Former NFL Star Tackles Prisons With Gospel

by | Feb 28, 2001 | Charisma Archive

Mike Barber’s game plan includes a ‘Weekend of Excitement’ in which Jesus is the only star



On a rainy Saturday night last October, nearly 1,000 male inmates packed into a huge outdoor tent at Hutchins State Jail in Dallas. A mood of anticipation filled the air as an event called “Weekend of Excitement” drew to a close.


Prison evangelist and former National Football League star Mike Barber had the prisoners’ undivided attention. “You may be in prison, but prison doesn’t
have to be in you,” Barber told them.


Barber committed himself to full-time prison ministry after retiring from football in 1986. He played tight end with the Houston Oilers and Los Angeles Rams during his 10-year pro football career.


“I thought I was born to play football, but I wasn’t,” Barber told Charisma.


At the October event, Barber started with a Thursday night service. On Friday, he and dozens of volunteer counselors went cell to cell to talk with inmates.


A discipleship class on Saturday morning gave them a chance to teach inmates about the gift of salvation and answer questions about the Bible. Then counselors went back to
cells Saturday afternoon for more personal ministry.


Barber showed a love and compassion for inmates that was too real to question, said Jerry Stevens, a volunteer chaplain at Hutchins State Jail.


“It’s hard to con a con,” Stevens noted.


Barber’s open heart for prisoners has reaped souls for the kingdom of God. Take Reggie Manuel, for example, who had been denied parole nine times.


In 1990 Barber was at a Weekend of Excitement at the Coffield Unit in Tennessee Colony, Texas, where Manuel was serving time. Manuel went to receive a free bar of soap from the ministry team–but ended up getting his soul cleaned. He was miraculously released from prison in 1999 and today works for Kenneth Copeland Ministries, speaking nationwide.


Volunteer counselors are the backbone of Barber’s ministry, and the difficulties of follow-up on inmates are left in their able hands, Barber said.


“We are evangelistic. We go in, get them stirred up, pray with them,” he said. “But it’s the volunteers that come behind, water and create growth. They are my heroes.”


The church had better get busy reaching inmates, Barber warned. American prisons are filling 1,100 new beds each day and costing U.S. taxpayers an estimated $70 million to $80 million per prison. Texas has the third largest prison capacity in the world with 155,000 beds.


Since 1980, the number of women imprisoned in the United States has tripled, and 90 percent of those are single mothers. Some 85 percent of all inmates are eventually released due to overcrowding, and eight out of 10 will be back in prison in three years for committing more crime.


While the number of volunteers has grown, Barber isn’t aware of an increase in charismatic prison ministries. But he is interested in helping train and sending “an army of charismatic Christians” into America’s prisons.


“For many years, prison officers would not openly admit that Christian ministry makes an impact,” he said. “As a whole today, they very much welcome Christians inside the prisons.”


Some prisons, Barber said, actually chart the violence and disciplinary write-ups that take place three months before a Weekend of Excitement and three months afterward.


“The difference is typically night and day,” he said. “In some prisons, there have been zero

write-ups 60 to 90 days after our departure.”


According to Barber, the charismatic-style ministry that he takes into the prison system is welcomed by inmates.


“We’re real and bring in some excitement. They love upbeat music. Let’s get honest–the reason so many of them don’t go to church today is because it is boring. They want life. Our programs are full of life–and it’s not about an individual. It’s about Christ,” he said.


Kenneth and Gloria Copeland have partnered with Barber’s prison ministry for the last five years, supporting it financially as well as going into prisons with him several times each year. Satellite broadcasts set up at each Weekend of Excitement take the gospel into prisons in 22 states, reaching some 400,000 prisoners, and Barber’s Proclaim TV show featuring prisoners’ testimonies airs at 5 a.m. and 3 p.m. (CST) Saturdays on the Trinity Broadcasting Network.


Still, Barber believes the church must do more to reach America’s inmates. In Texas alone, the number of prisons has grown from 18 units 15 years ago to more than 120 today.


“In the state of Texas, I believe we could have another five ministries and just touch the fringes,” he said.

CHARISMA NEWSLETTERS

Stay up-to-date with current issues, Christian teachings, entertainment news, videos & more.

The latest breaking Christian news you need to know about as soon as it happens.

Prophetic messages from respected leaders & news of how God is moving throughout the world. 


MORE FROM CHARISMA

COGIC Bishop Derrick Hutchins Sr. Dies at 65

COGIC Bishop Derrick Hutchins Sr. Dies at 65

Read Time: 1 Minute 59 Seconds Bishop J. Drew Sheard and the General Board of the Eastern Florida Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction of the Church of God in Christ announced Tuesday the death of one of its most beloved leaders, Bishop Derrick Hutchins Sr. Hutchins was 65....

Don’t Criticize Charismatics

Don’t Criticize Charismatics

They are saying the charismatic movement is divisive. Whenever people get involved in the "new emphasis," there are disruptions in the status quo. Red flags go up. Lines are drawn. I would ask: What else could be expected? Any force as great as this is bound to make...

Jonathan Cahn Reveals the Mystery of the Molten Beast

Jonathan Cahn Reveals the Mystery of the Molten Beast

Read Time: 6 Minutes, 42 Seconds Is it possible that ancient entities known as "the gods" have returned to our world? Could these gods actually be the unseen movers and catalysts of what's happening in America and the world today? Could they lie behind the current...

Shining the Light of Jesus in Hollywood’s Darkness

Shining the Light of Jesus in Hollywood’s Darkness

Read Time: 3 Minutes 37 Seconds Most made-for-TV Christmas movies are like eggnog and sugar cookies—way too sweet, yet extremely addictive for a lot of viewers. But these Hallmark-style movies—the ones with predictable love stories that always end with jingling bells...

Prophecy: Goodness Is Following You, Turn and See

Prophecy: Goodness Is Following You, Turn and See

Read Time: 1 Minute 51 Seconds At a recent gathering where a member was struggling, I heard and declared by the Spirit of the Lord, “Goodness is following you, TURN and see; embrace His goodness in this moment and watch the shift!” There was an immediate shift and...

Man Who Spent 23 Minutes in Hell: You Came From God

Man Who Spent 23 Minutes in Hell: You Came From God

Read Time: 2 Minutes 25 Seconds If you search the phrase, “where does life come from?” the first explanation reads: “The origin of life is a result of a supernatural event—and readily arises from nonliving matter in short periods of time, today as in the past.” The...

RECENT ARTICLES

Raise Your Praise!

These are the days that may leave you feeling defeated. You may be wondering when these present trials will end or how can you strengthen your faith for the battle as you wrestle against powers and...
7 Elements Needed for Revival That Will Usher in Reformation

7 Elements Needed for Revival That Will Usher in Reformation

Read Time: 1 Minute 9 Seconds What will turn the nations around? What will restore the world to sanity? There have been revivals from Old Testament times up through the year 2000. Today we need both a revival and a reformation. Here are 7 elements needed to usher in...

Mario Murillo: An Era of Mass Soul Winning Has Begun

Mario Murillo: An Era of Mass Soul Winning Has Begun

Read Time: 4 Minutes, 27 Seconds From the very first tent stake we drove into California soil, until now, there has only been one dream. And, after two years, that dream came true in Roseville. Roseville is the victory we have yearned for. It confirms that an era of...

How You Can Flow in the River of Living Water

How You Can Flow in the River of Living Water

Read Time: 5 Minutes, 2 Seconds A river is a source of life. As it is in the natural, so it is in the spiritual. Jesus told His disciples that if we believe in Him, "rivers of living water" will flow out from within us, from our hearts. "Anyone who believes in me may...

Pin It on Pinterest