"Let's talk God!" Before my first trip into prison, God and I had to have a serious conversation. Some of these inmates have committed acts I couldn't even imagine.
"God, you have called me to this ministry. Please give me your heart and enable me to see them the way you do. Show me how to love these individuals unconditionally. I cannot do it alone without your help."
I have interviewed hundreds of inmates in various correctional facilities. I asked them what they need to see, hear and experience at a prison church service in order for the majority of the prison to want to attend? One of the top requests was: "To send in people who do not judge them or talk down to them."
One inmate's perspective:
"I feel like I have a sign on my forehead with big letters that says CONVICT". "Even church people make me feel unwanted." "One preacher used to talk down to us and get up in our face, telling us to shut up."
Heart attitude test question:
If Jesus were standing in front of you, how would you treat Him? Are you treating these people the same way? What is your real heart attitude before you attend and when you leave? We should be treating them the same way we would treat our Lord, with our very best!
The following are a few suggestions that have been helpful for our teams before entering prison
- To refrain from judgmental thoughts and actions you must be bathed in prayer.
- Confess your own sins privately to God. Your sins are not worse nor no better than their own. A sin is a sin in God's eyes. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
- Ask for forgiveness for your own sins, thoughts and past judgements.
- Ask for help and power from the Holy Spirit, not to judge but love all who enter. (This is impossible in our own power.
- Love them unconditionally with God's love.
- Allow them to feel special. Greet them individually, thanking them for attending.
- Smile and look at them in the eye. (It might be the only one they receive all day.)
- Have some fun and laugh together.
- When speaking one on one with them, listen to them intently like they are the only one in the room.
- Be prepared! - God wants to "love 'em up" - through you!
Prisoner's sins are no worse than ours... just illegal. We all need God's love and forgiveness.
Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the same measure you use, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:1-2
Christ calls us to love one another unconditionally... Nothing more, nothing less.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34-35