About the Guest
You've been given marching orders. It's time to deploy. Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson reminds believers that they have been called into God's service in order to passionately live out the gospel before an unbelieving world and bring the light and hope of Christ into dark places.
Chuck ColsonEvangelical Christianity lost one of its most eloquent and influential voices on April 21, 2012 with the death of Charles W. “Chuck” Colson. Colson was the founder of Prison Fellowship and Colson Center for Christian Worldview A Watergate figure who emerged from the country’s worst political scandal, a vocal Christian leader and a champion for prison ministry, Colson spent the last years of his life in the dual role of leading Prison Fellowship, the world’s largest outreach to prisoners...more
You’ve been given marching orders.
Bob: Chuck Colson says there are too many of us leading a “me-centered, let’s just take it easy” kind of Christian life. That’s not what we were called to.
Chuck: The gates of hell can’t stand against the church, right? You can’t come to the gates of hell sitting in a pew. You can only come to the gates of hell when you go out and go into the prisons or go into the hospitals or go to families in trouble.
That’s when you get into Satan’s territory. He’ll leave you alone if you sit in the church. What you’ve got to do is take that faith and live it out in every walk of life.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, January 7th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll hear from Chuck Colson today about how we can get off the bench and get into the game as followers of Christ.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. And that’s probably the last thing you’ll hear me say on today’s program. I think I’m done.
Dennis: You think that Chuck Colson and I are going to get on our soapbox?
Bob: I know the subject. I know what you want to talk to Chuck about. I just figure I can lean back and I’ll be back at the end to tell everybody how to get in touch with us.
Dennis: I’ve got a feeling that you’ll find your way in.
Chuck: I do as well.
Dennis: Thank you, Chuck. Thank you, Chuck! Well, I do want to welcome Chuck Colson to the broadcast. Welcome back, Chuck.
Chuck: Thank you very much, Dennis and Bob. I really enjoy being with you guys and love the ministry that you’ve got.
Dennis: We’ve had a good time. We’ve been together several hours here and doing a lot of radio and it’s just been really fun to hear your heart and your passion for Christ. You really are a Christian statesman for the gospel and around the country.
You know, Chuck, as you look at what’s happening today… You’ve been a Christian, a follower of Christ, for over 38 years, and you’re looking through a different set of lenses. You have some sense of decades of what’s gone on in our country. What’s your take on it?
Chuck: I’m watching in what I think is the most perilous period in my lifetime. You’re seeing the social contract in America, that glue which has held us together that idea of the consent of the governed, you’re seeing that fractured. Sixty-five percent of the American people are saying we’re on the wrong track. You see it in the elections when they’re angry at politicians in both parties.
Self-government doesn’t work unless people can participate in the process. I think that’s in danger today. I think that’s in grave danger, with the state taking over more and more functions, eliminating the intermediary institutions. What Edmund Burke used to call “little platoons of society,” which do the work of society. That’s a very dangerous condition.
At the same time, the one place we could have some recurrence of morality and justice in society, the church, seems to be obsessed with the narcissistic culture we live in. It seems to be saying that “I want to be in church because I want to be able to feel better. I want to be able to cope with the problems of life.” It’s all directed at yourself and your own spiritual satisfaction. It can no longer be that way.
We have got to get active in living out our faith in every area of life. We’ve got to become vibrant witnesses to our neighbors. We’ve got to love people who are hurting and suffering. We’ve got to be able to bring the gospel to people who are most desperately in need in our society. We’ve got to be able to demonstrate that there’s a better way to live your life, so the church has to do the part of the church.
Only God brings about revivals. Only God can cause an awakening. It has to be under the spirit of God. So we have to start by repenting, repenting of the fact that we have turned our back on God. Repenting of the fact that as a church we have scorned at the blessings He has given us, which have been unprecedented in human history.
We’re just like the Jews that were put in exile, that Ezekiel prophesized, Jeremiah prophesized, Daniel’s prayer. We need Daniel’s prayer where he constantly repented, constantly repented.
The interesting thing was, in both Ezekiel and Daniel, when he was repenting he kept saying, “We repent. We want to be blessed for your sake God, not for our sake.” And Ezekiel says God is speaking through him saying to the Jews, “I will bring you back out of captivity and I will bless you in order that the world will see my blessing to you through your life and I will get the glory.”
He makes it very clear. He does not bless us by giving us abundance. He does not bless us by giving us prosperity or all the things that many of us ask for. That’s not the prayer He answers. The prayer He answers is the prayer of repentance which says “Bless us for your sake so that the world might see your holiness lived through us.” That’s the key.
Once we start getting that in our culture it’s going to change our perspective. Our perspective becomes one of realizing that we have been entrusted by God with a precious, precious trust, which is the gospel, which is the good news. We have an obligation to live that out in every single walk of life. It we started doing that, and this has happened before in history, it will transform the society.
Bob: Chuck, you know some people hear this kind of conversation and it will sound to them maybe a little frightening, triumphalistic. It will sound like “Boy, Christians want to impose their will. They want to recapture society. They want to marginalize the unbeliever.” They’re worried about what evangelical Christians want society to be.
Chuck: This is exactly the myth that we’re trying to impose our will on somebody else. We’re not. We proposing. Come to the wedding feast. Enjoy the gospel. It’s the only way to live your life rationally. You’ve got to love people when you do that. You can’t be harsh and judgmental. We have the reputation and it’s wrong but we should do everything we can to shatter that stereotype by living lives of love and concern for others.
When I go to the prisons I’m not judging those guys for the crimes they’re committed when they went to prison. I’m loving them because they’re redeemed by Christ. When they’re redeemed by Christ and they have so much to be thankful for, as I do in my life, that my sins have been forgiven, then you out of gratitude, the mother of all virtues, out of gratitude you want to serve God.
So people who tell us we’re imposing our will, I say, ‘Look, we’re giving you the greatest invitation you’ve ever heard in your life. And I’ll tell you how wonderful it is. I don’t judge you but this is the way I live and this is what I’ve discovered and I couldn’t go back to the old life.” So I think it’s how we present ourselves.
Bob: When people parallel evangelical Christians and fundamentalist Islam and say there’s this parallel that Christians want to do the same thing the Islamists want to do…
Chuck: You hear that from Christian detractors and that makes great headlines and great columns that they write about us. It couldn’t be more false. It would be impossible to say anything more extraordinary than that.
Islam is a theocratic religion. It believes that there is a church state. We reject even a state church. We believe in separation of church and state. I’m a Baptist. I’ll fight for that, separation of church and state. But never a separation of religion and politics.
But the radical Islamic vie of life, Islamists they’re called, really want to impose their sharia law on everyone else. They want to impose it on their communities here in America. They are trying to do that. That’s what you ought to be frightened about.
Don’t ever equate Christians who follow the Prince of peace and want to bring love into the world and who believe in the separation of church and state, with an Islamist theocrat who want to really impose it, and by violence if necessary, because that’s what a jihad means.
Dennis: Church, you said three things to me that I just resonated with as you said them. You said, first of all, the Christian community has to repent, just as you said. We have to come back to our first love for Jesus Christ and we have to have the real disease. We’ve got to have the gospel being lived out in our lives, demonstrating what Jesus Christ looks like to our neighbors and in our community and in our businesses and in our schools.
Secondly, you said we have to deploy individuals, couples, laymen and women, at all ages, in the church, in various spheres of influence, to make a difference. You’re doing that through your video series that you’ve created around ethics. You also do it through Prison Fellowship. In fact, you found a work in a prison in Pittsburgh that had occurred in spite of you! Not necessarily because of you, but it was the very thing we’re talking about here.
Chuck: It’s a great example of the very thing we’re talking about. This was a case where a fellow came running up to me after a speech and he said, “Oh, Mr. Colson, we’re running one of your units at the Allegheny county jail. It’s really working.” I said, “Tell me about it.”
He said, “We’ve got two hundred men.” He said, “We’re teaching them. We’re running instruction programs for them. We get them mentors when they get out. We’ve got volunteers coming in for ministry, We’re using your teaching materials.” I said, “That’s fabulous!” He said, “We’re getting an eight percent recidivism rate.” I said, “Well, that’s what we get in our big units.” He said, “Yep, we’re getting the same rate. It’s a great success.”
I go back to the office and I said, “Isn’t this wonderful, this unit we’re running up in Pittsburgh.” They said, “What unit?” They didn’t even know it! Our people on the ground had done this, had given them the resources, and they’d gone out and done it themselves! I rejoiced. Everybody in the ministry is saying, “Well, they’re copying us.” I said, “Great. Let them copy us. We want a movement.”
The church is not a top-down structure. The church is people of God who deploy in little platoons--Burke’s phrase, I love it--little platoons, and go out in society and make a difference. What these people did in Pittsburgh was simply take something we’ve proven over 35 years’ of prison ministry works, and is very effective, and they’ve gone in and they’ve copied it and they’ve done it themselves. They financed it and supported it and they continue it.
That’s what everybody needs to be hearing in the church. We need to be getting out of our comfort zones in the pews, taking the gifts God has given us. If we happen to be lawyers, businessmen, plumbers, housewives…whatever we have, we have a gift.
We understand how to raise a family. We should be helping other people that don’t understand how to raise a family. Lawyers can offer all kinds of help to people who are in need. Businessmen can provide jobs for people who are desperately in need. The church ought to be a home base, ground zero, for a movement in the culture.
Dennis: I’m thinking of Ephesians, chapter four. This is the picture of what the church ought to be. It says, “He gave some as preachers and teachers and apostles and prophets…” for what purpose? “...to equip the saints for the work of ministry.”
I believe that work of ministry, now this is going to sound heretical but I don’t think the work of ministry begins in the church. I think the work of ministry starts in the home, starts in the family and from there it spills over to our neighbors. It spills over into our businesses, our schools, the marketplace, in various forms and fashions. It may be organized. It may be something as simple as just caring for someone where there’s been injustice or who’s been hurt by this culture.
The point is that Christianity is Christ in one, not merely to redeem them from hell, but to get us in a right relationship with God so we have the heart of God and we see people as image bearers. We say, “You know what? We can make a difference in our community, as moms and dads, husbands and wives, children.”
The issue we’re talking about today is what’s your work of ministry?. What’s your sphere of influence? Where are you going to make a difference? Is it the prison? Is it with orphans? Is it in marriage and family and I’ll talk about that in just a moment.
But I believe there is a latent army. I like your quote you keep giving about platoons…little platoons….parked all over a community. I think that’s what needs to happen for a church to retake the spiritual and moral high ground in this culture.
Chuck: To rebuild the culture because all culture is is an expression of cult, that is the belief system that’s at the core of the culture. That has historically been the Judea-Christian view. We’ve let it slip and we’ve lost it to people with alien points of view. But our job is to bring it back to its righteousness and its roots.
It will never happen if the people don’t activate themselves and go out and do it. You’re absolutely right. The gates of hell can’t stand against the church, right?
Chuck: You’re not going to come to the gates of hell sitting in a pew. You can only come to the gates of hell when you go out and go into the prisons or into the hospitals or go to families in trouble. That’s when you get into Satan’s territory. He’ll leave you alone if you sit in church. What you’ve got to do is take that faith and live it out in every walk of life.
Dennis: In our conversation you said they have to repent. Secondly, we’ve got to deploy laymen and get them out of the pews and into the marketplace making a difference. Then you said something that was--I just broke into a big grin--because you said, “Dennis, we’ve got to give them tools. We’ve got to give them the ability.”
When you said that something clicked in my own mind. I thought, you know what, we’ve been really good here on the radio and in our churches, making people feel guilty and ashamed at the sorry condition of the culture. And we’re maybe making an assumption here that people don’t care and they’re not willing to do anything.
But what we need to do is bring the needs of the marketplace close to individual people and instead of causing them to feel ashamed of what’s happening, say, “You know what? You can make a difference and let me offer you an array of tools to make a difference…in a prison, and with an orphan or in a marriage or in your community with youth.
I broke into a smile because you didn’t know it at the time but Bob Lepine had been working for almost a year, year and a half, along with a team of people here at FamilyLife, on a new video conference called The Art of Marriage that’s designed to be a tool to be put in the hands of an individual, a couple in a community to bring it to their church. Bob, you just shared earlier this morning about one of these Art of Marriage video conferences that occurred in, was it, Idaho?
Bob: It was in Idaho Falls and it was a couple who was distressed about two friends. Their marriages were splitting and they called a guy who worked at FamilyLife and said, “What can we do?” He said, “I’ll send you some books that you can pass along to them or some CDs they can listen to.” And they said, “Well, it needs to be something more than just giving them a book. What can we do?” And my friend said, “Well, we have this video conference called The Art of Marriage. You guys could host one of those in a local church.”
So they said, ‘Well go to our pastor and see if he’ll give us the okay.” They talked to the church secretary. She got excited. The pastor got excited. My friend said, “You know, we were hoping maybe fifteen, twenty couples would come together for this event. We could get these two couples in distress to be there and maybe it would have an impact of them.”
But people caught a vision for this and it was interesting to hear some of the things that happened. A local Christian school started putting flyers in the kids’ lunchboxes to take home to invite Mom and Dad to come to the Art of Marriage video conference. The word just started to spread.
Well, it turned out they had 370 people show up at the church for this Friday night, Saturday video-based event. The couple who was hosting it, they’re just an average couple who we had helped prepare them on what to say before the first video starts and what to say after it’s over and how to do the second video and get it all up and going.
Dennis: They were just a couple with a passion who felt like something needed to be done about the destruction of marriages and families in their community.
Bob: At the end of the day and a half, they got great feedback evaluations. Some people who came had trusted Christ for the first time. Some people who came said, “This has renewed my hope for our marriage. We were in trouble. We thought nobody else had our problems. It was very encouraging.” Now this couple is saying, “We went to do this again in our community.”
Chuck: I want to ask you. Is that the video that I saw the beginning of?
Chuck: That’s one of the finest videos I’ve ever seen. The imagery of that stuck in my mind. I can see it right now. That’s the kind of way we equip the church. Get out tools like that and you are going to change people’s marriages, their understanding of their own marriages. You’re going to strength the marriage institution.
In the Manhattan Declaration we don’t blame the gay community and the gay activitists for undermining marriage. We say we’ve done it ourselves by failing to build a healthy, vibrant culture of marriage in our midst. That’s a mistake of the church, which is why we start with repenting.
But we’ve got the tools available. You’re providing some marvelous tools. Nobody has the excuse of saying, “I don’t know what to do.” Go find out wherever your gift is. You know, one of the significant things about the Reformation, was that when people came to Christ the first thing they had to do as an exercise of discipleship was to get their calling and their vocation straight.
In other words, they would study where their gifts were and then they would use them. Now that may not have been how they made their money but they still had a vocation and a calling. So the idea of calling is very much a part of the Christian life. You don’t hear that talked about much in churches today but it is extremely important.
Bob: You know where I first learned that?
Bob: Reading a book called Why America Doesn’t Work by Chuck Colson and Jack Eckerd. You talked about the protestant work ethic and about vocation and I said, “Yeah!”
Chuck: This is exactly what happened in the Reformation. That’s why the work ethic expanded and that’s why, probably the greatest reforms in modern times, flowing out of the Reformation. Exactly because of that. That could be recaptured in the church today. We can do that today. People continually say to me, “It’s too late. Society’s too far gone.” No, it’s never too far gone.
If we take seriously what God teaches us and we start to do it with the kind of resources you’re offering, the Art of Marriage is dynamite, dynamite video, and get it out there into people’s hands where they can use it, and take the initiative like this couple did and go to the pastor and say, “We want to put this on in the church,” he’s not going to disagree.
Do this constantly in every area and you will see disciples made and you will see this culture changed. It’s not too late.
Bob: Even if you don’t’ see the change you’re still doing what God has called you to do.
Bob: We’re not necessarily responsible for what the change is. We’re responsible for being faithful to the vocation, the calling.
Chuck: Only God can produce the change. But we have to do our part as He calls us to do it.
Bob: That’s right.
Dennis: I’ll never forget Bill Bright talking about success in witnessing. He says “Success in witnessing is simply sharing Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God.”
Chuck: Exactly right.
Dennis: That’s what we’re talking about here. Ministry as we’re discussing is being faithful to do what God’s called, back to the concept you were talking about, Chuck, what He’s called you to do, and then leaving the results to God.
I think the question for every listener, back to Ephesians four, is if God gave pastors and teachers and book writers and Christian statesmen like Chuck Colson and others, for the purpose of equipping the saints for the work of ministry, the question is this for you: “What is your work of ministry? What has God called you to do? Not somebody else.”
Bob: What are the good works He prepared beforehand that you should walk in them?
Dennis: What are you passionate about? What do you pound the table about? What do you get your blood pressure up… And I just knocked something over here!
But the point is I think there are enough followers of Christ in this nation to, in a very short period of time make an enormous difference in the spiritual moral climate of our nation. I think we can make a difference at a huge level in a hurry around the major institutions impacting our nation.
Chuck: There isn’t any doubt about it. The place where you can have the most impact right away is the family because the family is in such trouble. But actually the principles that we live by are very simple and understandable. You can teach those and you can put them into practice. You will see an immediate change.
I’ve been in the prisons 35 years and what I have seen is the results of the broken family. I’ve seen the single parent family. I’ve seen kids raised without fathers, without a male role model. They end up joining the gangs.
So folks, this is immediate, this is practical, this will have an immediate impact. Yes, God’s responsible for the results. I have a sign on my desk I love, from Mother Teresa, saying “Faithfulness, not success.” That’s my job. I’ve just got to be faithful. But be faithful in whatever you feel God’s pleasure. Wherever you feel God has given you a gift use it.
Dennis: Chuck Colson, you have been a great blessing to our staff here and I think to millions of those who are listening to the broadcast.
Chuck: if God doesn’t tarry and He continues to give me strength, I hope I’ll come back and get another blackened salmon.
Dennis: We’ll take some more blackened salmon. Bob and I will practice up on our slow pitch, some nice slow softballs so you can just whack it out of the park. Thanks for joining us.
Bob: And then let me encourage our listeners before you leave to go to our website FamilyLifeToday.com and we’ve got a link there to the ColsonCenter.org website. You can go online and find out more about the Manhattan Declaration, about some of the video projects that Chuck Colson and his team have been working on. There are links to current columns that Chuck has written that are available there. Again, find out more when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link to the Colson Center.
Then while you’re on our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, get more information about The Art of Marriage, this brand new video event that we’ve been working on, that now has hundreds of locations all over the country that will be hosting an Art of Marriage event on kickoff weekend, 2.11.11, Valentine’s Weekend, coming up about five weeks from now. There is still time for you to host one of these events. You can still pull this off in your church or your community.
Just go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click on the link for the Art of Marriage to find out more about how you can host an Art of Marriage event in your community. Or click to find out where the event is being hosted.
If you don’t want to try and host one yourself, you and your husband or your and your wife can plan to go and be a part of the world premiere of The Art of Marriage on the weekend of February 11th and 12th in a location near where you live.
So again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click on the link for The Art of Marriage or call us toll-free at 1-800-FLTODAY, that’s “F” as in family, “L” as in Life, and then the word “Today” and then someone on our team can answer any questions that you might have about The Art of Marriage or let you know where it is being hosted in a city near where you live.
And with that we’ve got to wrap things up for today. I hope you have a great weekend and hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend.
I want to invite you back on Monday where we’re going to hear a classic message from Dennis Rainey, a message for men. This is from a Promise Keepers event more than a decade ago, in Texas Stadium, a message calling men to be men of honor. It comes up Monday and I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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