Do you have a question about our non-profit nationwide Christian prison ministry called Bible Believers Fellowship, Inc.? We will try to answer your questions here.
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Question - Is there anything that BBFI specifically won’t do?
Our Answer - Yes. We will not:
Question - Are you ordained?
Our Answer - No. Bible Believers Fellowship, Inc. is not a church, but a nonprofit organization dedicated to the obedience and service of Jesus Christ. We see ourselves as mere links in God’s Holy chain. For it has been our experience that the Lord uses many various people from different walks of life, to achieve His objectives.
That’s because it is not His desire for humans to get the credit for the work that the Holy Spirit accomplishes. Perhaps that is the reason why God chose to begin His church on earth with a bunch of very ordinary men, such as a tax collector named Matthew, and two fishermen such as Simon Peter and John.
As Paul wrote, "Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things - and the things that are not - to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him" (1 Corinthians 1:26-29 NIV).
Question - Why should I support Bible Believers Fellowship, Inc.?
Our Answer - The prison population has grown over the last decade, and new correctional facilities are being built. Unfortunately, government budgets have not kept up with the increasing expense of incarceration. Prisons are often overcrowded and understaffed. Many are located in outdated buildings with faulty plumbing, poor heating, inadequate ventilation, and no air conditioning.
The comfort and welfare of criminals is not high on the priority list of most tax payers. Nevertheless, the mixture of hot or frigid weather combined with volatile temperaments, understaffing, and lack of space can create a recipe for disaster. This has often resulted in riots, hostage taking, mutilation, and murder. It can also lead to a situation where inmates escape into the community.
As unappetizing as this may sound, these are the conditions in which many chaplains labor for Christ. They are missionaries in their own country, and they often risk their lives in the hope of reaching into the deep spiritual darkness of sin with the light of the Gospel. It takes a very special love to do this type of work, and there are many discouragements along the way.
But in prison, even in the midst of misery and despair, there are pockets of light, and God is moving greatly in the correctional facilities of this nation! Incarcerated convicts read their Bibles far more often than the general public, and we can’t get Bibles into the prisons fast enough to meet the increasing demand. Our books are a big success, as are our Christian videos, newsletters, tracts, and little Bible booklets. The chaplains have found them to be a very effective tool in spreading the Word of God, especially when there are so few chaplains in the prisons and inmate populations are growing larger yearly.
Prison chaplains go into the front lines of spiritual combat in order to bring the peace and joy of Christ to those whom society has often written off as incorrigible. And they are making progress. For “...The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few” (Matthew 9:37 KJV). Statistics have proven that religious services and Christian material definitely make a large dent in the crime rate and recidivism. But, for the most part, prison chaplains receive no funding from the government to buy Bibles or similar Christian literature. And that is why they depend so much on the gifts of private charities, such as Bible Believers Fellowship, Inc.
Years ago, an Ohio chaplain, after receiving a letter from us offering him free Christian material for the inmates at his prison, wrote back to us explaining how timely our offer was. For there had been a recent riot there and all the inmates were in 24 hour lock down. He had desperately wanted Christian literature to give them, as the tension had been very bad. We happily complied!
In 1996, funding was down a lot, therefore we were forced to temporarily discontinue Bible distribution in prisons. However, one federal prison chaplain speaking to Eric Kaestner on the phone, said reassuringly, “That’s okay. I have been able to get Bibles from other prison ministries. But you are the only ones who provide me with role model books and Christian videos."
We could give you many other examples of the benefits derived from the work we are doing, but we don’t want you to just take our word for it. So we asked some of the chaplains to tell you in their own words how this ministry has assisted in their labor for the Lord. We also requested some inmates to tell you how we have helped them with their walk with Jesus.
Question - What is the difference between Bible Believers Fellowship, Inc. and other ministries?
Our Answer - There are many prison ministries in the United States, but only a few of them are nationwide. Most are organized by local churches that have a burden for the inmates at a nearby prison or jail. Other ministries may be interstate, but not nationwide. Bible Believers Fellowship, Inc. reaches correctional institutions nationwide.
However, even among those that are nationwide, there are wide differences in doctrine, method, and style. The majority prefer to focus mostly on counseling, but, unlike BBFI, they generally don’t provide a wide array of free Christian material on a regular basis. As a result, prison chaplains and inmates never seem to have enough of the spiritually edifying material they need. At BBFI we make quality Christian literature and videos a priority because it has the potential to reach so many people for the Lord.
Prison chaplains tell us that along with the inmates, they also minister to the prison staff. These men and women work daily with all kinds of criminals, some of which have committed horrible crimes. This has the potential to take a toll on the emotions of the staff, especially now, when divorce rates are so high and the traditional structure of the American family is rapidly disappearing.
For that reason, in many facilities, it is the chaplain’s job to counsel prison workers too, so that they will set a positive example for the inmates. This helps to reduce the stress that causes riots or leads to situations where inmates can escape into the community. Therefore the material that we provide has often been a blessing not just to the inmates and their families, but also to the staff.
Compassion Alone Does Not Bring About A Changed Life
There are many inmates that come to know Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, and they hunger for a closer walk with Him. But there are others in prison who seek to take advantage of the kindness & good intentions of those who love and serve God. Convicts are in prison for a reason, and they are very good at deceiving gullible believers who try to help them through carnal methods, such as money or expensive gifts, instead of relying on the Holy Spirit (John 14:26) and the Word of God (John 1:1-5). As a result, Christians can become easy targets for the deceitful schemes of criminals who falsely proclaim their desire to live for God.
A number of years ago, we received a concerned letter from a senior chaplain at a large Southern prison. This letter had been sent out to different Christian groups that had been in contact with the inmates at his correctional facility. He described the numerous ways that convicts at his facility had taken advantage of big hearted Christians who had taken pity on them. The chaplain explained how the inmates often write to churches claiming to be Born Again.
He wrote about several inmates who had been receiving a great deal of money from Christians on the outside through deception and various schemes that were making the inmates rich. He described how a prisoner may complain that he has no family and needs money for simple things like soap and toothpaste, items that are supplied each inmate free of charge by the prison. Consequently, naive believers have felt sympathy for the prisoners and have fallen victim to their trickery and lies.
At this ministry we have frequently received letters from inmates who want us to send them all kinds of expensive items, such as fancy leather covered NIV Thompson Chain Reference Bibles, which sell for up to $87.95 a piece in Christian book stores in New York. Others have asked for costly hard cover Concordances.
But many times, the items they request are not of a spiritual nature. We have received requests from inmates for us to send them money, postage stamps (which they can use to contact other potential gift givers), and much more extravagant items. One inmate sent us a shopping list of all kinds of things that he would like us to provide for him, including every type of clothing imaginable, from underwear to a winter coat. He also asked for many other items, including a car when he gets out of prison. Another inmate asked us for a plane ticket so he could bring his girlfriend to America from another country. None of these requests were granted.
Unfortunately, some prison ministries have allowed their organizations to revolve around the desires of the inmate, rather than revolving around the Lord Jesus Christ! And so inmates have come to believe that Christians are a soft touch for money and presents. In some cases, prisoners have made no effort to even mention the name of Jesus, the Bible, or the Christian faith.
They have just written to us complaining about their incarceration, the court system, the police, and everything else involved with their trial, and they expect us to provide them with legal or political assistance. However, we have always made it clear that Bible Believers Fellowship, Inc. is not running a prison inmate advocacy program. We are running a Jesus Christ advocacy program! Moreover, the money donated to this ministry is used for the expressed purpose of reaching incarcerated convicts with the Gospel.
ParagraphThe government provides clothing, food, exercise equipment, entertainment, and medical attention, free of charge to prisoners. Free legal assistance is also available when it is deemed necessary. But generally speaking, due to the constitutional separation of church and state, the government will not pay one penny toward the purchase of a Bible or Christian literature.
For this reason, chaplains and inmates depend on ministries such as ours. Since, “...Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4 KJV), the need for Christian material is very great. Despite the good intentions of many concerned people, only Christ can change the human heart! And He does it through repentance (Matthew 4:17), faith (Hebrews 11:6), and trust in Him (Proverbs 3:5-6). As Paul wrote, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17 KJV).
Therefore, we will not waste one penny of our limited resources on extravagant, trivial pursuits, nor will we be distracted from the work that God has called us to do in spreading the good news of salvation. We labor for what is eternal, not which is carnal. Aside from this, when money or expensive gifts are sent to prisoners, there is no way of knowing whether or not the item will be used for the purpose for which it was requested. Such gifts can easily be sold in order to obtain cigarettes, drugs, sex, pornography, bribery money, or something else that is just as harmful.
What’s more, we do not feel that it is our job to make Christ more acceptable to the prison inmate. It is our responsibility to show the convict how to make him or herself acceptable to God! Therefore, we concentrate on the simple, basic teaching of Christ and His apostles, and show inmates how to live the Christian faith. We believe that the best friend the inmate can ever have is the Lord Jesus Christ, but that He does not exist to serve them, they exist to serve Him! It is our firm view that once a person makes Christ the center of their life, putting aside personal wants and desires, and seeking only the will of God, everything else falls into place.
Inmates spend a great deal of time trying to get out of prison, legislatively, or however they can. Even most Christian inmates seem to focus more time on their desire to be released into society than they do on seeking the will of God while in prison. So, we remind them that Jesus taught His followers to “…not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ Or ‘What shall we drink?’ Or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:31-34 NIV). “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28 KJV).
Most prison ministries use unpaid volunteers for the counseling of inmates. Usually they are provided with little, if any, training. It is often assumed that anyone who claims to be Born Again and has a desire to reach prisoners for the Lord is qualified. Many volunteer counselors are relatively new believers and many times they are lacking the spiritual maturity needed for the job. They may have gained a smattering of diverse doctrine from various sources that might not be reliable (Ephesians 4:14).
At times, men or women who become volunteer counselors are mature Christians who have been living for Jesus many years. They have passed the trials and tests of faith and have been led by the Holy Spirit into this kind of work. They have gained a profound understanding of Scripture and possess a deep love for God and burden for His lost sheep (Isaiah 53:6). But they are hard to find.
A Difference Of Ideology
Well meaning Christians are usually encouraged to visit a prison often and to become a friend to one or more of the inmates. They are expected to show the convicts Christian love and compassion. The philosophy behind this is that Christians are to be kind and loving people who hate to see anyone uncomfortable or in an unpleasant environment, even criminals.
This ideology stems from the belief that kindness and a good example begets a changed attitude that can bring about reform. Yet the same belief is present in secular society, so it is not just limited to the Christian church. All liberal theology follows this view that human nature can be changed by social programs and empathy. The road leads in the same direction whether the signpost reads "Christianity," "Judaism" or secular politics. But regardless of the label, it is not the “straight and narrow” (Matthew 7:13-14).
Liberal theology comes in many versions, but the main factor is always based on human endeavors and good works rather than on the Word of God (John 1:1-14 and Revelation 19:13). The only difference is the “Christian” seasoning. Counselors supporting this view may carry a Bible and quote selected verses from it. They may pray with the inmate and show him all manner of kindness. But his hope and trust is based on human wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:26 thru 2:14 and 3:19) and legislative action rather than faith in God (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Despite this, the Bible tells us that social reforms and kindness are not enough to change the human heart (Proverbs 14:12 and Isaiah 64:6), especially when dealing with criminals (Proverbs 4:16)! That’s because poverty, illegitimacy, physical abuse, and lack of education are not the cause of crime. They’re the symptoms of rebellion against God that has been passed on from generation to generation!
Immorality breeds immorality. Parents that abuse their children were usually abused themselves. Anyone can become unemployed, sick, or depressed. And there are homeless people that are simply victims of circumstances that are beyond their control. The same thing applies to certain welfare mothers. Jails and prisons also contain a small minority of people who were unfairly convicted of a crime they did not commit. But all of these people are greatly outnumbered by those who are suffering because of their own sin!
Every prisoner who has contacted us with joy in his heart and the peace of knowing Christ, is a convict who has stopped blaming other people for his incarceration and has accepted the responsibility for his own sin! And he has humbled himself before God and repented of his sins. But in every case where this has happened, it was directly due to an anointed Christian influence. It has never come as a result of social programs or government intervention! It was due to the intervention of God, through His Holy Spirit, which has led the inmate to repentance and a knowledge of Christ, His personal Redeemer. (See our inmate testimonies page.)
The United States was once founded on a bedrock of Christian values and a fundamental faith in God. Our streets were safer, our homes were happier, and our economy was doing well. But that has changed because America has fallen away from its Cornerstone, Christ Jesus (1 Peter 2:6 and Ephesians 2:20), and has replaced Him with human theories and social programs. But it hasn’t worked!
Worse still, this man-centered philosophy has worked its way into the church. And many of those churches are active in prison ministry. They may mean well in their efforts (Proverbs 16:25), and in some cases, they may have some limited success. But in the final analysis, politics and social programs don’t work at destroying crime! All they do is fight the symptoms of it.
But the root cause of crime is still there, and like cancer, it always comes back. And that is why the United States has a problem with violence and immorality which has spread to our economic and education systems, and every aspect of American life! It is because sin is like a cancer. It spreads all the way through the entire body. It starts out small, like a little bit of yeast but, when mixed in the dough, it spreads throughout the entire lump. Mankind cannot save itself! True Christianity is not based on what we can do for God. It’s about what He has already done for us! For it is "...not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty" (Zechariah 4:6 NIV).
The Pharisees in the days of Jesus believed that religion had a responsibility to bring about social and political change through humanistic methods alone. They thought that what they were doing was for God, and, like Cain (Genesis 4:1-7), they expected Him to be proud of them. But unlike Abel, they would not do it God’s way. They wanted to bring forth their own fruit to God, and they expected it to be acceptable to Him. However it was not the fruit of the Holy Spirit (John 3:6 and 1 Corinthians 2:12-14).
For it did not come from God. It originated from the human heart, and “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV). Consequently, God was not happy with their efforts (Isaiah 29:13), because their entire ideology was based on a bad foundation, the wisdom of man instead of the Power of God (1 Corinthians 2:4-5). At the time of Christ, the Lord saw this going on and He quoted from the prophesy of Isaiah, saying, "These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. They worship Me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men" (Matthew 15:8-9 NIV).
For this reason, Bible Believers Fellowship, Inc. will not become involved in politics or secular social programs. By contrast with some of our peers, we firmly believe that "...Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain" (Psalms 127:1 NIV).
We quickly admit that on our own we cannot build anything spiritually worthwhile. "'…Who then can be saved?' Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible'" (Matthew 19:25-26 NIV). We have no human solution to the plague of crime in our society, no formula or method for defeating the power of sin. But we know the one who does! So all we can do is to point to Christ in every aspect of our ministry, and He takes care of the rest!
False Doctrine Can Do Great Harm
By the time a person ends up in prison they have realized that they are in big trouble. And it’s the best time to reach them with the Gospel. Inmates read their Bibles far more often than the average person on the outside. Many have an insatiable appetite for good Christian material. They know that they need spiritual help. And they are also aware that they can not change themselves.
There is a great deal of recidivism in correctional facilities. So they are searching for answers, and many of them turn to Christianity. However, Jesus warned us in scripture that there are many false prophets out there posing as Christians (Matthew 7:15 and 21-23). He said, "...many will come in My name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many" (Matthew 24:5 NIV).
And since prisons are such a ripe harvest field (Matthew 9:37), there are many religious groups making the rounds and a variety of assorted doctrines, many of which claim to be Christian. We have received all kinds of pamphlets and tracts that inmates have sent to us. They received them at their prisons. And while there are some that are sound on doctrine, many of them are not.
The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy saying, "The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons" (1 Timothy 4:1 NIV). He also spoke about counterfeit versions of Christianity in Galatians 1:6-8 and 2 Corinthians 11:2-4. Even Jesus told us that in the last days "...false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect - if that were possible" (Matthew 24:24 NIV). Therefore, if you feel led to support a prison ministry with your donations, it is wise to make sure that the doctrine is pure and scripturally correct.
We Take Personal Control Over Doctrine
Although Bible Believers Fellowship, Inc. is a nationwide ministry, we have nowhere near the funding of some of the larger ministries. Therefore, we are limited in what we are able to do. Consequently, we seek always to get the best value possible from the donations that we receive. Aside from this, we are committed to the purity of our doctrine.
When Christian counseling is approached in a haphazard manner it can do tremendous damage to the spiritual growth of a new believer or someone who desires to come to the Lord. Therefore, we take personal control over all counseling and doctrine that results from this ministry. The Apostle Paul told the Galatian church, "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump" (Galatians 5:9 KJV). Or, to put it another way, just a little bit of poison can destroy an otherwise wholesome glass of milk.
We believe strongly that it takes many years of serious scriptural study, directly from the Bible, along with the anointing of the Holy Spirit, before any individual can really be used by God for counseling and evangelism. Our files are full of letters that we have received since 1989, asking for spiritual guidance. They are with the responses we have provided, often going on for many pages.
Every week a new batch of inmate letters comes in. It may be that the prisoners feel more comfortable putting their emotions down on paper and mailing them rather than discussing them face to face. Anne Kaestner responds personally to most of the letters requiring Biblical guidance, and we often pray for those requesting it.
We also get letters from our contributors as well. They usually write about family problems or ask questions regarding scripture. We are happy to pray over them and to respond to their letters or phone calls from a Biblical perspective, as the Lord leads us.
In the future, as soon as our funding and time schedule allows for it, we hope to visit many more correctional facilities. And since so many inmates are illiterate, we would like to make our own video and audio tapes to distribute to the prisons. This will enable even more people to hear the Word of God and the Good News about salvation through Jesus Christ.
Eventually we would also like to increase our staff and hire Christian counselors who will be expected to live up to our high standards and to set a good example of ethics, trust, and faith in God. We expect to see the "fruit of the Spirit" (see Galatians 5:22-25) in anyone representing Bible Believers Fellowship, Inc.
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Our Christian prison ministry is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charity.