You know what is great? When I visit a prison and quickly realize that they really don’t need me or any other Bible-toting visitor at all. It is not unusual. The practical idea that faith-based activities and education help maintain an amount of calm and control on prison populations may be behind it, but it does not take away from the power of a strong in-house prison ministry. Nowadays, I expect to learn much more than I preach during my times there.
These institutions allow followers of Jesus to do what they are supposed to do- serve God. Educational programs, like the International Christian College and Seminary (ICCS), don’t just teach the Bible. They provide leadership and organizational training, as well as pastor training and more. It lends itself to strong Christian foundations and organization within the prison walls as well as experience that will greatly benefit prisoners upon release.
But what if you are a follower and your institution does not yet have a strong education or Bible program. How can you go about serving God in prison? What you can do every day is really quite simple.
Serving God does not necessarily mean running a church or Bible group. It does not mean you have to be so learned in the Bible that you can rattle off Bible verses for every occasion. You do not have to start a counseling program or even recruit others to help you start serving God in prison. What you can do every day is simply to be a good Christian.
What does that mean? It means to love God, love everyone around you and treat them as you want to be treated. Love is the answer to everything. If you want to advertise your faith in God and show what He has done for you, it is as simple as showing Love. (John 13:35)
That starts with being a model inmate. Exhibit proper respect for authority and be where you are supposed to be. Then start adding the Christian element to things. Smile like you should when you know God loves you. Smile at others and acknowledge them. It makes them wonder what makes you so happy. Don’t be afraid of those who will try to take your happiness away with snide remarks or physical threats. God has your back.
Next comes the sharing part. People may ask you why you are so happy. Tell them! You know God! God is with you! God loves you… and God loves the person who asked, too. They may laugh, walk away unwilling to share the Good News or even say something hurtful to you. That is all okay. Keep it up. In time, someone may ask how knowing God makes you happy. It can be a glorious conversation.
Keep sharing the Love. Seek out fellow inmates who seem to be struggling. The quieter folks or those who seem sad or too angry. You don’t have to preach. Just say hello and let them know you see them. Ask if they are okay. Should anyone ask you why you care or why you are asking, tell them it’s because God loves them and cares about them and He directed you to love and care about them, too.
This is how you start conversations. If there are other followers among you, your actions could push them to join you. Conversations become an active brotherhood. And Good News comes from brotherhood. Next thing you know, you are serving God in prison. What you can do every day will keep adding up.
Even without a formal education program at your correctional facility, International Christian College and Seminary (ICCS) can provide you with courses and study guides to help you along. Let them help you serve God by letting them serve God to you!