I'm Going To Prison

Thursday, March 31, 2011
I'm going to prison in California next week.

It all started a few years ago. I was working with a consulting firm near Washington, D.C. and had the opportunity to co-author with two of the firm's partners a book about conflict resolution. The book is called Thriving Through Ministry Conflict, and you can read more about it right here

The premise of the book is this: conflict is not something to be ignored or "defeated" but rather faced bravely and seized as an opportunity for transformation and growth. Conflict is actually our ally because it shows us that the strategies we are taking in life are not working and it offers us the chance to choose healthier strategies that result in improved relationships and greater joy.

There is another important point in the book. The conflict we face is rarely if ever "the other guy's" fault. Instead, conflict with others is always the result of conflict within ourself we have not resolved. While the impact of the principles in the book is not limited to Christians, that message - that we have a problem inside of us that needs to be addressed by a grace-giving God - is at the heart of the Gospel that you guys hear me teach every week.

We told the story of a pastor named Barry Wolf who was in the middle of conflict. But this is not just a book for pastors, but for everyone who ever faces conflict in any arena, including the family and the workplace. (Bonus points if anyone can figure out what the name "Barry Wolf" represents). We're planning on a rewrite of the book this year that tells the story through a non-pastoral lens.

I believe passionately in the message of the book and even though it was not exactly a bestseller, we got a lot of good feedback and found out that several graduate schools had made it a textbook. I also love the book because I love and respect Jim and Joe, my coauthors. They are two of my favorite men on the planet.

Last year, Joe got a strange piece of communication from California State Prison Solano. An inmate there, David (convicted of second degree murder), had gotten hold of a copy of Thriving through a course he was taking and it had had a major impact on his spiritual life. He asked for several copies of the book so that he could teach a class on conflict management based on the book to his fellow prisoners. Dozens of men had indicated an interest.

We responded positively, of course, and since then hundreds of men have been through the class. David's mom sent us a PDF file of handwritten notes from inmates who had been through the class and wanted to write us. Miranda can testify that the night I got those notes I sat in my chair in the living room and bawled like a baby, humbled and overcome by gratitude.

We wanted to meet David and get to know him and his story. So, without expecting a whole lot, we made roundabout inquiries with the prison warden. To our amazement and joy he agreed to allow Jim and I to visit David in the prison. On one condition - that we personally teach the principles of the book to inmates in each cell block.

So, next week - Wednesday and Thursday - Jim and I are going to log twelve hour days in California State Prison Solano teaching conflict management principles rooted in the Gospel. I love being around Jim and I love the message of this book, so you can imagine how excited I am.

Next Level, two things. First, thank you for letting me go! Second, pray for us - that we will teach well, listen well, serve well, and that God will be honored by our investment of time and energy. Also, Jim gets lost on the way to the bathroom and he is driving the rental car so pray that we don't end up in Delaware! We have set up a blog for this whole journey - you can see what Joe has written so far and I will be updating as well over the next week. Click here

My heart is so full these days - from the amazing LOVE REVOLUTION stretch we are in, from the unprecedented momentum we have as a church, from the impending arrival of a new baby in our house, from this opportunity to minister and serve in a setting (California State Prison Solano!) I never would have imagined. God is good and gracious and I am so grateful to be living life with you guys.

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