Skin in the Game
My life before Christ was a mess. One contributing factor was that my dad abandoned our family when I was four years old. Without the firm and loving hand of a father, I began acting out in the areas of alcohol abuse and theft. The climax came when I held up a restaurant at age 21 and spent the next four years in prison. As my sentence was nearing its end, I transferred to a medium-security prison in Lino Lakes, Minnesota. I began attending a Wednesday night Bible study where I met a man named Pete Lundin, who took an immediate interest in me and my Christian development. The week before I got out, he pulled me aside and gave me his phone number. "Give me a call when you get out."
Once I was released, I settled in at my grandparents' house where I was going to stay until I got back on my feet. That was when I decided to dig out Pete's number. We arranged to meet at Perkins for breakfast. We caught up for a bit and I told him about some of the struggles I was already facing being back on the outside. He looked right at me and spoke the words that changed the direction of my life forever. He said, "Scott, you have a decision to make. You can be a good Christian, attend a local church, marry a nice Christian girl, and your life will probably turn out fine. Or you can be a disciple."
Emotion overcame me as tears filled my eyes. I knew I wanted the latter more than anything but I didn't know how to go about it. When I was in prison, the rigid structure framing my daily activities helped me stay on track. Outside of those walls, I felt overwhelmed by the freedom and temptation that seemed to be at every turn.
Pete went on to throw some real skin into the game. "My wife, Sandy, and I would like to invite you to come live with us. If you are willing, I would like to help guide you through the process of becoming a genuine man-of-God." He was offering to become my spiritual father.
A few weeks later, I moved into their finished basement in North Minneapolis. I began to witness first-hand what it meant to be a Christian husband, church leader, and, even though Pete and Sandy had no children of their own, they taught me how to be a good parent by treating me like a son, even though I was 25 years old. I ate meals with them, we went to church meetings together, I helped Pete with projects he was doing around the house, and we had countless conversations late into the night about the challenges I was going through. The impact they had on my life transformed me completely, so much so that I even named my first son after Pete.
There are dozens of men and women just like me in a jail that is probably less than 20 miles from where you live. However, consider the Apostle Paul’s observation in 1 Corinthians 4:15. “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” Starting a Bible study, as necessary as that is, is not enough. New believers need spiritual fathers and mothers. I’m so glad that God called Pete to be my Christian father. His obedience continues to profoundly affect me 30 years later.
Do you have the heart of a spiritual father or mother? I would encourage you to begin praying for the Lord to open doors of ministry to the incarcerated. If you are unsure about whether prison ministry is for you, I would suggest that you start by reading my new book, Unexpected Harvest, which was published in partnership with AFLC Evangelism and Discipleship. Pr. Randy Nelson has copies he can send you. If you have any questions about prison or jail ministry, please contact me at [email protected]