2.28.2022

Scripture Fortifies the Calling for Jail/Prison Ministry


 






The jail/prison system is the only "business" that succeeds by its failure. Jail and prison populations are on the rise. The vicious cycle of recidivism often produces a more hardened heart.

Constructing more prisons is not the solution.  Locking people up and “throwing away the key” is not the antidote. My friends, the answer is connecting inmates to the saving grace that comes only from the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

 

The incarcerated community needs regeneration, not rehabilitation.  You see, Jesus has commissioned His followers to reach beyond the steel bars to touch the lives of men bound by these shackles of sin.

 

 

See what else our Lord Jesus has to say about their treatment:
Jesus was berated for eating with tax collectors and sinners, he answered that “it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). 
If Jesus were on earth today, would we find Him in the prisons?  
I can draw off of my very own personal experience here.  On my very first visit to the jail to minister to inmates, to my surprise my Lord was already there working.  He made my load so light.  Anxiety, that I had initially anticipated, was cast aside. I quickly realized that it wasn’t about me, my presentation, how polished my scripture knowledge was, or even my foundational grasp of doctrine (theology).  Through close examination of myself, I deduced that my standing was "filthy rags" too. The only object that I could offer was the giving of “my time”. 

My brain was "re-wired", so to speak, through the renewing of my mind and by pressing through His Word. And so I quickly understood that Jesus considers the way we treat the inmate to be just like the way we treat Him.

He wants us to identify with them and care for them.  

 “Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” (Hebrews 13:1-3) 

Jesus admonishes us to show no partiality to others on the basis of their status in life. All are equally in need of Christ for forgiveness and salvation. All have equal potential to become mighty men and women of faith.  

“My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my father; take your inheritance . . . For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ ” (Matthew 25:34-40) 

 “He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, the LORD gives sight to the blind, and LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.” (Psalm 146:7-9)  

“I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” (Isaiah 42:6-7)  

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.” (Isaiah 61:1-3) 

“For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.” (Psalm 66:10-12)  

“The LORD hears the needy and does not despise his captive people.” (Psalm 69:33) 

“Some sat in darkness and the deepest gloom, prisoners suffering in iron chains, for they had rebelled against the words of God and despised the counsel of the Most High. So he subjected them to bitter labor; they stumbled, and there was no one to help. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron.” (Psalm 107:10-16) 

Through my experiences, I've come to realize that my deepest motivation (reason) for becoming involved in jail ministry has been that it ALWAYS points back to Him and His Glory.  No one else can take credit for the miraculous turnaround in criminals’ lives. 

“Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.” (Psalm 142:6-8) 

“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:1-2)  

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” (Romans 12:10-16) 

 Reasons for believers to be concerned about this ministry:

  1. Prison ministry has a direct Scriptural mandate (Matthew 25:31-40). Throughout the Bible are examples, descriptions, and commandments about prisons, prisoners, bondage, captivity, and slavery. The Bible mentions prison, prisoners, or imprisonment more than 130 times.
  2. We should follow the example Christ set by ministering to prisoners.
  3. Prisons meet the criteria of any mission field: Lost people and a need for laborers.
  4. God is not willing that any should perish--not even serial killers, rapists, and molesters (2 Peter 3:9). God loves even the “worst of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).
  5. Chaplains cannot minister to more than a small percentage of inmates in their care. They cannot do all of the necessary work themselves, as there is just not enough time to do so.
  6. Many jails and prisons have no professional chaplains and many have no religious services at all.
  7. For every person incarcerated, there are three to five other people affected: Mates, children, parents, etc. Inmates and their families represent a large segment of society in any culture.


Concluding Remarks:

Since 2008, I have been visiting jails on a weekly-basis.  God has used this ministry not only for my sharing of His unconditional love to the incarcerated, but also for my own personal spiritual healing.  In doing so, it has always been my desire to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ in such a way that inmates will embrace it and receive Christ as Savior.

In this walk, I strive to disciple new believers in the Word by teaching them how to study the Bible through rigorous studies, and demonstrate the power of prayer by teaching them to pray.  Moreover, my deepest fulfillment comes through the acts of leading inmates to experience the life-changing power of God. In doing so (through obedience), they may ultimately be freed from their guilt, shame, and addictions.

Would you consider praying for Time Served Ministry?

If so, please petition that all we do in service would be done in love (I Corinthians 16:14). Acknowledge to the Lord that any other motive will profit us nothing (I Corinthians 13:1-3), and ask Him to keep our purpose pure.  

Thank God for the example of Jesus Christ, who came to earth not to be served, but to serve others and give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). Pray that we, too, will be willing to sacrifice whatever God asks, in order to serve Him well through our ministry.

Moreover, pray that God’s grace would equip us to let your light shine before others, so that they may give glory to our Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16).  And lastly, ask Him to keep us from serving with the purpose of bringing glory to our ministry.

Article by Mark Seay
TimeServedMinistry.org


Mark Seay is a religious volunteer for a local jail, and a graduate of Clemson University.  He and his wife, Lynn, have two daughters and a grandson.

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