Updated: Mar 21
A couple of years or so ago, someone from the organization in which I serve in my local jail through, formerly called “Forgotten Man Ministries” (FMM), shared a discussion that addressed the issue of recidivism (inmates returning to jail after release) via email. He was promoting an educational program (GRO) in conjunction with this; something that I was, and still am in full support of (unfortunately it was put aside and remains so, due to the covid business). Below is a slightly edited version of my response to this discussion. I felt compelled to share it with you all, as I believe that the general principle presented in it is universally relevant.
We all indeed want to see recidivism reduced; making efforts to do so are of paramount importance, and I am 100% behind them (including the GRO pod).
That being said, I believe that we must use a healthy measure of caution when using numbers regarding recidivism as a benchmark on which to measure the success (or lack thereof) of our ministry. I firmly believe that our first and foremost goal at FMM needs to be that of seeing to it that people receive and believe on the pure and unadulterated message of the Gospel (John 3, Eph. 2:8-9, 1 Cor. 15: 1-4, John 14:6, 1:12, 6: 47, Acts 16:31, Rom. 6:23, 11:6, etc.). Of course when one believes the Gospel he/she receives the irrevocable second birth (John 3, Eph. 1:13, Rom. 11:29); being born of God; a birth which is sinless, thus incapable of sinning (1 John 3:9).
The issue that we must be very mindful of, is that all of us regenerate believers still carry around our old sinful flesh as well as the new nature (Rom. 7: 14-25, Gal. 5: 16, etc.). Some of us in our old sinful flesh are more volatile and unsavory in many respects than are others. We all know probably know people who are not Christians who are very nice, and perhaps we even much prefer their company over many of our Christian acquaintances. A true Christian is of course someone who has trusted Christ as savior and has thus been born again, period. Salvation is of course purely of the finished work of Christ, not at all of man. Now, a Christian man may indeed have a more unsavory flesh nature than a man who is unregenerate (a non-Christian), who has a relative “good” and pleasant flesh nature in comparison to most people. This man still falls short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23), and consequently he will die in his sin and suffer the eternal consequences, if he does not believe the Gospel (Rom 6: 23, John 3:18). However, if the Christian in this example does not make a habit of living in his new and sinless birth; the Spirit, as Paul calls it (Gal. 5:16), he will still come off as a rather unsavory fellow, whereas the non-Christian in this example will not. This is of course a reason why I believe that Paul admonishes the believers who he is addressing in his letter to the Galatians, in chapter 5, verse 16 to Walk in the Spirit that they may not fulfill the lusts of the flesh, which we all have tendencies toward, and give in to, in varying degrees and durations.
We must remember that the flesh natures of many of the men and women that we minister to in our jails (both saved and unsaved), which they are still carrying around with them (just as we all are) probably have over time donned a disproportionate amount of unhealthy and destructive [jail-worthy, if you will] learned behaviors; programming, if you will. They are more likely to revert to this at Spiritual low points; weak points. Remember, this is what they have always done, it's familiar, it comes to them naturally, in a twisted sense it seems safe and comfortable to them, and they know how to do it. This is human nature.
We must first see to it that the folks that we work with are saved. There is ZERO genuine discipleship without salvation/rebirth. When they are born again and have the Spirit to Walk in, then and only then can we truly disciple them. There is no meaningful discipleship without the new birth. Discipleship is Spiritual growth. Just as one must be born physically before he/she can born physically, one must be born Spiritually before one can grow Spiritually.
We will have inmates who have put their trust in Christ; men and women who are going to Heaven, get rearrested and return to us. God will discipline them (Heb. 12:6). It will also be part of their growth process (Rom. 8:28). I would remind us all that the word “disciple” is a derivative of the word “discipline.” I would submit that we strive to view these unfortunate events as subsequent chapters in the discipleship of these brothers and sisters, as we continue our part in ministering to them in the love of Christ. My $.02.