Gateway Church in Dallas, Texas, has unveiled its latest campus: a maximum-security prison. Pastor Robert Morris announced the exciting news last Sunday, much to the delight of the more than 30,000 congregants in attendance.
Some 650 inmates attended the megachurch’s first ever service back in November, held at the Coffield Unit in Anderson County.
“At Gateway Church, we’re all about people because God is all about people,” Morris, told Fox News following the public announcement. “Many of the men and women inside prison have been forgotten by society, but we want them to know we love them and God loves them, and they are our brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Gateway currently holds 27 weekend services across six locations, and is the largest church located within the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. In 2016, Gateway generated an annual revenue of just under $130 million.
Stunningly, since the launch of its latest campus location, some 500 prisoners have made a commitment to Christ.
“Gateway has really impacted my life because a lot of us do not have visits, and you guys coming in here and sharing y’alls love to us has really impacted our life,” one of the inmates explained.
The incredible initiative functions just like any other church campus — the inmates host and facilitate the service, forming worship teams and carrying out ushering duties. That’s not all, however. On Sunday, Morris announced that an ex-offender would serve as the campus pastor — Stephen Wilson is a seminary school graduate who has ministered in prisons for a number of years.
“My first meeting to launch a Gateway Prison campus happened seven years ago,” Wilson said. “We’ve been praying for this for seven years.”
“We want the people in the prisons to have a church while they’re in and when they get out, so they can be integrated back into society,” said Gateway pastor Jimmy Evans, who gave the inaugural sermon at the first Coffield Unit service. “People in prison need a church, and we want to be a church family—literally.”
Franklin Graham, the son of legendary evangelist, Billy Graham, praised Morris for his vision to reach inmates with the gospel of Christ:
“This church is setting a great example for reaching out in Jesus’ Names,” he wrote on Facebook. “Lives are being transformed! More than 500 have already put their faith in Christ. I challenge churches across America to pray about doing something like this for the prisoners in their area.”
Last year, Pastor Robert Morris almost died after becoming acutely sick with internal bleeding. The medical emergency occurred as the pastor and his wife were out of town at a remote property, and, as a result, Morris required an urgent helicopter medivac.
During that perilous 35-minute flight, with a weak pulse and close to death, Morris said he had “an encounter with the Lord.”
It was an honor to meet Jesse tonight. He’s the paramedic who flew with me in the Air Evac Lifeteam helicopter that took…
“I didn’t go to Heaven but the Lord’s presence filled the helicopter and I felt like I was about to go to Heaven,” he explained at the time.
Morris added that he had no fear and felt “extremely peaceful.”
The pastor then recounted a frank conversation he had with God: “If this is it I’m ready to come but I’d like to stay for my family. And I just don’t think you’re finished with me yet on Earth (in terms of ministry work),” the pastor remembered telling the Lord.
Then, God responded with some clear and concise words: “I’m not.”
“And I knew I wasn’t dying that day,” the pastor declared.
Morris has since made a full recovery.