A Conversation with Frank Mastrolonardo, Only Hope Prison Ministries
“But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at my Word.” —Isaiah 66:2
The most helpful thing I’ve learned in prison ministry is that pride will destroy. Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:5), which means that every work we do for the sake of the gospel must start from a place of humility. It’s important that the inmates know, every time they speak with me, that it’s not me speaking—it’s the Bible. My opinion doesn’t matter; I don’t have the authority to tell anyone what to believe or how to act, but God’s Word does. I’m in the same boat as an inmate in jail or prison; we’re both sinners, desperately in need of God’s saving grace.
Any time I go to the jail, I always share the keystones of the gospel.
• Romans 3:23, all have sinned.
• Romans 6:23, the wages of sin is death.
• 1 Timothy 1:15, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
• Ephesians 2:8–9, believers are saved by grace, not as a result of works.
• John 3:16, whoever believes in Him shall not perish.
• Revelation 20:10, the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire.
God is holy, Jesus saves, and evil doesn’t win.
Our society preaches an easy-believism gospel, which makes it even more important to share the whole gospel in every evangelistic encounter. And it resonates—people, especially in the prisons, understand what sin is. The inmates’ entire lived reality testifies to the principles of justice and retribution, but praise God that doesn’t have to be the end of the story. Grace is sweet when we understand what God offers to save us from.
One of the biggest challenges in prison ministry is that inmates, like all unbelievers, have their own agenda. I think often about Daniel, the prophet, who had integrity and character in the midst of a dark culture. He didn’t compromise when it came to the Word of God, and at the same time, he also understood the unique position of those in his sphere of influence and sought to deal with them in a winning way. Paul says, “To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law…so that I might win those who are under the Law” (1 Corinthians 9:20). God has given each of us a call to preach the gospel, and that starts with the attitude we take toward those to whom we witness. As we share the truth of Jesus Christ with others, may we never forget the depth of our own need and the joy of so sweet a salvation.
If you’re interested in learning more about prison ministry and the evangelistic work God is doing, visit onlyhopeprisonministries.com.