I did hard time for 4 years, but only on Thursday nights between 6:30 and 8:30 pm. I was never an inmate, I was a volunteer.
I was talking with a friend at the BMX track last night and the subject of prison ministry crept into the conversation. To make a long story short, when I attended church I was part of the Inside/Out Prison Ministry where a group of us would go in and have a “bible study” with inmates in the chapel. Basically we would get in a big circle and just discuss Christ and the Word (which He is anyway). Talking last night made me realize a couple of things about church, and about being a follower of Christ.
Over the 4 years I was in prison, I was also taking a 2 year discipleship class at the church I attended, and then another 2 years to teach the class to another group of guys. Well, all of this led me to study scripture in a different way. I looked at the bible in a whole new light.
Then one day it hit me like a ton of bricks. The church I attended was nothing like the church I read about in scripture, it was the small group of inmates I met with that felt like community to me. To me this was what helped me determine what “church” really meant, and one of the main reasons I left the “institutional” church.
The talk in prison was about one thing only.. Christ. And, when we talked we spoke from the heart. There was no hiding behind a fake facade and acting like somebody we were not. The only difference between the inmates and me is that they got caught. Transparency was there every time, and we shared life together. We were all just a bunch of sinners sitting around talking about the only thing that mattered… Christ.
I miss those guys, but unfortunately I cannot go in with the others anymore because I am not a member of the church I used to attend. For me to get back in I have to be some sort of denomination. I cannot go in myself as a follower of Christ. Now isn’t that a bunch of bullshit.
So what all this boils down to is that the main thing I learned in prison was how to get out of the one I was attending on Sunday mornings.