the weblog of Alan Knox

I was in prison and you came to me

Posted by on Feb 10, 2009 in community, discipleship | 7 comments

As part of the MDiv program at Southeastern Seminary, students must take a class called “Supervised Field Ministry”. This is the catalog description of the course:

A course focused on important principles of Spiritual Formation and Christian Leadership with an appropriate field experience under the supervision of a competent supervisor. Cognitive and affective learning experiences are designed to foster the student’s formation in ministry.

Apparently, a friend of mine – Geth – and the office that oversees this course decided that I am a “competent supervisor”.

All joking aside, I’m very excited about working with Geth on this course. Why? Because he is interested in serving people in prison. He already works as a part-time instructor, teaching religion courses through a local community college in a local prison. He is also considering becoming a prison chaplain.

Why am I excited about the working with Geth to learn about serving people in prison? Well, as most of you know, I am very interested in the community aspect of life in Christ. How does this work with people in prison – both among prisoners and between those in prison and those outside of prison? We will be discussing these questions, as well as dealing with issues concerning teaching and spiritual formation.

Geth will be reading a few books which we will discuss weekly. We’re also going to discuss several passages of Scripture, including an extremely important passage from Matthew, where Jesus says that the “righteous” are those who visited him in prison. (There are very interesting verbs used in this passage for the responsibility of the righteous toward prisoners. I’ll examine those verbs in a couple of days.)

We’re also considering working on a project together examining some issues of Christian community in the context of prisons – perhaps a project to be presented at a meeting of one of the major religious academic organizations. But, I’ll share more about that as it develops.

My premise in this course is that life in Christ is life in community with other believers. While our context may contribute to what this life looks like or what this life entails, our context should not change the basic premise. Somehow, our context – even prison – should not negate the importance nor viability of community in Christ.

One important question that we’ll consider is the following: “What is Geth’s role in a prison community of Christians?” It seems that Geth cannot be fully part of a prison community, even though he will spend alot of time with the prisoners. In many ways, he will remain an outsider. Is there a biblical parallel to his role in a prison community?

Well, there may be no one else interested in this topic, but that’s okay. If you took the time to read this entire article, thank you. If you have suggestions, opinions, questions, etc. about this topic and are willing to share them in the comments section, even better!


7 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 2-10-2009

    Geth’s in there with me. It’s awesome that you will be supervising him in this. I have a question as to how one gets involved in something like a prison ministry. Outside of Colson’s group, what other ways does one go about getting into a ministry such as this? Either for a minister of a local congregation who wants to get his congregation involved, or as an individual believer who wants to be part of such a ministry?

  2. 2-10-2009

    Alan,

    Geth got involved through teaching a community college course. Your question is one that we’ll discuss.

    -Alan

  3. 2-11-2009

    Alan,

    I am a chaplain in the Federal Prison system and will watch this series of posts with great interest.

    There is a great community of believers within the prison I work at, and in some ways, they are also part of the outside community.

    I think that the community of believers within prison could become revolutionary for church planting and discipleship models if they could be encouraged to back away some from the “Christendom” model of church.

    As for Alanreynolds comment, any person who wants to get involved in a prison (whether city, state, or federal) can contact the prison for more information on this, especially if there is a chaplaincy department there. I know that at the prison I serve in, we have great needs for all sorts of outside volunteers.

    If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

  4. 2-11-2009

    Jeremy,

    Thanks for the comment. I’ve given Geth your email address, and he should contact you soon.

    -Alan

  5. 2-15-2009

    Alan, please do discuss what churches can do to get involved. I’ve long felt convicted to do something, but I’m not really sure how to get involved or what exactly can be done. So, I, personally, will be quite interested in how and what, as well as Geth’s project.

    Jeremy, what types of needs? Do you have a post (or posts) about these types of things?

  6. 2-16-2009

    Alanreynolds,

    The needs are generally up to the person who wants to serve.

    I can’t really speak for other prisons, but we need anything and everything in our prison – people to come and preach, teach Bible studies, perform concerts, donate books, teach classes on any and every subject, etc. etc.

    Basically, if you have an interest, or a special area of expertise, I imagine there is a place for it in your local prison.

    Now, prisons differ from place to place. Maximum security prisons and penitentaries will be much more difficult to get into and develop ongoing relationships with the inmates than Medium or Low Security.

    Do you have something specific you would like to do or teach at prison?

  7. 2-16-2009

    Alan and Jeremy,

    Thank you for continuing this discussion. Geth and I are discussing a few possibilities. When we decide on something, I’ll post info on my blog.

    According to Jeremy, it is possible for any believer to get involved in the lives of prisoners. Unfortunately, there are few of us who think this is important enough to change our own lives to include prisoners (or anyone else for that matter).

    -Alan