'I was in prison, and you visited me.'
by Michael Tummillo
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I am convinced two of the purest expressions of the Body of Christ can be found in Jails and in The Workplace. Why? Because whether it's a prison or a nursing home, whenever somebody is sick, grieving, struggling in any way, other Followers of Christ come to their aid, regardless of whether they attend church anywhere at all, or claim affiliation to any institutional group.
Attending a "CELL" Group
Over the years, I've done quite a bit of ministry in Texas prisons and County Jails. Where the prisons are concerned, I have been very surprised by how every visit seems to involve a different experience every time. Whether it's a variation in protocol, or the attitude of certain prison guards themselves who seem absolutely clueless regarding their job requirements where ministerial visits are concerned.
Last week, I asked the Prison Chaplain why it was I rarely experienced the same protocol twice when I'd visited that particular prison over the previous seven months. He stopped at the door, looked over the top of his glasses and said, somewhat sheepishly, "Frankly, you're the only one who's been coming here."
My jaw dropped. An all-male unit of nearly 1,200 prisoners and only one prisoner receiving ministerial visits... what a SHAME!
We sat in the lobby and "Chappy" explained his theory regarding the lackluster performance of ministers where visitations were concerned. He theorized that most ministers were preparing sermons on Saturday and preaching on Sunday's, thus accounting for the perceived lack of concern in the prisons.
I nodded politely, completely unwilling to forgive that level of laziness while I recalled what Jesus said, "I was in prison, and you visited me."
Is anyone available to be used by God? Not just the professional ministers... ANYONE?
How about YOU in your workplace? Business Leaders, how about YOU?
Not just any Ol' Ministry!
The Workplace where I minister frequently is in Nursing Homes and Assisted Living facilities. Though my primary ministry is to the Employees there, on many occasions, a staffer will direct me to a Resident who is sick or dying. You might be amazed at how many elderly people never receive ministerial visits! Familial visits either. Sadly, it seems the Residents who get the greatest number of visits are the wealthy ones, or the parents of wealthy church Members.
I'm just telling it like it is, folks.
Jesus also said, "I was sick and you looked after me..."
The way I see it, I am merely sharing intel that will allow The Church to strategize and reach out. Talk about a "captive" audience, folks! In prisons and nursing homes, ain't nobody goin' nowhere!
What's YOUR strategy?
What strategy are YOU using in your community? If it boils down to unlocking the doors to a church in hopes people will come in, you're missing the boat. Many people, Christians included, have a "been there, done that, didn't find it there" feeling about institutional religion. The famous Anne Rice, author of 'Interview with a Vampire," gained great popularity when she announced she was returning to the Catholic faith of her childhood. She achieved even more notoriety when, in August of 2010, she announced she had "quit Christianity." In a posting on her Facebook page, she said: "I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being 'Christian' or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to 'belong' to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen."
To her response, vast multitudes declared, "AMEN!" Jesus taught love. Period. Paragraph.
That's what we're up against, folks. There are MILLIONS of Ann Rice's out there and many of them can be found slogging it out in factories, warehouses and sky scrapers. Prisons and Nursing Homes, too. THAT is where we should be focusing many of our greatest efforts and resources. Sadly, it's my experience that, in the churches that DO talk about Workplace Ministry, it's little more than a bolt-on evangelism program. The church on the corner has become a ghetto into which the "lost" will rarely stray. Statistically, if The Church were a business, she would be filing bankruptcy by now.
We can do better. The money spent on salaries and overhead alone could result in major changes throughout our communities. Think, people, think!
Let's give 'em Heaven!
Founder, The Church @ Work (TCAW)
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The title of your article interested me, so I was not too surprised to find that my article "The Church and the Christian" says the same thing in very different words from yours. Those who call themselves christian have a false sense of Christianity and perhaps do not even read the Bible. Thanks for sharing this well-worth-reading article.