Faith Forum: Seminary transforms criminals into ministers

Faith Forum colorBy JACKY TAMEZ 

Religion editor 


Inmates at Darrington Unit penitentiary in Brazoria County are doing something people would not expect: ministering to other prisoners.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary began offering classes to inmates in spring 2011 and currently has 77 students. The inmates are pursuing a bachelors degree in Biblical Studies by taking classes in English, Old and New Testament, theology, practical ministry and ministry electives  taught  by accredited professors from SBTS.

When Jesus said in Matthew 28:19, “to go make disciples of all the nations,” a murderer is the last person one expects to see minister to a thief. The reason is that we have a tendency to categorize people based on who they are, what they have done or where they have been. Jesus ate with the sinners and the tax collectors, so as Christians we feel a responsibility to also reach out to those who have a spiritual need. However, we do not see the needy as possible blessings to others.

According to a January article in the Houston Chronicle, Rev. Benjamin Phillips, program director, said the idea of the program is to train the inmates to become missionary pastors and to transform the lives of the prisoners with the Gospel.

“These guys are in because they committed serious crimes,” Phillips said. “When somebody like that transforms from a selfish criminal to a selfless minister who meets fellow prisoners’ needs with the word of God, that kind of character becomes contagious.”

Paul became one of the most influential leaders of the early church after his encounter with Jesus on his way to Damascus even though Paul persecuted followers of Christ. When someone so against the faith is saved, it is an example of how merciful and mighty God is. When prisoners who committed serious crimes turn to Jesus and minister to others about the change in their life, it has a greater impact.

A prisoner is more likely to reach out and touch the heart of another prisoner than a minister who has never been on the other side of the law. Through this program, the Gospel is spread to prisoners who otherwise would not have heard the message of Christ.