By Ryan Northcutt
**(Be sure to read till the end because there's some FREE stuff for you.)
A couple of months ago I traveled to Portland, OR. While there I decided against renting a car and instead used UBER to get around. It worked great.
During one of my rides the driver shared a story about some of his recent car troubles. (I was hoping he wasn't talking about the car we were riding in.)
He said his car had been in the shop twice because "something just wasn't right."
Each time the mechanic hooked his car up to the diagnostic computer, but it didn't show anything to be wrong.
The mechanic came into the waiting room and said, "We've hooked your car up twice and can't seem to find anything wrong with it."
Frustrated, the car owner said, "I'm telling you there's something wrong." He then walked into the garage and popped the hood.
Sure enough...there it was...a crack in his engine block.
The mechanic had run diagnostic tests BUT he never popped the hood.
I should know because I was one of them. I used all kinds of diagnostic tools like the number of salvations/baptisms, attendance, and giving to determine if my church was healthy.
And while these tools can be useful I believe that as pastors we must be willing to "pop the hood" of our churches and take a careful look at what's going on.
I believe the best way to do this is by talking with the people in our congregations.
We must find out their true needs, not just what we think they need.
I recently talked with a pastor who did this very thing.
He had received an email about Mercy Heart, but didn't think it really applied to his church. However, later in a meeting someone asked for prayer because they had a loved one incarcerated.
Immediately he thought about Mercy Heart and the email he received, and he knew that God was trying to show him something.
So he signed up and is now learning how Mercy Heart can help his church meet this critical need.
There is no diagnostic tool that will inform you that your church needs Mercy Heart.
Often because of the stigma and shame most of these families experience they will keep their desperate need for help a secret.
They will, however, share their struggles in small, intimate, and heartfelt conversations.
Sadly, although most pastors believe their church should be ministering to ex-offenders and their families, very few actually start a ministry like Mercy Heart.
I'm sure there are many reasons for this disconnect, but in our experience it's because while a pastor believes it's biblical to do this ministry, they don't believe it's necessary for their church.
I can't count the number of times I've heard a pastor say to me, "We just don't have those people in our church."
There are 28 million family members with either a loved one incarcerated or under some kind of criminal justice supervision, and you don't think a few of them are in your church?
The truth is these families are in your church, but you don't know it because none of your diagnostic tools tells you this is the case.
Talk to some people outside of your normal circle. Talk to your leaders. Talk to your Sunday school teachers/life group leaders. Anyone. Everyone.
Take the first step by creating a safe place for these families to belong. Let them know it's okay to step out from the shadows. Let them know your church is a place where they can find healing and restoration.
What have you got to lose?
Mercy Heart believes so much in this mission that if you are willing to "pop the hood," we are willing to "pop for the bill."
We will give full and complete access to any church willing to give this ministry an honest try for the next year.
Yes, you read that right: FREE.
Just use the coupon code 365FREE at the checkout and you will not be charged anything for the first year.
Are you ready to pop the hood? Are you ready to make a difference in the lives of families of inmates? Then go. Get started right now.
Are you one of the 28 million family members caught in the crisis of incarceration?
Are you a mom with a spouse in prison?
Do you need some help?
Sign up to receive updates from Mercy Heart and we'll start sending more resources your way.
Sign up to stay informed and receive a FREE copy of 21 Days of Prayer and get access to a FREE devotional series called The Gospel.
**And we'll never share your info with anyone.