To far too many people, church often appears a corporate affair. Congregations seem to cater to the wealthy, the attractive, the up-and-coming — those who best boost their bottom line.
We all know that’s not the way things should be. But there’s at least one church in Texas that is truly reaching out to the least of these.
According to its website, Gateway Church is a Lone-Star-State-based congregation. Actually, the church has multiple satellite locations, and some 30,000 attend.
The odd thing was where they were opening it. The newest branch of Gateway Church would be in Coffield Unit, a penitentiary.
“At Gateway Church, we’re all about people because God is all about people,” Morris said. “Many of the men and women inside prison have been forgotten by society, but we want them to know we love them and God loves them, and they are our brothers and sisters in Christ.”
In truth, the church had planned the move for some time. According to The Dallas Morning News, the congregation had partnered with G3 Prison Ministries.
The brainchild of ex-con Stephen Wilson, G3 had connected with inmates almost a half-million times from 2010 to 2018. Roughly 500 men out of the 4,200 total inmates attend weekly.
“The launch of our Coffield Campus has also prompted many families who attend our church to, for the first time, share their need for resources and support as loved ones of someone incarcerated,” Wilson said.
“Sometimes the offender needs to hear someone say, ‘I know you messed up, but I still love you.'”
He added, “We’re here to do both.” And that’s not all that the program exists to do.
In addition to proclaiming the forgiveness of sins by trusting in the life, death and resurrection of Christ, Gateway Church has also reconciled people to people. Sometimes such reconciliation has happened in dramatic ways.
Gateway Coffield Prison campus pastor Niles Holsinger told Fox News about how five men, all cartel or gang members, had come forward to be baptized together. The men were so dangerous that they were manacled and required guard supervision at all times.
“These guys from two different gangs professed the same Lord and were baptized in the same water together and they walked out together, guards not holding onto their arms anymore because God had done something in their life,” Holsinger said.
He added that the men were physically trembling when they arose out of their immersion in the waters because they knew their decision had put their lives at risk.
“Never one time in my life have I felt like my decision to follow Christ has put me in danger or discomfort,” Holsinger said.
“To see them walking out trembling, they maybe been afraid for their life not knowing what would happen, but they did not regret the decision they had just made. That was mind-blowing to me.”
This isn’t the end of Gateway’s efforts. They have plans to launch six more prison churches.
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