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Leavening the Culture: The Work of Prison Fellowship

Eric Metaxas | Author | Updated: Oct 08, 2013

Leavening the Culture: The Work of Prison Fellowship

Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.”

Last week, my friend and colleague, Alan Terwilleger, president of the Colson Center, saw just how true this is.

Alan traveled to the Midwest with Prison Fellowship’s CEO Jim Liske for a meeting of Prison Fellowship staff, volunteers, and state correctional officials.

As Alan wrote in his on-line article at, during the meeting Jim Liske had an open-mic discussion with two prison wardens about the work of Prison Fellowship.

According to Alan, the wardens said that they loved Prison Fellowship volunteers — for their competence, caring attitude, and most of all their commitment. These are men and women, after all, who are visiting “those in prison” as Jesus commanded.

One of the wardens commented about The Urban Ministry Institute run by Prison Fellowship and World Impact. Prison Fellowship calls the program “Prisoners to Pastors,” because it teaches university-level Bible, pastoral, and theology courses to prisoners to prepare them to return to their urban communities as Christian leaders.

The warden said that not long after the program started, she noticed something different during her rounds. She saw prisoners in their cells studying quietly, taking notes, and working hard. And during her trips to the yard, she said she’s always on the receiving end of “God bless you” from the men.

As Alan wrote, the warden and her staff “agree that the prisoners who are participating in PF programs are changing the culture of the prison for the better.”

That’s an amazing statement. Just a few Christian prisoners can make all the difference. Like leaven in a lump of dough.

And that’s the operative Kingdom principle at work in Prison Fellowship as it seeks to restore broken families and communities affected by crime.

But it’s also the principle that guides us here at BreakPoint and the Colson Center. We believe that a few Christians living authentically Christian lives can begin to change the culture. It’s why Chuck Colson started the Centurions Program back in 2004. Since then, we’ve trained more than 900 men and women as Centurions to live out their Christian worldview in such a way that their communities and their spheres of influence are transformed.

It’s why we keep BreakPoint on the air, to teach, to inspire, to help Christians hold out what Chuck called the “Great Proposal” to a needy world. Just a few weeks ago, we received an email from a listener who teaches in what she calls a “difficult” urban school. Responding to John Stonestreet’s commentary on the Christian view of Just War, she wrote that so much of what is taught in public schools paints Christians in a negative light. She used the BreakPoint commentary to show her students how “Christians today still interact with culture” in a positive way.

And by the way, I’d encourage any of you listening today to let us know how BreakPoint is helping you in your daily work, in your family, or in your ministry. Because this is the kind of “leavening” work to which we believe God has called the Colson Center, Prison Fellowship, and Justice Fellowship, our criminal justice reform arm.

Perhaps God is calling you to join us in some form or another — to add your pinch of leaven.

For more information on these wonderful ministries, please come to, click on this commentary, and we’ll link you to them.

BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at where you can read and search answers to common questions.

Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

Publication date: October 8, 2013

Leavening the Culture: The Work of Prison Fellowship