Gateway Church is continuing its work at Coffield prison in Anderson County, Texas. Robert Morris, Gateway’s senior pastor, preached a service last week at the men’s prison, where he emphasized that God’s heart is not to condemn sinners, but to show kindness by blessing us when we don’t deserve it.
“I hope it just starts dawning on you that God is not mad at you, that God actually wants to bless you, no matter what the world tells you about God,” said Pastor Morris.
Gateway Church is a multisite megachurch that launched a campus in Coffield Unit in November 2018. The prison houses 4,000 inmates, including minimum, medium and maximum security offenders. Minimum security inmates are free to attend Gateway’s services as they will, and medium security offenders can attend on special occasions. Maximum security prisoners cannot attend services, but are allowed to receive materials from Gateway.
Robert Morris’s Sermon
Morris began his sermon by telling the inmates how glad he was to be there: “I have been looking forward to this since we started this campus. I wanted to meet you.” He said that God had given him a message specifically for the incarcerated men, which he illustrated by describing the covenant God made with Abraham and the covenant David made with Jonathan, Saul’s son and David’s close friend.
In 2 Samuel 9, after David had become king of Israel in Saul’s place, he asks if there is anyone still alive from Saul’s family to whom he can show kindness. There is one person: Mephibosheth, who is the son of Jonathan and who is lame. So David sends for Mephibosheth, tells him not be afraid, and promises to show him kindness for the rest of his life.
Morris explained that as a relative of the previous king (Saul), Mephibosheth had every reason to fear for his life since David had defeated Saul and become king instead. In fact, the reason Mephibosheth was a cripple was because when he was a child, his nurse had dropped him while fleeing and trying to save his life. So, Morris said, Mephibosheth likely grew up in fear of David, seeing him as responsible for much of the suffering he had experienced.
Similarly, said Morris, “Many of us believe or grew up believing that God was mad at us, that God didn’t like us. That God was just sitting up there in heaven with a club, waiting to get us.” But this is a false view of God. Just as David wanted to bless Mephibosheth because of the covenant David had made with Jonathan, so God wants to bless us. He blesses us, not because of anything we have done, but because of His faithfulness to His character and His promises.
Morris then mentioned Abraham, who was a complete heathen when God called him, even though we now know him as a great man of faith. There was no nation of God or law of God at the time of Abraham, said Morris. But then God showed up and, instead of judging and condemning Abraham, promised to bless him. More than that, when God made a covenant with Abraham as recounted in Genesis 15, He took all the burden and responsibility of the covenant on Himself, knowing that Abraham would not be able to keep it. This foreshadowed the covenant God made with us when Jesus died on the cross.
“Church and religion has made God the bad guy,” said Morris. But God wants to bless us, as He did when he sent Jesus, who bore our sin so that we could be righteous before God. Said Morris, “If you want to know why God likes you, loves you, wants to bless you and show you kindness, it’s because there’s a covenant between the Father and the King [Jesus], and all you have to do, to get in on it, is believe. That’s it.”
God Is Working in Coffield
Throughout the message, the men received Morris’s words with enthusiasm, “amens,” and applause. And despite the fact the high security offenders at Coffield Unit are unable to attend services like the one Morris preached, God is still working among them. Only a few months ago, five men from Administrative Segregation (solitary confinement) were baptized. They risked their lives by doing so because they are active gang members, and the only way to leave a gang is through death.
In an Instagram post from a week ago, Gateway said, “The Lord is moving in a mighty way at our campus at the Coffield Unit. We are so blessed to be part of it all.”