“I was in prison and you came to Me” (Matthew 25:36).  Those words of Jesus, describing what to expect at the Judgment, should cause every Christian to consider those who are prisoners.  While the world may be content to “lock them up and throw away the key”, such should never be our attitude.

In the summer of 2016, the elders of the Central Church of Christ agreed to assume the oversight of NewLife Behavior Ministries, an outreach to inmates incarcerated in two area state prisons: Northeast Correctional Complex in Mountain City, and the NECX Carter County Annex in Roan Mountain.  The Carter County Annex closed in 2020, and efforts were then focused on the Main Annex in Mountain City. 

Since 2008 Marshall Danby, Central’s first deacon over Prison Ministry has worked to make available courses published by NewLife Behavior Ministries, an effort of the Kings Crossing Church of Christ in Corpus Christi, Texas.  15-week courses on “Christians Against Substance Abuse”, “Managing My Anger”, and “Attitudes & Behaviors” have been taught at both the main compound and the annex.  In January of 2024 a fourth course, “A Sense Of Self”, was added to the rotation of courses offered.  Those who complete the requirements participate in a graduation and are awarded a certificate.

The word of God is the foundation of each of these courses, and it is exciting to see the enthusiasm most have for learning and implementing Biblical principles.  Many have surrendered their lives to Christ in baptism as a result of their studies.

Worship services are also conducted on Sunday afternoons at both the main compound and the annex.  Efforts are ongoing for more opportunities to conduct worship services and classes.

In October of 2022, several women from Central began offering worship and NewLife Behavior classes at Washington County Detention Center, focusing on the women’s units.  In April of 2023 worship and classes were offered at the Unicoi County Jail for Women in Erwin, Tennessee.  Several women have been baptized into Christ as a result of these efforts.  Any women interested in learning more about this opportunity to serve should speak with Lynda Gray.

Since 2017 Bible studies have been offered at the Johnson City Day Reporting Center (DRC), an arm of the Tennessee Department of Correction which gives substance abuse offenders an opportunity to avoid incarceration.  These weekly studies are voluntary and have led to at least two baptisms and a greater awareness in the community of Central’s compassion.  On three different occasions, Central has hosted the annual graduation ceremony of the DRC, an event which draws about 200.

In December of 2023, volunteers from Central began offering NewLife Behavior courses at the newly opened Northeast Tennessee Regional Recovery Center in Roan Mountain, Tennessee.  Housed in the former Carter County Annex, this facility provides 12 months of inpatient resources for those struggling with substance abuse.  Those who choose may get involved in the classes we offer.

Due to the increasing scope of Central’s Prison / Jail Ministry, a second deacon, Huston Heatherly, was named in February of 2023 for this work.  We are constantly searching for new volunteers to help by going in to lead worship and teach classes, or to encourage new converts by becoming Pen Pals.  Anyone interested in learning more should speak with Marshall Danby or Huston Heatherly.

The goal of NewLife Behavior Ministries, since 1984, has been “Reconciling individuals and their families to God, each other, and society”.  Why do we seek to work with those convicted of crimes?  2 Corinthians 5:17 explains: “If any person be in Christ, he is a new creature…”  That Scripture is found on the title page of every NLB workbook.  God’s power can do amazing things!

Central’s Prison Ministry operates with Romans 12:2 as our theme (a passage recited by every student at the beginning of each class: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (NKJV).  Transformation by God’s powerful Word has been witnessed multiple times behind bars!  Come join us in this amazing work.

This outreach could use more help, both inside and outside the prison’s walls.  If you’d like to know how you can help, speak with Marshall.

If you are interested in helping by sending cards or letters to those incarcerated, please click here for more information.

UPDATE – Listen to our Prison Ministry Report for an update on Outreach to the Incarcerated.

Click here to see how this ministry makes a difference.