Pray that they would experience genuine remorse for the harm they have caused their victims, and that they would seek to make amends as appropriate and possible.