Why Prison Ministry?
Then the Lord said. "If My people want to know where they are needed, tell them they are needed in the streets, the hospitals, the missions, and the prisons. When they come there they will find Me and the next move of' My Spirit.”
. . . I was in prison, and you came to me." (Matthew 25:36)
The prison system is the only "business" that succeeds by its failure. Prison populations grow larger and larger. Often, people come out of prison worse than when they went in. Many commit more crimes, return to prison, and get stuck in the cycle of recidivism, the "revolving door" of crime, prison, and release.
The answer to this is not more prisons. It is not locking people up and “throwing away the key.” It is not even the death penalty, as studies have shown that even this does not effectively deter crime. The answer is the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the demonstration of power!
Prisoners need regeneration not rehabilitation--and Jesus has commissioned His followers to reach beyond the barbed wire fences and steel bars to touch the lives of men and women bound by the shackles of sin.
The greatest scriptural mandate for prison ministry is given in Matthew 25:31-40.
Jesus said:. . .“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, `Come, you blessed of 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 took Me in; `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? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, `Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” (Matthew 25:31-40)
Jesus Christ Himself is our example for prison ministry. One of the main targets of Christ’s ministry was prisoners:
. . . To open blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house. (Isaiah 42:7)“The spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound”. . . (Isaiah 61:1)
Even while dying on Calvary's cross, Jesus took time to reach out in love and concern to a prisoner. As a result, that convicted criminal experienced God's love, grace, and forgiveness. During the time between His death and resurrection, we are told that Jesus “ . . . went and preached to the spirits in prison” (1 Peter 3:19).
Unfortunately, despite the clear Biblical injunction and Christ’s example to minister to prisoners, many believers prefer to pass by on the other side of the street, as did the religious leaders in the parable of the Good Samaritan (see Luke 10:29-37).
WHY PRISON MINISTRY?
Why must believers be concerned about prison ministry? Because. . .
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.
GOALS OF PRISON MINISTRY
The spiritual goals of jail and prison ministry may include one, some, or all of the following:
1. To share the unconditional love of God.
2. To present the Gospel of Jesus Christ in such a way that inmates will embrace it and receive Christ as Savior.
3. To disciple new believers in the Word and teach them how to study the Bible.
4. To demonstrate the power of prayer and teach them to pray.
5. To lead inmates to experience the life-changing power of God that will free them from guilt, shame, negative emotions, and addictions.
6. To minister to inmates’ families.
The social goals of jail and prison ministry are:
1. To help the inmate function more positively within the prison environment.
2. To provide a link between the community and persons confined in correctional institutions
3.To prepare residents for re-entry into society (physically, mentally, morally and spiritually).
4.To assist inmates families in practical ways.
5.To provide post-prison assistance in practical ways.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ has many things to offer inmates.
WHAT THE GOSPEL HAS TO OFFER
1. Forgiveness from sin.
2. A chance to say "I'm sorry."
3. Release from guilt and shame.
4. Acceptance--when all many of them have ever known is rejection.
5. New values and perspectives.
6. Strategies for coping with difficult situations and negative emotions.
7.Basics for true honest relationships.
8. Life abundant through Jesus Christ.
9. A new purpose for living.
10. Eternal life.
WHAT IS YOUR ROLE?
Of the millions of active believers world-wide, only a small number are involved in ministry to prisoners, despite the fact that jails and prisons are found in almost every community. Yet the scriptural mandate by both teaching and example is clear.
Every believer should be involved in prison ministry. This does not necessarily mean you are called to actually go into a prison. As in missions--not everyone is called to go to a foreign field to share the Gospel. But--as in missions--every believer should be involved in prison ministry in some capacity.
There are many ways to be involved:
1.Provide prayer support for prison ministries.
2. Visit an inmate.
3. Write to a prisoner.
4. Assist families of inmates.
5. Help inmates transition back to society after their release.
6. Conduct worship services, Bible studies, or group meetings inside prison.
7. Provide Bibles and Christian literature for inmates.
8. Provide financial support to a prison ministry.
9. Serve as a prison chaplain.
Begin now to pray for God to reveal the specific way that you are to be involved!
Books on Prison Ministry & Evangelism & Caring for the Lost
An Earnest Ministry the Need of the Times by John Angell James here
A Vision of the Lost by William Booth here
A Want to Be A Soul Winner For Jesus by Ronny Milliner here
Beginning at Jerusalem by Charles H. Spurgeon here
Christian Witnesses for God by Charles G. Finney here
Cheer Up My Comrades by Charles H. Spurgeon here
Christians The Light of the World by Charles G. Finney here
Converting Sinners A Christian Duty by Charles G. Finney here
Corporate Prayer for Revival by Jonathan Edwards here
Counseling Recipes by Timothy Tow here
Earnestness Its Marring and Maintenance by Charles H. Spurgeon here
Evangelism 101 Laying The Foundation by Matt Waymeyer here
Evangelism Made Personal by Mark A. Copeland here
God's Love to Sinners as Seen in the Gospel by Charles G. Finney here
God's Word On Spiritual Warfare by Mark E. Hardgrove here
How Do You Do? by J. C. Ryle here
How Do You Know If You Are A Real Christian by Jonathan Edwards here
How May Ministers Best Win Souls by Robert Traill here
(1. Take Heed unto Thyself, Would You be a Saved and Successful Minister? 2. The Saving of Souls and Advice about the Means, 3. You that are Ministers Suffer a Word of Exhortation)
How to Pray for the Lost here
How To Study The Bible by R. A. Torrey here
(Introductory to Methods of Bible Study, Study of Individual Books, Topical Study, Biographical Study, Study of Types, Study of the Books of the Bible.
How to Work for Christ Volume 1 Personal Work by R. A. Torrey here
How to Work for Christ Volume 2 Methods of Christian Walk
by R. A. Torrey here
(House to House Visitation, Cottage Meetings, The Church Prayer Meeting, Use of Tracts, Open-Air Meetings, Tent Work, Organizing & Conducting a Gospel Mission, Meetings in Jails, Hospitals, Poor Houses, Revival Meetings, The After Meeting, Children's Meetings, Advertising the Meetings, Conduct of Funerals, etc.)
How to Work for Christ Volume 3 Preaching & Teaching the Word of God
by R. A. Torrey here
(How to Prepare a Sermon, Preparation & Delivery of Bible Readings, Illustrations & Their Use, Teaching the Bible, Textual Sermons in Outline, Topical Sermons in Outline, Expository Sermons & Bible Readings in Outline)
I Want To Be A Soul Winner by Ronny Milliner here
Immeasurable Love by Charles H. Spurgeon here
Keep Praying Until God Answers When He Seems Not to Hear, Trust Him Still
by R. A. Torrey here
My Homiletic Swimming Pool or the Art of Preaching by Timothy Tow here
On Obedience to Pastors by John Wesley here
On Visiting The Sick - Matthew 25:36 by John Wesley here
One Thing Necessary by Thomas Watson here
One Thing Only by Oswald J. Smith here
Open-Air Meetings by R. A. Torrey here
Personal Declension & Revival of Religion in the Soul by Octavius Winslow here
(Incipient Declension, Declension in Love, Declension in Faith, Declension in Prayer, Doctrinal Error, On Grieving the Spirit, The Fruitless & the Fruitful Professor, The Lord, the Restorer of His People, and The Lord, the Keeper of His People)
Prison Meditations by John Bunyan here
Revivals by Horatius Bonar here
Soul Travail by Oswald J. Smith here
The Absence of the Sense of Sin in Present-Day Religion by Rev. J. S. Sinclair here
The Art of Man Fishing by Thomas Boston here
The Bible Pattern for the Evangelization of this World by Clifton Erickson here
The Church Bound to Convert the World by Charles G. Finney here
The Danger of Luke warmness in Religion by Samuel Davies here
The Good Confession by Watchman Nee here
(Public Confession, Separated From the World, The Elimination of Distinctions, Witnessing, How to Lead People to Christ, Household Salvation, etc.)
The Importance of Personal Soul Winning by R. A. Torrey here
The Missionary Problem is a Personal Problem by Andrew Murray here
The Place Of Prayer In Evangelism by R. A. Torrey here
The Power of Prayer by R. A. Torrey here
(The Secret of Christians Powerlessness, The Early Church's Victory, Steadfast Prayer, Present-day Departure From Prayer, Prayer will Bring the Power of God into Our Work, Examples of God's Power Evident in Prayer)
The Preacher's Power and the Conditions of Obtaining It
by Charles H. Spurgeon here
The Revival We Need by Oswald J. Smith here
(The Outpouring of the Spirit, The Responsibility for Revival, Soul-Travail, The Enduement of Power, Conviction, Obstacles, Faith, Heart Yearnings for Revival, Manifestations of God's Power, Spiritual Experiences of Priceless Value)
The Soul Winner - Charles H. Spurgeon Conversion by Charles H. Spurgeon here
The Strait Way to Heaven by William Dyer here
The Success of the Ministry of the Gospel, Owing to a Divine Influence
by Samuel Davies here
The Sunday School Teacher's Guide by John Angell James here
The True Gospel of Christianity versus the False Gospel of Carnal Christianity
by L. R. Shelton here
The World by J. C. Ryle here
The True Christian by John Angell James here
Two Essential Things by Charles H. Spurgeon here
What is the Supreme Task of the Church by Oswald J. Smith here
Why You Should Go To The Mission Field by Keith Green here
Words to Winners of Souls by Horatius Bonar here
Working for God by Andrew Murray here
The scriptures are perfect, but men are fallible. I prayerfully check all of the material I put on my sites. However, I am quite capable of missing something or making a mistake. If you find anything at all on these pages that is questionable or find any links broken please contact us here.