second chances

A church of second chances

March 25th, 2011 at 7:15 am

They have been forgiven by the grace of God and have been called out to seek a life of discipleship in Him. The only difference from them and you is they have a past that includes incarceration.

Because of this past, many traditional churches are not connecting with their needs. Because of the labels they now carry, some churches are not able to let them around children, making it difficult for them to find community, a place of worship and a group for discipleship.

This is the reason why Lindsay Cofield, director of the multi-housing and organic church ministries at Texas Baptists, and Sie Davis, pastor of the Church of the Called Out Ones in Dallas, joined together in 2003 to begin forming ex-offender churches, giving these men, women and families who have been touched by incarceration a place to call their Christian home.

Most of these churches are “churches within churches,” Sie said. Many churches realize that they may not have the means to minister to the challenges that ex-offenders face, so they help created a church that can walk with these individuals and their families as they transition back into society and learn to be disciples of Christ.

“Our main goal is to transition them from that prison church and to put them in the free world church, the church out here,” Sie said. “We are looking at first finding a church that is allowing them to come in and then work with that pastor.”

Sie partnered with Lake Highlands Baptist Church in Dallas to begin Church of the Called Out Ones back in 2002. Lake Highlands helps fund some of the church endeavors while New Creation Bible Church allows the group to use its building to hold services and activities.

“The average church is going to adhere to the needs of their population,” Sie said. “If one percent of the population of the church are ex-offenders, (the pastor) is not going to pay attention to that. With the ex-offender church, we preach to their needs. Like I teach on addiction a lot. I teach on the importance of family because more than 70 percent of children of ex-offenders end up in prison themselves. These children will probably end up in prison if we don’t do something different. It’s so important to break the flow.”

Sie said ex-offenders are a “special breed,” requiring specific attention and teaching to help them be successful, also mentioning that he himself was once incarcerated. The offenders and their families need to know how to adapt to each other after being apart for a long absence. The parents need to learn to lead their children in Christian ways. And many need help dealing with substance abuse. All of these are issues that may not be found in a typical church or be boldly addressed, Sie said, sighting the need for ex-offender churches.

Out of seeing the transitional needs of his congregation, Pastor Sie also helped begin Crossroads Unwinding in Dallas, a residential ministry to help ex-offenders get back on their feet, find jobs and gain the support they need to become success citizens of their cities and the kingdom of God.

Though ex-offender churches may look slightly different from the traditional church, Sie says that the goal is the same – to help men and women and families grow in their love for the Lord.

“Many find Jesus in prison, but when they get out, they are not successful. They need that support when they get out… A lot of them are ashamed of what they did but they are not ashamed of what God did. It is a testimony of what God has done in their life,” Sie said. “It is a change in their lives, and it is the change in society. My hope is that the church will get more involved. If you don’t want to do anything as letting them in their church, then they can help support an ex-offender church. That would be great!”

To find out more about starting ex-offender churches, contact Lindsay Cofield at Lindsay.cofield@texasbaptists.org or visit the Texas Baptists Organic Church webpage.

 

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