Probably all of us have preconceived ideas as to what a preacher is supposed to look like. For me, I had definite ideas for you see, my dad was a preacher. For me, a preacher wore a suit and tie to nearly everything. (My dad would even sometimes mow the lawn while wearing a tie…no joking).
But all of us know, or at least should know, there is no dress code for a gospel preacher…No divine rules about suits, ties, and polished shoes (though that’s not to say that a few man-made rules have never been enforced).
Due to several cultural shifts, some are discussing the appropriateness of “ties vs. no ties,” or “suit jackets vs. polo shirts.” If I may, I would like to add prison stripes to the discussion.
The picture to the left is a picture of my friend, brother, and gospel preacher, Kenneth Washington. I first met Kenneth in Knox County jail where he is awaiting trial for 1st degree murder and attempted aggravated robbery.
For years now, the Karns Church of Christ has had a prison ministry, and Kenneth became one of our students. Very quickly, I became impressed with Kenneth. I was amazed at this young man’s knowledge of the Bible, and how active and vocal he was in our Bible class. One of the most impressive things I discovered about Kenneth was during the time in which we would take prayer requests. While most men would ask that we pray for their quick release, Kenneth would ask us to pray for the families of specific men he knew who were incarcerated. Most all of his requests were for others.
I’ll never forget one night, in the middle of our Bible study, the “light came on” for several of the students and they stopped me in the middle of my lesson, (much like what I imagine happened on the day of Pentecost [Acts 2:36-37]) and they said, “we’ve been deceived! We’re not saved! We need to be baptized for the remission of our sins!” Shortly thereafter, with the continued support, teaching, and reinforcement by Mark Cawood, a member at Karns who works in the court system, Wendell Agee, a member at Karns, baptized Kenneth into Christ.
Since then, Kenneth has been on fire for the Lord. He is reading and studying all the biblical material we can get in his hands. James Meadows has been giving him class books he has written and Kenneth is filling them out and returning them and requesting more just about as quickly as James can grade them. Just last month, three inmates were baptized into Christ as a result of Kenneth’s bold and unashamed preaching within the jail.
I don’t know what the future holds for Kenneth with respect to his physical freedom, but I do know that the Lord has set him free from his sins. It’s my prayer that whether free or behind bars, Kenneth spends the rest of his life sharing the good news of Jesus!
So what’s a preacher supposed to look like? If the way you answer this question doesn’t include “prison stripes,” your view is too narrow!