God’s Instruments

Although I obviously don’t compare myself to Moses, I think I know how he must have felt in the sunset of his life, standing at the edge of the Promised Land. For I approach the twilight of my own life and ministry at the very moment God is raising up Prison Fellowship for its greatest springtime. As I look back over the last thirty years, I am overwhelmed by what God has done. In 1976, when it became clear that God wanted me working with prisoners, we incorporated the ministry. But we did not have any grand strategy—simply an eagerness to disciple inmates. At first we took inmates out of prison, discipled them for two weeks, and returned them to disciple others. It was fruitful, but we soon realized that we could not reach enough people that way. God gave us the answer at Wisconsin’s Oxford Penitentiary. A hard-headed warden balked at our request for an inmate to come to Washington. “If you’re so good, bring your program in here,” he challenged us. It was winter, and Oxford is in the woods. We knew that he was testing us, so we called his bluff. That began our first week-long in-prison seminar for ninety inmates—a huge success. These seminars have become the backbone of this ministry, spreading throughout thousands of prisons worldwide. Over the decades, God continued to lead us, like Angel Tree, which was started by a woman just coming out of prison. I didn’t even know about it. Or Justice Fellowship, or the InnerChange Freedom Initiative®, or Operation Starting Line, and Prison Fellowship International, which is now operating in 113 countries. In every instance it was not our strategy but the result of doors clearly opened by God. In the 1980s we struck out in a new direction. We were evangelizing more people every day, but the prison population continued to climb—the result of cultural moral rot. That meant we not only had to continue evangelizing prisoners, but also speak to the culture about its failure to teach kids during the morally formative years. Influenced by my study of Abraham Kuyper and Francis Schaeffer, I began writing a column for Christianity Today addressing cultural trends from a biblical perspective. In 1991, we launched BreakPoint, and then the Wilberforce Forum and the Centurions program. Thus began our worldview teaching and equipping ministry. The great lesson I’ve learned in these exciting thirty years is that we are merely instruments in God’s hands, and that’s what gives me such confidence for the future. He has uniquely positioned us to do two things that the Church most needs to be doing: overcoming evil with good (evangelizing prisoners, in our case) and defending the truth—in the face of growing hostility from those who paint Christians as uncaring bigots wanting to impose our will on others. They can’t make those labels stick when we are seen laboring on behalf of society’s outcasts. Whenever the Church does these two things—to reach the suffering and speak to the powerful in the culture—it has an incredible power. This was the secret of Wilberforce’s great campaign that brought about an end to the barbaric slave trade in England. For thirty years God has raised up a great army of people willing to love the unlovable and witness to the truth. As the sun rises on our fourth decade, He continues to increase our number. That is why I say Prison Fellowship is in a glorious springtime.  
For Further Reading and Information
Apply today for the 2007 Centurions Program and study Biblical worldview for a year with Chuck Colson! Deadline for applications is November 30. Please donate online today to help Prison Fellowship continue to minister to prisoners and for BreakPoint to continue its Biblical worldview ministry. Or call 1-877-322-5527. Charles Colson, “Fifteen Years and Counting,” BreakPoint WorldView, September 2006. Learn more about how you can help Prison Fellowship defend religious freedom in the InnerChange Freedom Initiative lawsuit appeal. Learn more about Angel Tree, Operation Starting Line, and Prison Fellowship International. BreakPoint Commentary No. 051219, “Rogue Angel: A Christmas Story.” Charles Colson with Anne Morse, How Now Shall We Live? Devotional (Tyndale, 2004). Kevin Belmonte, Hero for Humanity: A Biography of William Wilberforce (NavPress, 2002).


Chuck Colson



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