The Mightiest Foremen of God

When churches look to raise up new leaders, they typically look for bright and young students coming out of seminary or individuals who have demonstrated a clear call to ministry under the supervision of a seasoned pastor within the walls of a structured church environment. Needless to say, churches do not immediately think of criminals or formerly incarcerated men as being strong candidates for church leadership. Many of society’s institutions, churches included, think of these men as beyond the pale of leadership, perceiving them as primarily threats, liabilities, or merely recipients of charity. However, in Sacred Scripture, God demonstrates His sovereign power by building His kingdom often with the hands of murderers and thieves.  Because of His sanctifying love and grace, these men have proven to be the mightiest foremen of God. 

Before Moses became the leader and liberator of God’s people, he murdered a man and fled for fear of punishment. Moses witnessed a fellow Egyptian brutally beating an Israelite. The text tells us that Moses struck down the Egyptian and then buried him in the sand. When Moses realized his criminal offense had become known and that the Pharaoh sought to kill him, he fled to Midian, hiding there for forty years. Likewise, before the apostle Paul became the most powerful missionary of the early church, he was a murderer of God’s people. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul tells the church, “For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it.” In his letter to Timothy, the apostle acknowledges Christ’s faithfulness to him despite his former wickedness, “I thank Him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He judged me faithful, appointing me to His service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent.” From God’s perspective, these men were ultimately defined not by their lawlessness, but by His faithfulness.

A year ago, God brought a man named “Henry” into my life. Henry and his brother were sexually molested by a man for several years when they were children. As adults, Henry and his brother decided to kill this man. Henry was subsequently charged with murder and incarcerated in Alabama. It seemed like his life was over.  However, neither the courts nor Henry’s sin could hinder the work of God. Though a murderer and a criminal, God came to Henry in prison just as He had come to Moses in the wilderness and to the apostle Paul on the road to Damascus. As a murderer and a criminal, Henry gave his life to Christ, and in God’s mercy, he was released from prison two years ago. Since then, he has become a strong supporter and volunteer with our prison ministry. Many people in Henry’s life, including myself, see Henry being called to pastoral ministry.  He has also expressed a desire to be a leader in our prison reentry home, ministering to men like himself as they transition out of prison. Join me in prayer for Henry as he pursues his call to ministry in a society that does not show much grace to formerly incarcerated men. 

Raj Lewis is one of the site coordinators for TUMI Chester.