Just as Jesus sent out people two by two (Luke 10:1), we try to send teams of two out among the lost aiming to make disciples.
Tyler is an Executive Pastor on our staff at eLife and also my partner in going out among the lost. We were primarily making disciples in a lower-income part of town, but when we heard about what was going on in the jail & the need for workers, we immediately volunteered to join them.
We had to go through an application & training process in order to get the credentials we needed to be able to volunteer in the jail. Once we made it through the process, we were ready to gain access & start making disciples.
We were assigned to pod 5C.
At first, we didn’t know anything about 5C. We just thought it was a pod like the rest of the pods that people had been going into. Then we found out that it was different. They referred to it as the “PC pod.” I had no idea what that meant but learned that PC stood for “protective custody.” These were people that weren’t able to mix with the general population at the jail, usually because of the magnitude & seriousness of their crimes. Think capital murder, armed robbery, and the like.
Right before we went in, the leader that assigned 5C to us started mentioning the names of some of the people in that pod. We were shocked. You wouldn’t usually expect to know many of the people in the jail, but these names were recognizable because their crimes had made the news & their names were well known in the community.
Me & Tyler looked at each other after he told us that our pod was 5C and you could probably tell by our expressions that we were a little more nervous than we had been just a few minutes prior.
We showed up at the jail on that first day, made it through security, and entered 5C. I immediately recognized several of the people that had been mentioned to us.
We went up to the guard’s desk & told him we were there to lead a class. We were supposed to be on the schedule that day but he said they don’t really have a schedule for that pod because there are hardly any classes that meet. Most of the other pods have schedules of people coming in & out leading various classes but 5C didn’t have but a few classes that ever came in there. I’m not sure if it’s because people were afraid to go into that pod or if it was just a lack of volunteers, but we knew we had arrived in a pod that could really use our help.
The guard told us he was glad we were there & would announce that we had come to lead a class. He got on the loudspeaker & told the pod that we were there to lead a class & that they could join us in the classroom if they were interested.
Me & Tyler went into the classroom that was attached to the pod, put some tables together & began to greet the guys that walked in. We had about 10 show up to the first class. This pod has about 40 men total.
Once everyone arrived, we introduced ourselves & told them that we were there to lead a class on how to become a spiritual leader for their family. We told them we had heard that many of them were interested in a class like this. They nodded their heads.
We explained that a spiritual leader can also be described as a spiritual HOSS and that the word HOSS would help them remember what it would take for them to begin to lead their families spiritually.
We introduced them to the H in HOSS and explained that to be a spiritual leader in their family they needed to make sure they and their entire family knew how to get to heaven (as explained in the previous blog post).
I went around the room asking them how sure they were that they’d go to heaven one day. The first guy said 10%. The next guy agreed and also said 10%. The next one said 0%. And on it went. 0%, 10%, 15%. The answers were very low. Only one guy said 100%.
Then we asked them what they thought it took to get to heaven. Most of them acted like they had no idea. I couldn’t believe it. These guys live in America with millions of Christians & millions of Bibles & hundreds of thousands of churches & no one has told them how they & their family can be sure they’re going to heaven one day? Unbelievable!
We began to share with them the Roman Road as I described in the last blog post & I could tell the excitement in the room began to grow. Several of them commented on “feeling” something powerful in the room with us. We knew God was speaking to them through his Word & touching their lives. It was an amazing first meeting!
We never made it to the O & the SS in HOSS in the first meeting because we spent the entire time going slowly through the gospel making sure they understood. We told them that we’d be back the following week & would continue where we left off.
The class lasted about an hour and a half. After finishing, the guys left the classroom, we collected our things, and the guard scanned us out of the pod. As Tyler and I walked out that day, we were almost speechless. We knew something incredible had just happened and it was hard to even put it into words. We couldn’t wait for the next week.
As we were walking out, a Sheriff’s deputy that I knew stopped me to say hello. He asked what we were up to in the jail. I told him we had just finished leading a class in 5C. The look on his face told us exactly what he was thinking. He responded, “5C?!?! Do you know who’s in 5C?” We laughed & said we had been told. Then we shared with him how God had moved & that the inmates in that pod seemed very receptive to what we were sharing. He definitely seemed surprised.
When Week 2 rolled around, me & Tyler were pumped. We made it through security, got scanned into 5C and the guard made the announcement again that we were there to lead the class. To our surprise, we didn’t have 10 people show up again, we actually had 14. Whoa! Not only did the original group come back, apparently they invited some friends.
We said the exact same thing we said at the beginning of Week 1. Repetition is so important. We told them we were there to lead a class on becoming spiritual leaders in their families. Then we asked them if they remembered the acronym from the week before that helps us remember how to do that. They definitely remembered it.
I asked them what the H stood for. They quickly got it right. Heaven. I asked them what we mean by “Heaven.” Someone responded, “It means that we’ve gotta make sure our families know how to get to heaven.” Exactly!
We reviewed all of the verses in the Roman Road again, but we didn’t take as long going through it as the first week.
Then we introduced them to the O in HOSS & explained that if they want to be a spiritual leader then they need to make sure they are personally hearing from God & obeying him. We then began to describe the 7-Question DBS process as a tool for hearing from God & obeying him. We told them that we wanted to model for them how it works.
We had everyone turn to Mark 2:13-17. This is the story about Jesus calling Levi (Matthew) to be his disciple followed by Levi inviting Jesus over to dinner at his house with all of his sinful friends. We knew this story would connect with the situation they’re in.
If you remember in the story, the Pharisees saw Jesus eating with these sinful people & asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum (Mark 2:16)?” That part of the story really stood out to a few of the guys. One of them said, “You know what? Our pod, 5C, is considered the ’scum’ of this whole jail.” The rest of the guys nodded in agreement.
I immediately sensed the Holy Spirit leading me to say, “If that’s true, then this would be the first pod Jesus would visit.”
Jesus LOVED “scum!” He invited them to be his disciples (Matthew)! He gladly accepted the invitation to eat with them & be their friends. I wanted these guys to know that Jesus would hang out with them too.
In response to Question #6 & #7 in the DBS process, we encouraged the guys to ask God what he wanted them to obey from the passage that week & who he wanted them to share with. Everyone seemed excited to want to obey Jesus & share this passage with others.
That took up most of our 2nd meeting & so we told them that we’d get to the SS in HOSS during the 3rd meeting the following week.
Once again, as Tyler and I were walking out of the jail, we were stunned by what God had just done. I remember saying something like, “I feel like I’m doing what Jesus would be doing if he was here.” According to Matthew 25:37-40, when we visit those in prison, we’re visiting Jesus. I think I can speak for me & Tyler by saying that when we’re in that pod, we feel closer to Jesus than almost anywhere else. I feel a bit convicted it took me 12 years as a Senior Pastor to figure this out.
When we showed up for Week 3, there was a sense of anticipation for what God was going to do. We had about the same number of people come back as we had for the previous week. We assumed we’d have some initial attrition, but it turned out that they just kept coming back.
We used Week 3 to quickly review the H & the O in HOSS and then we began to cast vision to them for SS.
If you recall from the previous blog post, SS (Start New Groups) is all about leadership. If they want to be spiritual leaders in their family, they’ve got to LEAD their family to hear from God & obey what he says. We encouraged them to immediately contact their families & begin to share with them the Roman Road & train them in the 7-Question DBS Process. We also told them that God wants to use them not just as spiritual leaders in their families but spiritual leaders in their communities. We said that God had them in that pod right now for a reason & that there were 25 other guys or so that needed Jesus too.
We began to cast vision to them to start Discovery Groups in their pod. They all seemed very excited about this & we challenged them to all pair up & try to start a group the following week. We coached them in how to do this & then we all stood, held hands, and prayed together for boldness. Everyone seemed excited to contact their families & start groups in the pod. It was another powerful meeting!
When Week 4 rolled around, me & Tyler were so excited to hear what happened the previous week.
We showed up to 5C, welcomed the guys, and then reviewed HOSS.
When we asked them how it went starting groups that week, nobody spoke up. I asked again. Nothing. I said, “Guys, if you didn’t get any groups started this week, it’s no big deal. Just be honest.”
One of the inmates spoke up. I could tell he was disappointed in himself. He said, “We got nervous & we didn’t do it.”
Me & Tyler encouraged them & told them we totally understood. We reminded them that God is the one who gives us the boldness we need to share & that we needed to spend time praying that he would give us that boldness.
We spent the rest of that meeting praying & coaching them through some of their questions. By the end of the meeting, everyone seemed fired up again & ready for God to use them that week. We told them we’d be back the following week to check on them.
Week 5 was probably one of the highlights of me & Tyler’s entire ministry career.
When we showed up the next week, the group was excited. We went through HOSS and then asked them how the SS went the previous week.
One after another they began to share. All in all, they had started FIVE new first generation Discovery Groups! WOW!!!!!
And most of their groups included people who had never been to the class before!
God had given one guy so much boldness that he went around the entire pod over the course of that week with a clipboard in his hands asking each guy how he could pray for them & then writing down their prayer request. Another guy who started a group had so much boldness that he decided to write a letter to his Mom about what he had experienced. He & his Mom had talked a few years ago about how to get to heaven & he realized that he had given her the wrong answer. He told us that he wrote a letter to her that week to let her know that he finally figured out how to get to heaven & he wanted her to know about it. He said they don’t have a great relationship so it was a big step for him to write to his Mom.
We listened to them share story after story about how God had given them boldness & how they had seen groups started. Me & Tyler were witnessing first-hand the extraordinary power of multiplication.
We finished the class that day by explaining to them how they had started what we like to call 5 first-generation Discovery Groups. We told them that they should encourage the people in each of those 5 groups to also start new groups with their cellmates (and family on the outside). That would result in many second-generation groups being started. I could tell they were understanding how quickly this could spread if everyone was aiming to make disciples. The whole jail could be reached in no time.
Addition (represented by inviting people to gatherings) can definitely reach some people. Usually a few hundred or in rare cases into the thousands. But multiplication can reach MANY people. Millions are being reached all over the world as disciples are making disciples.
Sure, me & Tyler could’ve just started a class & had them bring their friends to hear us teach (addition), but we knew that wouldn’t multiply disciples throughout the jail or into our city. BUT, if we could train and empower them to go & make disciples themselves, not only could we reach the whole jail, we could reach the whole CITY! That’s the power of multiplication & everyone seeing themselves as a disciple-maker.
Week 6 is this coming week & I absolutely can’t wait to see what has happened since the last time we were there!
Oh, and one last thing. Wouldn’t it be just like God to use the “scum” of the jail, who everyone expects to not amount to much, to catalyze a great movement of God that sweeps across our region? I think so! And that’s the very thing me & Tyler are praying for!
I’ll keep you updated.