Kingdom Movement Strategies in North American Jails & Prisons
It seems somehow telling that the message of Christmas came first to a group of humble shepherds out on a hillside, one night so long ago. Author Randy Alcorn wrote, “In Christ’s day, shepherds stood on the bottom rung of the Palestinian social ladder. They shared the same unenviable status as tax collectors and dung sweepers.” 1 In today’s parallel universe, many of the rich and famous celebrities that we see in movies and television often seem to make little room in their lives for Jesus and the Good News He brings to our planet. By contrast, for some unknown reason, those considered by some as social outcasts seem more likely to make space for messages of hope. One of those groups is the incarcerated. More than one CPM/DMM trainer has noticed a greater degree of traction among prisoners than among church members.
Billy’s Mission Statement
Chris Galanos mentioned Billy in a recent interview. He came to Christ through one of the groups that Chris’s team launched at the Lubbock County Jail. Billy immediately wanted to know how to make disciples so Chris’s team trained him how. Chris tells the story of the mission statement that Billy created. “Our vision is for pod 6B to have an indigenous Church Planting Movement that is led by a group of believers. We will be starting with the nine churches we’ve already planted in the past few weeks. Our vision is to reach every inmate and start discovery groups in every pod in the entire facility.” Billy and his friends in jail came up with a workable plan to request remote housing changes so they could proactively move believers into pods that, so far, didn’t have any known believers. Billy also wanted to mobilize these inmates to carry on this vision outside of the prison once they were released. Chris received a letter from Billy recently and he is continuing to make disciples with the vision of seeing the entire jail reached for Jesus.
Multiplying Groups From Prison to Prison
The names and places of this next brief summary are not the real names or places to protect the identity of those involved.
A few years ago, Jonathan trained Scott in simple disciple-making principles. Scott then moved to an area that was near a prison and got involved with a prison ministry. He applied the principles he had learned in making disciples there and trained some of the prisoners how to share their story and God’s story with the people they knew in the prison.
Jack, who was already a Christian, was one of the key prisoners trained. He started leading other prisoners to Christ, and also helped to empower existing believers at the prison who were attending a prison ministry on Sundays. As prisoners were discipled, they shared their story and God’s story with other prisoners and more people came to faith. It became a common occurrence to see prisoners sharing the “3 Circles” (a simple method to share the gospel) in the dirt in the prison yard. Prisoners also shared the gospel as they played sports in the yard or lifted weights together. As part of their discipleship, they also formed 3/3rds discipleship groups in their cells with their cellmates so they could meet together to grow as the Body of Christ.
After a while, Jack was also transferred to another prison. At the new prison he continued to use the simple tools he had been trained in and started to disciple people there too. As prisoners got out of prison, some of them were able to connect with disciple-making networks around the state, and became part of the larger movement outside of prison. One prisoner named John was released from prison and joined a 3/3rds discipleship group in his hometown. The disciples in that group helped him out as he reintegrated into society, and one lady even donated her car to him so he could get to a job.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, many people contracted the disease in the two prisons. Ministry programs were cancelled and people were not allowed to go into the prisons to do ministry. However, the prisoners who were already trained could still share their story and God’s story, and meet in their 3/3rds discipleship groups, with their cellmates. That is the beautiful thing about empowering prisoners to make disciples—they can still do it, even when others can’t go in!
Please pray that the movement will keep spreading from prison to prison as the inmates are transferred. Also pray for their reintegration into society, as they adjust to a new life, find a job, determine a place to live, get help overcoming addiction, and find a disciple-making network near to their new home to continue growing as a reproducing disciple of Jesus.
Faithful With the Few
My (Doug’s) co-worker, “Jed,” shares how he first visited inmates in a prison while serving as a church-planter in Caracas, Venezuela around 1991. The next time he visited a prison was in Kentucky in the spring of 2019 along with a few brothers in Christ. The first time in Venezuela, he said he was overwhelmed with the smells, stares and images and did not make any difference that he could imagine. The second time in Kentucky, he made a commitment to go weekly and they trained inmates in simple multiplicative disciple-making concepts and tools (DMM/CPM). The original number of 11 shrunk quickly to 3 or 4 faithful implementers once they realized accountability was involved. Those few, however, regularly shared the gospel and shared their testimonies and did weekly 3/3rds groups with fellow inmates. That group began to grow. They loved the simplicity and focus of the format. They were encouraged and empowered to participate daily in being disciples and making disciples. Over the course of about five or six months the one group had multiplied to 11 groups with at least one third generation group. Some of the new groups had formed with family members on the outside. Jed shares how he and his co-laborers in the gospel left the prison in tears many a time because of the testimony and faith of those who were imprisoned physically but set free spiritually to worship, serve and love their Lord and Savior and to make disciples. They were grateful that someone took the time to come spend time with them. Often the prisoners (trainees) were the ones modeling to their trainers how to be bold and courageous and how to surrender their whole hearts to the King of kings through faithful obedience to His Word. Their zeal was contagious.
The Least, the Last and the Lost
We conducted other interviews for this article but unfortunately, the sensitivities of the workers involved do not allow us to publish their situations in detail. One of those ministries, for example, has seen over 200 baptisms in the past two years with generational growth of groups out to the fifth generation, all within the same holding facility. Now we know for a fact that God is not only capable of sparking DMM/CPM movements in prisons, jails, rehabilitation and recovery centers, but, in addition, He delights in saving the least, the last and the lost and enlisting them into His global family business of multiplicative reconciliation and disciple-making. He uses ordinary, willing, faithful, available servants to spark the kindling.
Are you weary of sowing much seed on the infertile soils of the hardened path, the shallow rocky ground and thorny patches? Jesus said in Matthew 25, “When I was a prisoner and you visited me…” We are hearing anecdotal stories from many different places about how the Lord is working and moving mightily in the prisons and jails. But instead of going in and doing ministry for them, go and train them how to be disciples and make disciples using the effective proven multiplicative DMM/CPM tools and principles. Watch and see what He will do!