This movement was started accidentally! As a key disciple-maker one day got the earth-shattering news his son had been incarcerated, he had to uproot his home and move to be near his son. Driving to that new city, with the gut-wrenching churn of the reality of what had happened, there was no thought of starting a movement … just the grief and pain that came with such a story. It all started there. God works in ways we don’t expect.
The Person of Peace is key in this ministry. It was in jail he met the first person of peace. Instead of trying to reach many, he slowed down and discipled this one ‘God prepared person’. The main starting point is always to slow down to find the one person who God has prepared. You have to go slow to go fast.
Listen carefully to these next two principles. He didn’t ‘minister’ to, or preach, or try and convert this new person of peace but taught him how to minister to others. He trained him from the very beginning to become a disciple maker. This is key. Most prison ministry is based around ministering to the felt needs of prisoners, and trying to bring them to Christ. Instead, this way empowers the person to disciple others from the beginning.
From individuals to groups. Again this is unique and different to much prison ministry which looks to ‘rescue’ the individual. Straight away discipleship was formed within groups – from ‘cons’ to ‘con gregations’. They called these ‘God Pods’. God Pods grew and multiplied as prisoners were transferred from one jail to another.
Mentoring the leaders was the main ‘outside’ (no pun intended) leaders role. The role of mentor and coach continued on when they were released and planting groups in their communities. This mentoring and coaching was loaded with affection and love. You could see real depth of friendship.
From baptising to training baptisers. Baptism is really important in this movement. People would declare their faith in prison through baptism. Often it was not allowed within the prison to baptise people, so they used cups of water, or in the shower. Inmates baptised inmates. The outsider was not allowed to baptise. Often they would do 2 baptisms! (This might mess with some peoples theology… but that’s ok). One for inside and another for when they were released so they could testify to their family of the change Jesus had bought.
From declaring the gospel to discovery. Allowing people the time for discovery was core to the process. They were often in scripture daily, accompanied with prayer and times of fasting. Prayer and Fasting has been key for deliverance.
A clear set of scripture stories were developed, and discovery questions laid out. Printed on a bookmark this was easily multipliable. The stories and questions were easily multipliable. Prisoners could take it and run with it without much training. Sometimes illiterate prisoners would find other prisoners and ask them to read the story for them. In this way, stories spread. 10 Stories for the Hungry was the beginning point. Then other sets of scriptures for these groups as they became ‘church’. They also printed the DBS stories so prisoners did not need a Bible.
From a conversion mentality to a journey of discipleship. Often these guys were serial offenders, in and out of jail. In jail they would learn of the Bible and discipleship, and when released they would fail and blow it. Back in jail they would start the journey again … until they finally ‘caught’ what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus. This meant an atmosphere of grace, forgiveness and multiple chances.
My response? We have to see a transformational Jesus disciple making movement like this multiplied into Aussie prisons! Who’s in?
(Originally written September 2018)