Last week I was able to visit the Belle-Isle correctional facility for the first time in fifteen-months. It was an incredible blessing to restart our weekly services with singing, testimonies, special music, and a message from God’s Word.
Last week was a time of great rejoicing….
but we have lots of work to do!
Because this ministry is run by the prison system instead of our church, assemblies of all denominations are allowed to come and teach. This leads to a lot of confusion because groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses openly teach false doctrine, and many of the inmates hold to a view of works Salvation because of what they hear from other speakers. In 2020 we had some question and answer sessions because a group of them believed you had to worship on the Sabbath day (Saturday) in order to be saved because the Seventh Day Adventists preached it.
In a perfect situation I wouldn’t be involved with a ministry that allows other groups to teach false doctrine. At the same time, I’m obligated to preach the truth! So The best way to stop the growth of false doctrine in the prison is to clearly explain the true Gospel.
A deeper problem than false doctrine is the fact that many of these men either don’t have a personal relationship with Christ, or someone who can disciple and train them with Scripture. Within the prisons structure where they have services every day, the men do well. But few have the spiritual maturity to continue serving the Lord after leaving the facility.
They may want to serve the Lord and turn from their old ways, but the temptation of friends, and difficulty of taking care of their own needs leads them right back to prison. A former prisoner explained it this way, “the only people who were waiting outside the gate for me when I got out of prison were the people who put me there in the first place!”
The false doctrine, and demand for spiritual maturity makes it incredibly important that our prison ministry emphasizes Salvation.
I firmly believe many of the men know exactly what to say so people think they are saved, but they don’t know the Lord. They may even deceive themselves by relying on good works, or a prayer (just saying words not really a conscious decision) for Salvation instead of faith in Christ. This is why the true Gospel must be clearly, and patiently explained.
Please pray for me as I move from a “teaching focus” in the prison ministry that emphasized doctrine, to an “evangelistic focus” that emphasizes personal faith in Christ. Pray that the brief time I have with them every Wednesday can be used by the Holy Spirit to convict hearts, and lead them to Salvation. Also pray if it’s God’s will I could begin discipling some of those men, either in the prison or outside after they have left.
May the Lord help our time on Wednesdays lead towards transformation instead of rehabilitation. Because rehabilitation only impacts the outer symptoms of the problem, while transformation changes the heart.