Jail ministry has been one of the most rewarding types of ministry I have experienced. It can also be one of the more frustrating types of ministry as well. Many times women come into the jail church service and cry rivers of tears. Some sincerely want to change their lives for the better and this visit to jail serves as their wake up call. Others are simply sorry they got caught and are frustrated by the inconvenience of their unfortunate plight. I constantly pray that God will give me the wisdom to speak into the lives of these women in either circumstance. Still, it is discouraging when they are released and only a few weeks later they are back.
But, then there are cases like I experienced this past week that more than make up for it. There are two ladies that I have been ministering to for at least 6 months now. They both accepted Christ as Savior, and have been faithful to come to every service. Last week we had a new lady join us. Fortunately it has been rather quiet lately as there are only 3 female inmates in the entire facility.
I always take my laptop and speakers so we can have a time of worship with anointed, and uplifting worship music. Last week was no different. As we were singing “It is Well,” by Kristine DiMarco, I witnessed the most beautiful sight. Both of my longtime ladies had their arms stretched to heaven as they worshipped our Heavenly Father. Tears rolled down their cheeks as they confidently proclaimed “it is well with my soul!” I couldn’t help but cry tears of joy at this heart touching sight!
These ladies have been through so much in their lives, but have slowly been transformed by the power of God and His amazing grace. They have experienced God’s miraculous healing power in some of our services. They have learned of His great love for us, and His power to rescue us from the chains that hold us captive. They have learned God is far more concerned with what we do with our future than what we did with our past, and they have listened intently to each Biblical Truth the Holy Spirit has poured into them. One lady was baptized in the Holy Spirit with evidence of speaking in tongues, and the other is still seeking the gift. Watching this amazing transformation has been overwhelming and these ladies have become so precious to me.
But this past week I was not prepared for what happened after our praise and worship service ended. As we all took our seats, they began speaking to the new lady. I sat there completely amazed listening to each of them as they began to speak boldly to her about their past failures and mistakes. They took turns at explaining what God had done for them, and how He had delivered them. The new lady was crying really hard at this point, and my ladies prayed with her and led her to the Lord.
I was overjoyed to hear them repeating the words that I had so often spoken to them—words of encouragement and words to help them believe that God has better things in store for them. Crying tears of joy I quietly said, “Wow, you ladies don’t even need me anymore.” We all laughed, but I wasn’t really joking. Although we must always continue to grow, no matter what stage of life we are in, these ladies displayed a maturity that only comes from a sincere relationship with Jesus, and hopefully a successful period of discipleship.
Once again I was reminded of how important it is to share our stories. When God has delivered us from our transgressions, how can we be silent? Sometimes as leaders (speaking for myself here) it’s hard to let go and let others do what we normally do in ministry--especially if you are a perfectionist. But, that is what discipleship is about. It’s one thing to lead them to Jesus, but we can’t stop there. We must do as Jesus commanded us, “go and make disciples.” The developing of a disciple requires us to take a back seat and observe the student. The blessing we receive from seeing that pupil succeed is beyond explanation.
I have never been more proud to see these ladies minister to one who was so lost. As we were leaving the room, one of my regular ladies lingered a little longer and whispered to me, “Miss Donna, God confirmed something to me today. He confirmed that He is calling me to be a minister just like you. I want to minister to women in jails.” My heart swelled with joy upon hearing those words.
We make disciples so that they can go and make disciples. This is how the gospel is spread to the lost. It is not a one man mission. We must all pull together to reach the millions who could spend eternity in hell without our message. We may think it is hard to win souls and even harder to make disciples, but that is faulty thinking. Many times we disciple others without even realizing what we are doing. We must simply be an example, give encouragement, and give opportunity for others to do what God has called them to do—in other words we must take a back seat.
It’s a wonderful feeling to lead a lost soul to Christ, but it is overwhelmingly exciting to disciple that new believer into a strong and capable minister of the gospel!
Matthew 28:19,20 NIV
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always to the very end of the age..."
Donna Sparks is an International Speaker and Evangelist. She is the Author of Beauty From Ashes: My Story of Grace, and, No Limits: Embracing the Miraculous.