Sunday, September 14, 2008

Went to JAIL!

This past week, I finally was able to obtain approval to minister in the local county jail. Friday night was my first time.

Ministering at the jail is TOTALLY different than on the streets. Clipping on our I.D. badges, we checked in, handed over our car keys & began to make our way through the many security doors. The area we were bound for, was the stockade. These are single-level buildings with cells holding many men each, each block opening through a barred open-door to a covered outdoor area. We chose two sections and asked if they’d had ‘church’ this week yet (they hadn’t). The guard allowed five men from each cell out for ministry. The ten prisoners, Bobby & I all sat on the asphalt yard, opened our Bibles and began.

More than half the men had their own Bibles (issued by the prison chaplain) & followed along. I am learning, so am working with Bob; can that man preach! He is totally in his element with these men...Bob has such a love for them. No singing or fancy intro, just opening Bibles and expounding the Word of God...not feel-good messages like most churches preach, but serious theology; explaining the New Birth, God’s Sovereignty & the signs of being truly Born Again. The men ask some questions. I then preach for a shorter time. I began by asking how many had a Christian background (about three-quarters did); I then asked how many had been born again....about half of those said they were. I asked if one of them could quickly explain to me how to be born again; answers ranged from being baptised to asking for forgiveness....but all missed the scriptural mark. It’s helpful to have the chance to get a gauge of the understanding of your hearers. I was then able to back-up and preach the Gospel, showing sin, righteousness, judgment (the courtroom example was really close to all their hearts) & showing how God MUST do justice & cannot let the guilty go. Then explaining the Cross, substitutionary atonement & the call to Repentance & Faith once more.

How many of you complain when you have to sit on your padded pews while your pastor preaches long....say almost an hour? I looked at the clock when we left, we’d preached for two hours. Those men sat on the hard (&damp) asphalt yard, in the humid Florida evening & paid attention for two hours & no complaints. Most of them thanked us for coming, asked for specific prayer & lined-up to be let back into their cells.

Partly because we were talking to a group, & partly because of the situation (i.e. jail) I found it more difficult to try and establish where people were in their spiritual walk. Some talk well, but it’s hard to forget that you are talking to them in jail. I don’t have any idea how they ended up there (& am not allowed to ask) so it’s somewhat hard to reconcile the two.

Over all, the opportunity to minister in the jail was a real blessing; I’m looking forward to going back.


P.S. Love to hear your comments & emails! Check out the podcast of our street preaching at

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