Above, Matt Friedeman, pastor at DaySpring Community Church, can regularly be found counseling women outside the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only surgical abortion clinic in Mississippi.
January-February 2018 – “We got off the floor that night, and it was like a mountain was lifted off of me,” Michael said of his altar call experience at Raymond Detention Center.
Ten years later, Michael is an active church member of DaySpring Community Church. He’s not the only member who came to DaySpring from jail. Weekly visits to nearby prisons and jails are just part of the church’s culture.
“DaySpring comes to the darkest places…DaySpring finds people,” Michael explained.
A wounded heart
Meanwhile, a single mother across town who had experienced a life of abuse was crying out to God. She sensed the Lord telling her it was time for her to return to Him.
“I was lost,” said Maureen. “I was backslidden. I had been wounded in the churches I had attended. I had gone through a divorce, through Hurricane Katrina; I had been homeless.”
As she prayed, She heard in her spirit the word dayspring. Not knowing it was a church, she looked it up, made a phone call, researched the website, and one Sunday morning, she reluctantly showed up at the small, simple church.
The flamboyance she had seen in past churches was absent, while warm smiles and sincere words were plentiful. And the message that first Sunday seemed to be written specifically for her:
“You’ve been wounded. You’ve been mistreated. It’s time for you to come back,” the pastor pleaded from the pulpit.
Although Maureen believed God had called her to DaySpring, she still had no intention of becoming involved. She had built thick, resilient, exterior walls to hide the pain and shame that consumed her. Along with wounds she carried from multiple rapes and abusive relationships, she had also covered a past abortion.
You called me in here, she said in prayer, but I’m going to sit in the very back. I don’t trust these people.
“I was looking for it to be a judgmental church,” she explained. “Just like the woman with the bottle of alabaster – if they knew who the woman was, they wouldn’t let her wash their feet. I kept waiting for the truth to come out, because they couldn’t keep covering it up.”
Love’s healing balm
It didn’t take long for someone to invite Maureen to a small group Bible study. In that setting, she received still more love. Her heart was beginning to soften.
A breakthrough came for her after a church member overheard her singing, and she was asked to sing a solo. Hesitantly, she agreed.
“When I sang the song, ‘I am not ashamed,’ I was in tears,” Maureen said. “The Lord was breaking me.”
And another congregant asked her to volunteer at the local crisis pregnancy center where she was guided through a post-abortion healing Bible study. After weeks of healing, the study culminated in a memorial service acknowledging and grieving the loss of her child. Maureen was deeply moved when her new pastor spoke at that private service.
“He didn't have to do that,” she said. “I was like Wow! That really did something for me.”
Maureen now ministers to female prisoners and post-abortive women, leads a sexual integrity Bible study, and is on the church worship team – not bad for someone who wasn’t going to get involved.
Before founding DaySpring 16 years ago, Dr. Matt Friedeman was a professor at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi, and hosted a daily talk show on American Family Radio. From those platforms, he often contended that abortion would come to an end if pastors would lead their people to the abortion clinics to pray and reach out to the women going in for abortions.
On his first Sunday as a pastor, a woman asked, “Pastor, when are you going to lead us out to the abortion clinics to help ladies in crisis?” He was suddenly made accountable to his own challenges. So, he and a group went to the abortion clinic sidewalk that week, and they have been doing so ever since.
When Friedeman was an impressionable young student at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky, he was caught off guard by a statement made by one of his professors: “You believe what you do, and you do what you believe.” He wrote down those words and carried them in his heart from that point forward.
“The ‘church’ in original language is ‘a called out people,’” Friedeman told AFA Journal.
“At DaySpring, we put up the numbers – not how much money we took in or how many attended Sunday school, small groups, or our worship services, but how many of us were at the prison this week. How many lives did we touch? And by extension, sometimes we get to say, ‘And this is how many people were baptized this week from the prison – this is how many were brought into a saving relationship with the Lord.’
“We have a conviction that the church of Jesus Christ is supposed to be an outward bound church. And we’re just trying to play our little role in that. That’s how we started, and we have continued on that track with about 17 weekly outreaches. We’ve got ladies who minister in strip clubs and jail. We help out with a Bible club in an elementary school, we reach out to those in the nursing home, in prison, and out in front of an abortion clinic.”
A follower’s heart
When Jesus prompted the disciples to follow him, it required physical movement. They talked while they walked, while He addressed the needs of the lost and hurting. Jesus was always on the move.
Matthew literally left his tax collector’s booth behind, and Peter got out of his fishing boat. They left their places of comfort, and they stepped out into the unknown. They walked with Jesus. They watched Him work. They learned from Him.
And after Jesus’s earthly life was completed, the Father sent the Helper to empower His followers to accomplish the Great Commission.
“We’re going to be asked to do fearful things,” Friedeman pressed. “That’s what Christians have been asked to do for the last 2,000 years. Sure, we understand we might be ridiculed. This morning, I was ridiculed at the abortion clinic. Yeah, so what! Another day at the office!
“When we preach, we’re verbalizing a message. We do that in our Sunday school classes, in our home groups. We sit around drinking lattes and discussing what we’ve read. But at the end of the day, somebody has got to get up and do something. That’s the way disciples are made. That’s the way Jesus made disciples.”
Having observed that leaders produce the behavior they exhibit, he has committed to follow the model of Jesus and produce doers of the faith. He often says, “If you make disciples by sitting around talking, then don’t be surprised if your disciples sit around and talk.”
As sin increases, opportunities to spread the gospel also increase. For a devoted follower of Christ, even shed blood should not come as a surprise, but as a blessing for the Kingdom. While other countries are experiencing horrendous persecution, Friedeman says, in contrast, “times are really not tough here in America.”
“It’s incredibly easy,” he said. “We’ve got more things we can do, more places we can go for the Lord. Talk about a great time to be alive.”
Where is God calling you to serve?
• Jails and prisons
• Soup kitchens
• Rehab centers
• Nursing homes
• Kids’ after-school centers
• Pregnancy resource centers
• Homeless shelters
• Parachurch ministries
• Veterans’ centers
• Hospice facilities
• Food pantries
• Abortion clinics
• Strip clubs