Why I Blog About Preaching
I preached my first sermons in a Mexican jail. Once or twice each week a group of local teens (and one teenaged “gringo”) would lug an old Fender amplifier, a couple of electric guitars, and a microphone through two sets of iron gates into a veritable city of the wretched and forgotten. While someone set up our equipment in the central courtyard, the rest of us would walk through the “streets” of the Ignacio Allende prison in Veracruz and mingle with the inmates, listen to their stories, and invite them to “church.”
There were petty thieves, ruined drug addicts, flamboyant transvestites, and perhaps even a few hardened criminals. Surprisingly, by their own accounts, they were all innocent of any wrongdoing. They would plead with us to mail a letter to a loved one who seemed to not be getting their messages (or, more likely, were ignoring them), to call their attorney from whom they had not heard in months, or to bring them some item from the outside to make their lives a bit easier within those walls.
We would start the music, and a rag-tag congregation would gather in the courtyard, under the vigilant eyes of machine-gun toting guards on the walls above. They would sing enthusiastically, clapping their hands and dancing to the music. Then they would listen attentively as we opened the Scriptures and preached a gospel message. We would end with an invitation to pray the “sinner’s prayer,” and everyone would “get saved” every week. Of course, we were often uncertain of the sincerity of their confessions, but there were some whose lives began to change, and we would walk with them in discipleship over time. Occasionally, one of them would get out of jail and show up at the doors of our local church.
It was actually a friendly place to learn to preach. The audience was, quite literally, captive. Their lives were so empty that the bi-weekly services in the courtyard were the highlights of their days. Perhaps most importantly, for all their feigned innocence, they were all irreparably broken, prisoners in a desperate existence that was the direct result of their own poor choices — and they knew it. Guilty, broken, powerless to save themselves. Ripe for the Gospel. (Read More …)