When I was still a pastor in Michigan, Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson came up for a visit. He attended a lunch celebrating those involved in a church-based reentry program for the formerly incarcerated. Men and women came up to thank Chuck for his work with prisoners, and as they did so, tears sprang to his eyes.
After the lunch, Chuck explained the cause of his tears me.
“Jim,” he said, “this is what I envisioned when I started Prison Fellowship—churches all across America welcoming home men and women from prison who had found Jesus.”
When he said that, I started thinking. I realized that revival for America’s churches wouldn’t come from any of the expected places; it would come when the Church began to pour herself into the care and discipleship of those the world rejects. Revival would come when we came face-to-face with Jesus in the places He told us to look for Him … among the prisoners, among the hungry, among the naked, and among all the least of these.
Over time, I left my position as a pastor to become the CEO of Prison Fellowship. It’s been an honor to take up the torch Chuck left for us with his passing three years ago. Chuck’s original vision—that the Church outside the walls would embrace and foster the Church inside the walls—continues to unfold. Congregations all across the country are catching the vision of restorative ministry to those affected by crime and incarceration. Former prisoners, whose lives have been transformed by grace, are going back into prison to share the message of redemption. Prisoners’ children, whose lives have been transformed in decades of Angel Tree ministry, are growing up into their full, God-given potential.
Just getting to see it all happen brings tears to my eyes, too.