Why Bob Lovvorn Went to Prison
Aug 12, 2019
Encore staff Bob Lovvorn never dreamed he would go to prison. Yet several years ago he did—willingly, eager to tell the men he met there about the life-changing power of knowing Jesus.
Bob and his wife, Betty, moved to Canyon City, Colorado, in 2012 to be closer to family. The two looked for an opportunity to serve through their new church home. At an event where people talked about various ministries, they met a couple who had been involved in prison ministry for 35 years. In fact, Canyon City has eight prisons, with varying degrees of security, and the couple’s presentation piqued their interest.
Bob started out by helping with worship services on Wednesday nights and occasional small group Bible studies on Sunday mornings. He often showed them how to have a quiet time or memorize Scripture. He also taught and facilitated small groups at occasional topical seminars at four prisons.
This new undertaking adds to an already diverse ministry resume. Bob joined Navigator staff with the military ministry in 1969. He went on to work with Collegiate at North Carolina State and eventually became that state’s collegiate director. He has taught new staff orientation and helped staff with personal assessment through the People Resources Team (now Staff Development and Care). Currently he trains people to use The 2:7 Series®.
Bob jokes, “I’ve been involved with every Navigator ministry except women’s, because I couldn’t pass the physical.”
Getting to know the men in prison has been eye-opening for Bob.
“They’re not all bad guys in there,” he says. “It’s amazing how they fall in love with the Lord in prison. I’ve met some stronger Christians in prison than on the outside.”
As Bob got to know “Mitch,” one of the men who set up for the worship service, he learned that Mitch uses the Greek New Testament for his quiet time! One man serving a life sentence is working on a seminary degree.
Bob has been moved by the clear evidence that “Jesus can bring anybody to himself and change them. . . . Some of these guys have tattoos all over. They’re coming out of gangs. It’s amazing to see how they are transformed. You can tell on their faces that they love Jesus.”
Bob says he and Betty are never afraid when they visit. The Christian inmates have told them that they would protect them with their lives “if anything happened.”
The men deeply appreciate the prison volunteers. “These guys love to have you there,” he says. “It’s one of the highlights of their week.”
Along with several other couples from the church, Betty sometimes helps with the worship service. Bob is touched by how much it means to the inmates just to see a woman and shake her hand. Many have had few chances on the outside to witness a loving, godly marriage.
Bob emphasizes that the impact of prison ministry doesn’t end when an inmate is released. The return rate for those who attend Bible studies and chapel is considerably lower than average. Bob has seen the change brought about by knowing Jesus extend beyond the men’s time in prison.
“When some of them get out they want to serve the Lord,” he says. He cites “Paul,” a chaplain’s assistant while he was in prison. Paul is now in Denver, where he started a ministry to follow up men who get out, helping them find jobs and get around city.
Another former inmate began a ministry called Barnabus. Its six minibuses take friends and family to visit prisoners. Barnabus also provides city bus tickets, clothing, job assistance, and fellowship to former prisoners.
Today, Bob’s focus is discipling men through The 2:7 Series in his church. He says that this plays more to his strength of working with men one-to-one, which wasn’t possible in the prisons. Yet he still helps with the seminars and visits occasionally. He hasn’t given up on his desire to start a discipleship program, which prison officials have yet to approve.
Still, the impact of his time in prison remains. He reiterates, “It helps you realize Jesus Christ saves anybody, no matter what kind of background. One of the most godly guys I’ve ever known is serving time for murder. No matter what someone has done, Christ can change their life.”
“I went into the prisons thinking I would see a bunch of criminals,” Bob says. “When I got there I met a bunch of Christian brothers.”