In April of 2017, I started a prison ministry in our local jail with one of the young men I have been discipling. We go each week to visit inmates and the Lord has done some really cool stuff. The jail allowed us to have a baptism service last summer! It was the first ever at this jail. Five inmates were baptized that day. Although many more have come to know the Lord, the baptism event was so labor intensive. Planning, finding the right supervision, filling the baptistry, and so on has hindered us from doing more baptism services. A few weeks after the baptisms, two more former inmates were baptized at the church; however, most of them are still waiting to get out so they can be baptized.
Kirk Cameron, in his ministry on the streets of California, known as “The Way of the Master,” once said, "Until people know they sinners they can’t be saved." Although I’m not completely sold on his style or technique I think there is a lot of truth in that idea.
We live in a culture where everyone gets a trophy for competing, and everyone thinks they are “good enough," or at least “better than that other guy.” So it makes sense to believe they will win the crown of life and get into Heaven just because they were born and want it. That makes evangelism hard.
I firmly believe that bad people are great soil for the Holy Spirit to grow, but people who think they are good make for really bad soil.
Regularly, I serve local inmates who are locked up. When I talk with inmates, it is almost refreshing to talk to people who are broken and searching. Now don’t get me wrong, jails are full of people who still claim to be innocent, who fight mental illnesses, and those who justify their actions or behavior (kind of like you and me). But when I sit with inmates, I find broken men and women searching and longing to be loved. They have grown up in broken homes, broken families, broken relationships, and most generally they are broken by past abuse. They know nothing of unconditional love, forgiveness, and acceptance… not from their parents, partners, or friends anyway.
One of the most powerful things I do each week is look them in the eye and say, “I love you, I see you, I care… You are not forgotten.” It isn’t always glamorous. I don’t recall ever hearing angels sing. But it makes me feel good to know that I am able to help someone who is hurting and needs a shoulder to cry on. It isn’t magical and it doesn't take a bunch of training; it takes someone willing to sit, listen, and return week after week. It's about building relationships, and that can take effort.
Jesus words recored in Matthew 25:31-40 tell us, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And He will place the sheep on His right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? And when did we see You a stranger and welcome You, or naked and clothe You? And when did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.’”
What I’m trying to say is that we go to the untouchables and outcasts of our community because that is what Jesus did when he walked the earth, and it is where He is still working today. His words aren’t just “amen” worthy—they are worth giving up all of yourself—your time, your money, your effort, your resources. They are worth you giving everything for. If this is really the way the last days will play out, I don’t know about you, but I want to make sure that I gave everything I had to Jesus while I still have time to give it.