Saturday, September 16, 2006


Sorry for being gone for the past couple of weeks. I was busy preparing for a Kairos Prison Ministry and was, literally, locked up for three days last week. If you are not familiar with the Kairos ministry, it is similar to the Walk to Emmaus or Cursillo weekends, only this one is held inside the walls of a prison. Prisoners -- we call them "residents" -- are selected to participate in the program by the Chaplain and the Warden. Typically, when these programs get started, the residents selected to participate are the trouble-makers, the leaders of the gangs and those who are causing problems in the prison. The Chaplain and the Warden apparently use the "trickle-down" theory of evangelistic reform, namely, if you convert the leaders, then the rest of the population will follow.

While the purpose of the program is not overtly evangelistic, many, many men and women who participate do get saved or rededicate their lives to Christ. C.S. Lewis once remarked that the hardest thing in western evangelism was to convince people that they were actually sinners in need of a Savior. If you can't recognize your need, you can't turn to Christ in repentance. This is one of the biggest challenges in our churches today. It is filled with too many "good" people who won't admit they are sinners. However, it is different in a Kairos environment. It almost goes without saying that these residents don't have to be convinced they are sinners. They know they are sinners and they know they need to make a change in their lives. It makes them very open to the convicting presence of the Holy Spirit during the weekend.

The main purpose of the Kairos weekend is to build up a Christian presence in the prison and to raise up resident leaders who will continue the program. It is very similar to the modern missionary movement in this regard. We are not going in the prison to set up a program for the residents to attend. We are not trying to change the culture. We are trying to put in place the seeds of faith and leadership so they can create their own Christian community that meets their particular needs. Outside team members (volunteers) come into the prison on a regular basis to worship and meet with the residents. At the Lowndes State Prison where I just served, the meetings are held every Wednesday and then a larger gathering the third Saturday of each month. These meetings are run by the residents and not by the outside team members. We simply come in, as members of the Christian faith community, to share God's love with them and to worship with them in their service.

God has done some remarkable things through the Kairos program. Many men and women have come to the Lord and have turned their lives around. And, when they finally leave the prison environment, if they do, then they have a foundation that they can build upon once they re-enter society. A network of Kairos volunteers and outside believers help support these residents as they seek to restart their lives, this time with God helping them make their own decisions.

I want to encourage all of you who have been through an Emmaus-like weekend, whether that be Tres Dios, Cursillo, Emmaus, Chrysalis, etc., to check out Kairos. Christ told us to visit those in prison, to carry His light into Satan's stronghold, and to win those who have been taken captive by the enemy. In these settings, it is easy to see the power of God moving in the lives of men and women. It is easy to renew your own faith and strength as God touches their lives. Get involved in Kairos or some other type of prison ministry and let God use you to help change someone. The Kairos International Website can be found by clicking here, and the Georgia Kairos Website can be found by clicking here.


John said...

A friend of mine leads a Kairos Outside program here in Florida for people who have relatives in prison.

Prison ministry is so critical for the church. I've been thinking about exploring it.

Greg Hazelrig said...

I've been to Emmaus and worked Emmaus and Chrysalis, but not Kairos yet. I hope to do so sometime, but right now I had to turn the las Emmaus opportunity down because of how busy I am with a new church.

I do have a friend who loves prison ministry because he says it's the place where he can see a difference being made.