Indiana megachurch Emmanuel Church is making waves in a local prison and correctional facilities by launching several campuses within the high-security gates.
Men and women who have struggled with addiction or are sentenced to years behind bars are finding Christ through the services. And, according to Rachel Long, the executive pastor of multisite and families with the nondenominational church, the best part about it all is that it’s volunteer-run.
“The way that we view it is that they can't come to Christ inside these dark places without someone having the courage to go in,” Long told the Christian Post. “The thing that is most inspiring to me as a pastor is each one of those [microsites] is completely run by our impact [volunteer] team.”
The church has seen encouraging results. Fifteen inmates have given their lives to Christ for the first time and “countless others” have recommitted their lives to Christ. The impact team, which consists of 25 church volunteers, attend monthly equipping meetings on how to share the gospel and continue to love the inmates.
Launched in January of this year, these “microsite” campuses, that closely resemble the services at Emmanuel, are held in the Johnson County Jail, Johnson County Community Corrections work-release center and the Theodora House, a women’s recovery center run by Volunteers of America.
The impact team brings free breakfast and coffee every Sunday morning in order to emulate a real church service. Pastor Danny Anderson is live-streamed into the prisons and volunteers then facilitate small group discussions afterward. Two services are held at the Johnson County Community Corrections facility, while the Johnson County Jail holds services on Wednesday evenings for about 35 attendees. This service at the jail is not streamed, so volunteers deliver a version of Pastor Danny’s sermon, then usually break for a brief discussion.
Inmates who attend also walk away from the services with a church bulletin and a Bible Study to work through during the week.
The Theodora House, whose microsite campus opened in April, encourages women who are finishing their sentences or recovering from addiction. An average attendance includes 25 women.
Long told Christian Post that the opportunities keep rolling in. They are fielding several requests to establish more microsite campuses in other locations.
“We just kept walking through every door that God opened and said yes to what He put in front of us. And that's really how it happened,” Long said. “We started with an idea for a year-end giving project and it's morphed into something that we never could have expected that it would be.”
This microsite church campus idea has taken root in other states and churches as well. As Christian Headlines previously reported, in January of this year, Texas megachurch Gateway launched a campus within the state’s largest maximum-security prison. Over 650 inmates attended the first meeting and the church has witnessed over 500 men commit their lives to Christ.
"Gateway has really impacted my life because a lot of us do not have visits, and you guys comin' in here and sharing y'alls love to us has really impacted our life," an inmate told Fox News.
Photo courtesy: Tom Blackout/Unsplash
Mikaela Mathews is a freelance writer and editor based in Dallas, TX. She was the editor of a local magazine and a contributing writer for the Galveston Daily News and Spirit Magazine.