This is an article SC Baptist did on the ministry, Jim
A South Carolina ministry held a screening of Courageous at a North Carolina prison in February that led to 38 inmates praying to receive Christ and 40 inmates joining in a Bible study based on relationship themes highlighted in the movie.
After viewing scenes from Courageous last fall, Jim Williams, member of Edwards Road Church (Greenville) and founder of Blue Ridge Ministries, thought it would be a perfect fit for his ongoing men’s ministry because of its depictions of fatherhood and honor. When a friend donated the movie and the licensing rights to Williams’ ministry, he scheduled the showing for the inmates.
“The Courageous film does a great job of presenting the gospel, and it hit home with the inmates. A lot of them come from fatherless homes and many don’t even know their dad,” he said.
In his role with Blue Ridge Ministries, Williams works to equip inmates in North and South Carolina with biblically-based life skills designed to help them become more productive members of the community when they are released. He also leads seminars to support the families of the incarcerated.
Allen Edmisten is a chaplain with the SC Department of Corrections. He spoke of the lasting work Williams’ ministry has in the prison system. “Jim has a profound influence on the inmates. He helps extend my ability to minister through his teaching and counsel. To many, he represents the hope of repairing relationships with their children, preparing adequately to be fathers in the future, and consistently witnessing the good news of Jesus Christ,” said Edmisten, a member of First Church, Clinton.
One way Williams is helping prepare incarcerated fathers for life after their release is through Honor Begins at Home, a Courageous-themed Bible study. He said he doesn’t normally lead Bible studies in his ministry but offered it because so many men responded immediately following the movie by praying to receive Christ. He returns to the facility each week to lead the study, and said he is already seeing lives changed through the experience.
“Last week a guy said the Courageous experience was the best thing he’s ever done. He has anger and bitterness built up inside toward his father, probably because of the things he did—and did not do—when he was young. He knows he needs to forgive him,” Williams said. He estimates that about 80 percent of the incarcerated men attending his sessions are fathers. Issues the men have with their own fathers come up often.
“The men are really participating in this Bible study, and the response has been awesome. When we finish this, these men will have a life change. I am anxious to see how they have grown months from now and how God will work through this,” he said. Blue Ridge Ministries has also shown Courageous in a juvenile facility and an Upstate SC Baptist church. They will use it in conjunction with an upcoming fathering seminar.
Prison ministry involves heartbreaking stories. Williams says churches and volunteers from the community are the ones to make a difference. “The church community can make a big impact in the lives of inmates and their families. When a mom or dad receives a sentence, so does the family. It affects the dynamics of the whole family. They pay an awesome price,” he said.
As Edmisten pointed out, the Bible speaks to the importance of prison ministry in that Christians are responsible for bringing the gospel to inmates. “What everyone needs to realize is that today’s prisoner is tomorrow’s neighbor. The groups with the lowest recidivism rates are those prisoners who come to know the life-changing power of a loving Savior. Jesus made it clear that ‘the fields are white unto harvest.’ That truth is no more obvious than in the correctional institutions across our country,” he said.
Williams suggests that individuals and churches get involved in prison ministry by first contacting a local facility to speak with a chaplain about ongoing volunteer opportunities. Blue Ridge Ministries hopes to expand its prison ministry in other areas, including women’s facilities. They welcome volunteers and church partners. For more online information about the ministry, go to www.blueridgeministries.org