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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Connections: Manuel Cordero

Prison Ministry Theology

Manuel Cordero has been an ordained Assemblies of God chaplain for 30 years, including 23 years as a Federal Bureau of Prisons chaplain. He now is a correctional ministry representative and endorser for the AG Chaplaincy Department. Cordero conducts training conferences internationally for pastoral care and prison ministry. He recently sat down with Pentecostal Evangel News Editor John W. Kennedy to discuss prison ministry.

evangel: How would you describe the theology of prison ministry?
It begins with Matthew 25 and is a command to go and visit that comes directly from the heart of God. It’s not only the part where Jesus talks about visiting those in prison and says, “What you have done unto the least of these you have done it unto Me,” but also “If you haven’t done it.” From the Scriptures, we see that ministry to the prisoner, the oppressed, the bound, is close and dear to the heart of the Lord. The Bible is full of example after example of those in prison: Joseph, Jeremiah, Paul — often because of their faith. Many today are in prison because of their offenses, but when they come to know the Lord, their offenses are wiped away in the sight of the Lord. They are redeemed and become our brothers.

evangel: Have Christians become jaded regarding the worth of humans in God’s eyes?
Society as a whole has become jaded as human life has lost its value. The idea of supposed justice — lock them up and throw away the key — fails to realize the idea of mercy, that God is still in the business of redeeming His people.

evangel: What changes have you seen in the prison system?
When I started in correctional ministry more than 35 years ago, it was very much a medical model — trying to fix people with all sorts of therapies and programs. Then prisons became a place of warehousing. The pendulum is swinging back to more education and life-skills training. If we want to keep people from returning to prison, it’s time to help them develop.

evangel: Why should Christians be the ones leading the way in showing compassion?
First, it’s what Jesus told us to do. Second, we have been forgiven much, so we should also forgive.

evangel: Why will prison ministry continue to be a pressing issue?
Churches need to get involved with those who are coming out of prison in order for them not to go back.

evangel: What happens when Christians don’t show concern for the incarcerated?
There is a resurgence of other religious groups that are trying to recruit. If a Christian is not there for people whose souls cry out to God, they will fill that void with whatever is available. Hundreds of thousands of souls that could come into the Kingdom will instead be destined to damnation because Christians didn’t get involved.

evangel: What do prison volunteers need to know?
We must bring discipleship methods to deepen the faith, not just an evangelism message. Many of the men in prison who come to chapel services or Bible studies already are Christians. It’s important for volunteers to be fully prepared when they teach. Sometimes recidivism happens because a released inmate’s faith is too shallow.


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