Preaching the Gospel is easy, even in the 30′ by 50′ chapel at Pelican Bay State Prison. Living the Gospel in a cell block, on the exercise yard, or in solitary confinement is a different matter. The church inside the walls has a similar problem to the church outside; who’s reasonable service is it to spread the Word, the person in the pulpit, or the people in the pews?
Ephesians 4:11-13 says, “He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of faith and the knowledge of the Son of God…” Is this an out clause if we don’t consider ourselves to be an apostle, prophet, evangelist, etc. or is Paul implying that until we all come to unity, we all have a share in the equipping process?
To convince convicts that they are indeed saints we reference how much of the New Testament was written in prison, and how even Paul’s jailers were converted by his testimony and example. Our default line is, “Until a real apostle shows up, you’re it, no tags back.” The application is that after the volunteer team leaves to go home, the inmates are the living epistles that the incarcerated population, and the guards, will be watching for the promise of salvation. Inmates are used to being watched, but how often do church attendees in a ‘normal’ setting leave the building as if they will be invisible until the next Sunday?
We play a word game at Pelican Bay to simplify the opportunity for witnessing. The first step is to spell the word G-O-S-P-E-L on a chalkboard and then assign a word value to each letter to get the point home. It doesn’t take a lot of guessing until someone figures out the G is for God, after all it always starts with God. The O and S take a little prodding but since we are talking about the Gospel of Jesus Christ we soon come to Only Son as the answer. Jesus is the Answer, it says so on the radio.
The P is a problem and so we tackle the E and L as the end game of the Gospel. Eternal Life. Now it’s a simple thing to see that Jesus, God’s Only Son, Provides Eternal Life. Go spell it on a mountain, or on a napkin at a lunch counter, or spray paint it in your alley way, write it on the dust of a windshield, on the fog of your mirror after a morning shower, eventually it will be written on your heart and folks will read it in your love.