Innerfaith Prison Ministry
By Russell Roseberry
First, let me start by thanking the many believers in our churches for supporting the outreaches IFPM has had in its 37 years of ministry. We’ve trained over 45,000 volunteers from over 500 churches. IFPM has seen thousands of lives changed inside and outside of our prisons today. We’ve also taken in 300 plus ex-offenders to share their testimony of how their lives have been changed from crime to Christ.
Our Little Lambs outreach started with 11 families and 27 children who have a parent in prison. This year we have a goal to sponsor 600 Little Lambs with school supplies, two Christmas gifts, $10 gift card on their birthday, and a special “happy birthday” call from one of our caseworkers. We are grateful the Lord continues to call us to the incarcerated and their families.
With that in mind, how can we, as His body, not be active behind the four walls of our churches? I’ve heard it said, “the pulpit preaching has been the pacifier to many churchgoers in our world today.” Many sit, hear the message, suck the pacifier, go home and whine till the pastor feeds ‘em again—never maturing spiritually.
The church was called to “Go, Sow, and Grow.” Matthew 28:19 says, “Go therefore into the world…Teach them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” Not only go to your neighbors who can help the local church grow in numbers, but also go to the mission field whereby you in turn visit Jesus Christ in the form of a believer. Remember Matthew 25:40, “…I was in prison…” When our team goes to visit the inmates in our prisons today, we are going to visit Jesus Christ in the life of a born-again believer. Yes, the lost are there, but so many believers need our encouragement. Don’t be guilty of letting the pulpit pacify you.
He will use you
One big myth about prison ministry is feeling you cannot relate to prisoners, so the Lord cannot use you. I personally sat in my home church feeling I had nothing in common with criminals. As I have shared in our testimony, when I told my wife I felt the Lord calling me into prison ministry, she laughed and said, “What are you going to tell them? You stole a piece of bubble gum when you were five?” She knew I had nothing in common with criminals.
So with these very convicting words from my adorable wife (of 43 years this year), I decided to take the trip. Wow, was that myth destroyed. Not only could I relate, but I now also understood but by the grace of God, I could be serving time. God saved me to serve time for Him. It’s not the crime that I did or did not commit, it’s the Christ that commands me to go. It’s not on how bad or how good you are, it’s how great God is.
Another myth is they are all criminals. Not all are anymore. Many have surrendered their will to the Lord. So I beg you, Body of Christ, please accept the invitation to visit Jesus behind prison walls. Please don’t neglect the opportunity you have to encourage believers that so desperately need a word from the Father.
To put many at ease, we do train and help to equip every one of our volunteers and pair new volunteers with veteran volunteers. Our training contains prison procedures also spiritual preparation for each mission trip.
So, in closing, remember the prisoners, as though you were in prison with them…If you were there, would you want someone to visit you? (Hebrews 13:3)