Tim is a farmer by choice and by vocation. He lives and farms the same farm he grew up on himself. For generations his family has farmed in Stanton County, Nebraska. But every Thursday evening, Tim does a different kind of farming. He visits one of the area county jails and sows the seed of the gospel among any inmates who wish to meet with him. Tim has been involved in jail ministry for almost twenty years. At one time, Tim would visit nine different jails each week. Yes, that's not a typo, nine (9) different jails each week! Looking back on that now Tim admits he "probably bit off more than I could chew" during that season.
This past Lord's Day we had Tim, who is a part of our church family, share about his experiences of sharing God's Word with prisoners in the adult Transformation Class which I lead (if unfamiliar with a TC, think Sunday School). I kind of interviewed him about his experiences and members of the class also asked several different questions as well. It was a great time together. I look up to Tim and so thought I would share a few of the lessons I learned from his presentation with you.
1. Be Humble.
Tim emphasized for us that he knows he doesn't have all the answers. He knows he is no expert on sharing the gospel or helping people understand it. His prison ministry is definitely something he did not pursue but rather he got involved by just being with a great friend and spiritual mentor of his, who took him along when he decided one day to go share the gospel in the county prison. Tim emphasized that if anyone is going to be helped by anything he says it will only be because of God's sovereign, gracious work in the heart of the individual, and not because of any particular gift or wisdom of Tim's. He is just willing to be used by the Lord to meet with anyone who is interested in hearing what God's Word says. Tim also mentioned the importance of not allowing himself to think that he is any better than the person who is in prison. He doesn't talk down to them. He knows and believes that both he and whoever he sits down with are great sinners in need of a great savior.
2. Stay Faithful.
Tim emphasized the importance of staying faithful. Tim has just shown up every week for years at the same county jail. He has gotten to know the staff at the jails. The inmates who are there for an extended period of time learn to count on Tim showing up each Thursday night. He said it can take a while to build up trust with people, but once they are convinced they can count on you, because of your faithfulness, then doors open more easily for gospel work to be done. He shared there have been many times throughout the years where in his flesh he just didn't want to go. He had to fight the temptation to stay home and not be deceived into believing that no good was being done. God's people must take the long view and stay faithful to our calling and the Lord's commands.
3. Ask Questions.
Tim's key method for sharing the gospel can be described as simply asking questions. Asking questions of the person's spiritual background, lifestyle, family background, job experience and other such topics helps to discover open doors to share Christ. Also, asking questions can get the other person to really consider whether or not what they believe is right or true or whether or not they actually really believe it at all. Tim likes to get the other person to think for themselves and asking good questions can accomplish that. Tim has also found that asking questions is a good way to put people at ease and help them feel comfortable with you. It shows that you really are interested in them.
4. Let the Word of God do the Work.