Leadership Lessons from My Breakfast with Chuck Colson

Yesterday a truly faithful servant went to be with the Lord. God used Chuck Colson’s life as a testimony of grace and reconciliation, showing the world the glory of the Father. In the upcoming days many Christian non-profit leaders and pastors of mega churches will eulogize this spiritual giant. I once had a very special “chance encounter” with this man that I had always respected, and wanted to share my very intimate story of having breakfast with Chuck Colson. I hope this will serve as an encouragement to leaders who are grinding it out in your local communities everyday. Those leaders serving the least of these in the day-to-day feet washing work that only Jesus could inspire you to participate in.

It was 2007, and at the time I was working for Care Net in Lansdowne, VA. I was at corporate headquarters for a two-day training and Care Net just happens to lease space on the beautiful Prison Fellowship campus. On site there is a charming multi-room guesthouse, which houses an apartment for the Colson’s when he wanted to be closer to work. The night that I stayed there, Chuck Colson was literally “in the house”.

I got ready for my training early the next morning went down to say hello to the host couple and there in the kitchen he stood. Chuck Colson, offering me a cup of coffee. Needless to say I turned into a complete mute.

Let me back up here for a minute to give some framework for why I was so awestruck. Prior to this experience, I had two very specific life shaping occurrences in my Christian walk that were heavily influenced by Chuck Colson.  The first happened to me back in 1993 freshman seminar at Liberty University where one book was required reading, Against the Night: Living in the New Dark Ages. This book was my first introduction to any Christian worldview writing. As I wrestled through it, it opened up a world to me and gave me the words to describe what I was experiencing in the culture around me.

The second time the Lord used Chuck Colson to help shape my Biblical worldview happened when my brother was in state prison for almost three years. It was through the Prison Fellowship Angel Tree program, the organization that Chuck Colson founded, that graciously delivered Christmas gifts to my niece every year. These presents provided by the supporters of Prison Fellowship allowed my brother to send gifts to his daughter while he was incarcerated. Not only did I know of Chuck Colson the intellectual, but I was aware of Chuck Colson the humanitarian.

So that morning in Virginia, when Chuck Colson offered me a cup of coffee and asked me if I was staying for breakfast I was flabbergasted. One of the most respected and sought-after Christian speakers of my generation was willing to share his table with an idealistic young girl like myself.

For about 15 minutes we ate, and he asked questions about my work at the time with pregnancy resource centers and the importance of helping these local organizations reach their clients more effectively. I was also able to share with him about how his work had influenced my life. He shared insights about stewardship that I will never forget. One example was regarding the campus of Prison Fellowship and how the leadership felt lead to open it up to other ministries and churches that needed space in the area. It was a way to share the blessing of God’s favor and provision with others.

Mostly as he talked I sat there screaming in my head—“You are having bacon and eggs with Chuck Colson Julie, DO NOT say anything stupid.” And then it was over. We both went off to work, but I will never forget that encounter.

There was one thing I specifically remember about this meeting that sticks out to me now as a leader. He smiled at me consistently throughout our chat that morning. His eyes truly reflected the joy of the Lord that was in his soul.

Today, as I work for a small local non-profit ministry that serves hurting and forgotten single-mothers and their children, I am often reminded of my breakfast with Chuck and his smiling eyes.  I often have thought about my mini lesson in stewardship concerning the facility that I now manage that he taught me that morning. But most importantly through that encounter I am reminded that I too need to be reflection of the joy of the Lord to everyone I come in contact with.

Thank you Chuck Colson for sharing your breakfast with me that day. You will be missed.

Speak Your Mind