Mending the Body of Christ Behind Prison Walls
Building Meeting Plan Training
The Lord is raising up His church in each building housing unit in prisons around the world. This occurs as the Holy Spirit flows from the lives of the members of the Body of Christ, who decide "... to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:1-3).
These are the mature members of the Body of Christ, who have experienced a prophetic voice, a teaching priesthood and a reigning kingship. These members have come together as examples to the younger members, realizing, "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Ephesians 4:4-6).
Focus on God's Love
In a world that is filled with self-serving individuals, the genuine love of Christians should attract others to the faith. Don't pass up the opportunity to share God's love with everyone you come into contact with throughout the day. This vision [the redemptive revelation of God] is simply His love for the world (John 3:16). It is important to study the lessons that go along with this vision as a reminder of God's love for you. His love is contagious, and if caught, it will spreads throughout the prison, causing the life and light of God to shine on every face. "For it is God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6).
The Church's Commission
The Greek word for "church" is ekklesia, which means "the called out ones." Jesus called us out, saying, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). He is calling Christian prisoners out of their cells, from underneath their bushels, to shine the light of Christ boldly in the building dayrooms and prison yards. Jesus commissioned believers to make disciples, baptize and teach them the Gospel [Good News], which He had taught (Matthew 28:16-20).
The Church is on the move with Good News. This began on Pentecost with about a hundred and twenty people, but quickly grew to thousands (Acts chs. 1-4). The Apostles went forth setting up local assemblies throughout the Mediterranean region. Similarly, as men come to Christ in prison, local assemblies are being set up in the housing units. The Church goes to the people, instead of expecting people to go to the church.
The chapel's capacity is small compared to the number of men in the housing units. The chapel services and meetings are a time of edification for the members leading the assemblies in the housing units. These are led by gifted men the Lord has given, "... for the equipping [mending] of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ ... from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love" (Ephesians 4:12,16).
The following is a guide to allow the members of the Body of Christ to work together, so that every joint supplies the power for an effective ministry of love. We must see the Church as a living, loving and growing organism, functioning together so that our combined effect is greater than an individual part. Jesus said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also, and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father" (John 14:12). Print Building Meetings Plan Form.
1. Opening Prayer
The facilitator is to choose someone to open in a short prayer.
The Lord has raised up a kingdom of priest in Christ (Exodus 19:5,6). We are "... a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).
2 List of Christians in Building
Make a list of all who identify themselves as Christian in the building, noting those who attend this weekly meeting. Appoint a member to keep this list up to date.
Call for the members to come together for the purpose of raising up the Body of Christ in the buildings. This is a weekly 30 minute accountability meeting. Choose a day, taking into consideration the schedules of the members. It may be necessary to have 3 different meetings that day to assure that all members can attend at least one of them. It may be necessary to have more than one facilitator to oversee the meetings. Before the actual meeting, look around the dayroom for the Christians to remind them of the upcoming meeting, remembering there are no non-essential parts in the Body.
3. Mending The Body Chart Review
Review the vision: "Mending the Body of Christ" Study Chart.
Keep the ministry vision [the redemptive revelation of God's love] fresh in the minds of the local assembly. It is a four part vision to change the hearts of prisoners by having them experience God's love. The vision covers the evangelism Field, a spiritual autopsy in the Mortuary, discipleship in the Sanctuary and ministering as sons of God in the Body of Christ. These are the most often neglected areas of ministry. Print Study Chart.
4. Prayer Request Report
List prayer requests at a separate meeting. Ask a member to seek prayer requests and to report on the work of the ministry.
This member is to be known as a person of prayer, who will seek out prayer requests and who is available to pray diligently. He or she may want to make a list of the prayers, or use prayer slips. Additionally, they can use "answer to prayer" slips for the person requesting the prayer to be able to report the answer expected by faith. It may be possible to go door to door in the housing unit asking for prayer requests, while expressing God's love, care and concern. Prayer request slips can be sent to a pen pal for copying or printed from the internet. As the spirit leads, the prayer representative from all buildings meet together for prayer. We are called to "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Print Prayer Request Slips.
5. Tithing Report
Talk about the needs for the poor among us. Ask a member to receive the tithe from members and to report on the work of the ministry.
This member is to have the gift of giving. This person is able to discern the needy, showing love, grace and mercy, being careful not to become insensitive (2 Corinthians 9:6-15). The believers who tithe know they can trust the tithe representative to give with discretion and wisdom. The tithing needs are shared weekly with all the believers. These items include toothpaste, deodorant, soap, shower shoes, toothbrush, body lotion, shampoo, nail clippers, writing pens, comb and brush. The tithe representatives take a teamwork approach in meeting the needs of all buildings by sharing items as received in one building to fill the needs in other buildings.
6. Table Discipleship Report
Be free to use a variety of studies, depending on what the table leader is passionate about. Ask a member to oversee the table leaders and to report on the work of the ministry.
This member should be a disciple [disciplined one] of Christ, abiding in God's word (John 8:31,32). This person is able to oversee the other leaders of various table studies, having put off the old man and put on the new man as an "...imitator of God [love] as dear children" (Ephesians 4:20-24; 5:1,2). He or she is able to recognize and instruct table study leaders in foundational doctrines, Christian identity, the resurrected life and the power of love and grace. The focus is on the essential doctrines of the faith, freedom in the non-essentials and in all things love. It is typical to see a variety of studies both in English and Spanish taking place on several tables both day and evening throughout the week. The table discipleship members from each building meet monthly to discuss the ministry. Print Table Discipleship & Small (slab) Groups Attendance & Report Sheet.
7. Small (Slab) Group Report
Be free to use various books, depending on what recovery material the leader is passionate about, such as Celebrate Recovery. Ask a member to oversee the table leaders and to report on the work of the ministry.
This member has similar qualifications as the table discipleship member, but has experience with recovery groups as well. This person understands the spiritual autopsy [examination] that must be done on the old man, water baptism, mortifying the flesh, recovery group Godly counsel and the need to bury the body of sin once and for all. When a prisoner admits and understands the destructive body of sin that placed Christ on the cross, he or she will less likely allow sin to reign and return to their life. Table recovery groups can easily be set up using books such as Breaking the Cycle, How to Stop the Pain and Escape from Codependent Christianity by Dr. James B. Richards, www.impactministries.com. There are a variety of recovery books and materials widely available from various ministries for free, such as Christian 12-Step Ministry, POB 4321 Ocala, FL 34476-4321. They offer a workbook which works well for running a small slab group at a table. The small slab group members from all buildings meet monthly to discuss the ministry. They use the same report sheet as the table discipleship members.
8. One-On-One-Witnessing/Counseling Report
Sharing your faith, witness training and evangelism. Ask at least two members to train others to share their faith by witnessing in groups of two or more, to do Godly counseling from God's Word and to report on the success.
These members should believe in God's love for the world by having had experience. They know the importance of one-on-one ministry where 70-90% who confess Christ do so because of a friend or relative. These believers make available witnessing tools such asEvangelism Explosion by Dr. James Kennedy, or the Roman Road chain. They equip others to share their faith, always realizing that genuine love attracts others. They need to know how to effectively use tracts and to teach others to do the same. They are also able to give Godly counsel from His Word. These members from all buildings make up Evangelism teams with the purpose of reaching the prison for Christ.
[It is suggested that you obtain the book Counseling God's Way by Pastor Bob Hoekstra, Living In Christ Ministries, P.O. Box 2848, Costa Mesa, CA 92628, (877)600-LICM, www.livinginchrist.org.]
9. Spanish Ministry Report
Various Bible studies, materials and table ministries. Ask a Spanish speaking member to oversee this ministry and to report the work of the ministry.
This member is usually the strongest Spanish speaking Christian in the building. He or she is well respected for their "...work of faith, labor of love and patient of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thessalonians 1:3). This person is diligent to work with all the Spanish speaking members, teaching at the tables, witnessing, counseling, suggesting materials and studies, plus being available in all areas of building outreach. These members from all the buildings work together to reach all the Spanish speaking prisoners for Christ. The Spanish table discipleship and slab groups will be reported on the same sheet as the groups in English.
10. Correspondence Studies Report
Sign up men for Crossroad studies and others. Ask a member to provide applications for correspondent Bible studies and to report on the work of the ministry.
This member knows the value of correspondent Bible studies and may be presently enrolled himself. This person is available to encourage others to enroll in the studies through the mail by providing the stamp when needed to mail the application. This member lets the applicants know that they can receive help to aid them with the studies, and they will be encouraged by the one grading the study. Plus, mentors are assigned on the higher level studies as pen pals. [For an application: Crossroads Bible Institute, P.O. Box 900, Grand Rapids, MI 495090900 is a division of RBC Ministries distributor of The Daily Bread.]
11. Bibles & Materials Report
Pick up materials from Chapel clerk for distribution. Ask a member to help provide Bibles and materials and to report on the work of the ministry.
This member is diligent to lay out Bibles, books and materials on the dayroom tables so others can pick them up to read. This person encourages other believers to pick up the materials and share them with others. Those materials that are not picked up should be put away for another day. The materials that are not used after two months should be returned to the Chapel clerk.
12. Chapel Schedule Report
Make sure everyone knows the Christian chapel schedule. Ask a member to pass out schedules and to report on the work of the ministry.
This member distributes a schedule of the daily Christian services, studies and groups in the prison chapel, on the yard and in the buildings. This schedule can be posted on building bulletin boards, in the chapel and handed out to individuals.
13. Joints & Ligaments
Explain how the power is in the joint.
Jesus Christ is the Head of His church. He is the builder, we are His disciples, being Spirit led and empowered. "And He is the head of the body, the church" (Colossians 1:18). Jesus is to be to this spiritual body, the Church, what our physical heads are to our physical bodies. He initiates and sustains the body by means of the truth of His word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Man must never be striving and manipulating to gain control over the Church of Jesus Christ. "But speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head -- Christ" (Ephesians 4:15). He is our standard for life. We grow to express His likeness, will and character, not ours.
Every member of the Body is to seek the Lord Jesus for guidance, not expecting men to supply the power. We are spiritual joints as members of Christ's body. The power is in the joint. "...from whom the whole body joined and knit together by what every joint supplies" (Ephesians 4:16a). The elbow in the human body, connect the upper and lower arm and is a good example of what spiritual joints are to Christ's body, the church. A spiritual joint forms when any member of Christ's body is willing to develop a relationship with any other member, to function together under the headship of Christ. Such joints can then be used of the Lord to unify and edify the body of Christ.
Joints need ligaments to function effectively. "From whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments" (Colossians 2:19a). Ligaments are strong bonds that hold the joints in place, even under intense pressure. When members of the Body of Christ begin to relate together to serve the Lord, great pressure often results. Spiritual joints will pop out of joint if spiritual ligaments are not growing around the joint. This is the bond of Christlike love. "And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity" (Colossians 3:14). As we hold fast the the Head, the Lord brings spiritual growth, for His body: "... grows with the increase that is from God" (Colossians 2:19b).
[Excerpts from The Head and the Body by Pastor Bob Hoekstra, Living in Christ Ministries newsletter, Spring 2005, www.livinginchrist.org. ]
14. Body of Christ Building Spread
Agape feast quarterly by the Christians who invite their unbelieving friends. Ask a member to be in charge of securing the food and preparing the spread.
This member has experience in preparing large spreads. He or she knows how to make, for instance, quality burritos from items at the prison canteen, what to purchase and how much for a certain number of people. The word is put out for donations of what food is needed from the believers for a specific date. The believers share God's love during the feast, which can end up being a beautiful testimony. The overall purpose of this vision being to reach out in loving service in a moment of need to everyone in the housing unit .
[Friends and family members of inmates are to send copies of the above vision from www.aboundinglove.org, accompanying lessons, various forms and adequate copies of the materials to carry out the work of the ministry in their housing units.]