Prison Worship Service Reflects Worship in Heaven

It was a room filled with drug dealers, kidnappers, assailants, thieves, lifers, the Holy Spirit, and goosebumps!

My word!  How many Christians have no idea what heaven will be like?

Sure.  Heaven is the place where God dwells.  Heaven is the place where Jesus Christ reigns.  The streets in heaven are paved with gold.  There will be no tears.

There also will be no pretention!  No artificiality!  No seeking to impress!  No worrying about your reputation!  We will worship Christ in heaven without a single thought of how we look in other people’s eyes!

I had a brief taste of what that will be like last night, January 26, 2016, on my 7th or 8th visit to Curran Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia PA as a volunteer with Conquering Life Prison and Recovery Ministry of Bensalem, PA.  It is an absolute total shame that so many in the “imprisoned” church, scurrying around outside the walls of the prison, chained by insecurities about their reputation with other believers, have not experienced what a pride-free worship service is like.

While your church’s Sunday worship music is wonderful indeed, it simply does not compare, in my mind, to the songs of praise shouted by men who society has locked up and rejected!  Watching a convicted murderer, with a life sentence, singing with tears of joy about his Savior Jesus Christ, a Savior who has forgiven him of his sin and his crimes, puts worship into perspective.  I’ve been to thousands of church worship services throughout my life but never experienced the thrill of genuine worship until I began to attend these prison worship services.

You see, in a room full of “criminals”, there is no talk about salaries, stock options, promotions, retirement, vacations, or house renovations.  There is only “I have nothing!  I am nothing! I need Jesus!  He loves me!” talk.  God adores the heartfelt worship of the meek and those who mourn over their sin!

Ladies and gentlemen, there were 73 prisoners in their light blue prison garb last night.  At least 40 of them came up after the service to dedicate their lives to Jesus Christ!  They had just listened to Shawn Lawler, a former inmate in the very same prison, who is now a fearless (and I mean “fearless”) messenger of the gospel of Jesus Christ on the very streets of Philadelphia where he used to deal drugs and destroy lives and property.  Shawn had shared his testimony, the “truth” as he defined it – “He was a total screw up, Jesus had saved him, and now he will serve His Lord and Savior with boldness and courage.”

The prisoners, many with gang tattoos and criminal records that would terrify “regular” believers sitting in church pews, embraced one another arm to arm.  They encouraged one another to come up and give their lives to Jesus Christ.  They celebrated the love of their Savior with each other.

I walked away from the prison last night with a very strong message in my heart:

Lesson Learned – Sharing Your Testimony is Telling the Truth, Hiding Your Testimony is Flirting With a Lie

Christ calls us to be transparent!  We are to acknowledge to a hurting world that we are screw ups, that we are nothing, and that we have nothing.  However, because God loves us so incredibly much, He has invited us to become His children – by us accepting that the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed on the cross for our sins.  He paid the penalty for the things we have done.  There is no sin that Christ cannot forgive – including murders with crime scenes and those murders without crime scenes, the hatred we have for other people in our hearts.  This is the truth.

However, when we are silent about our testimonies of God’s grace, we are really saying artificiality, pretension, and reputation matter.  We worry about what people will think of us if we tell them how broken we were when Christ rescued us!  “Hey, I’ve got great stock options and a nice car, just like you!”  This is flirting with the lie that our reputation is so critically important.  It is flirting with the lie that Jesus Christ doesn’t change lives.

Is there anyone who claims Jesus as Lord and Savior who is excused from sharing their testimony?  Surely, those who have been victims of domestic abuse or rape can be excused. Right?  I’m not sure anymore.  Can’t they share anonymously?  People will certainly understand their need for privacy and confidentiality.  However, their stories need to be told.  Jesus Christ saves people from every human condition that can be imagined and the world needs evidence to that fact.  Every human condition!.

Believers, do you want more authentic worship?  It isn’t about the selection of music, the talent of the musicians, or the sound system.  It’s about coming to worship without any desire to impress the person sitting next to us in the pew.  It’s about knowing how broken we are.  It’s about cherishing what Christ has done for us.  It’s about telling that story to others without fear.  That is what worship in heaven will be like!