What Do I Say?

It’s early Monday evening and I pack up my Bible, guitar and songbook and head for Chester County Prison for two services of Prison Ministry.  During the drive I’ll typically pray about and reflect on the evening to come.

Dan leads the first service so my role most Monday nights is relegated to being the “band”.  Dan and Andy are the “choir directors” and do a great job of leading the guys through the songs that the inmates oft times choose.

I am responsible for leading the second service, so part of my role is to introduce the evening. What do I say? I believe it’s important that the guys understand that Christianity is not about rules and regulations, but about the restored relationship with God possible only through Jesus Christ. Always trusting in the Holy Spirit, sometimes I have a prepared statement, other times I allow the Spirit to speak through me in the moment. More often than not, I share the Gospel, because that is the main reason we are there.

What about those Monday nights when I’m scheduled to bring the message. What do I say? I am so grateful that through the years the Lord has been faithful to inspire and guide me to teach from Scripture a message of God’s love and hope for all. This is a message these guys desperately need to hear!  I have my favorite Scriptures that I pull from and am also inspired by sermons that I hear on Sunday Mornings.

This is the most challenging part of this Ministry.  I’m not really comfortable with public speaking and more sobering are the words spoken in James 3:1 “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” All of us are responsible to teach God’s Word in a way that glorifies God by being true to His Word, holding fast to the meaning of the Scriptures and in great humility. This is why I often say being a Pastor is the hardest job in the world.

Despite my fears and my failures, God has been so kind to pour out His grace on me and grow me in this area.  I trust the men are blessed by the message and I am blessed by mining the depths and riches of God’s Word! It is sobering and helps me to see areas in my life that I need His grace to change. It is also a reminder when tempted to sin, that all who teach are accountable before God and as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:27 – “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

In those moments when I reflect back on the evening when I have brought the message and wonder: did I say the right things, did I say them in a way that the guys could understand it, did I say too much, too little, etc., I am comforted by the Words of our faithful and loving God: “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”  Isaiah 55: 11   Praise be to our mighty and faithful God!!

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