Activist Faith

The Washington Post’s “On Faith” highlighted the legacy plan of Prison Fellowship founder Charles Colson. The plan? Developing a group of next-generation leaders called “Centurions” who can defend Christianity in an increasingly anti-Christian culture where the faith is seen as “in crisis.”

But the question is, “Will it work?” To start, let me be clear that I highly admire Colson’s faith and his efforts to serve prisoners and their families in a way no one else has in our generation. My concern here are his thoughts on what it means to create a movement to outlast himself.

First, there’s the obvious issue of using the term Centurion for a group of Christian leaders. Would I want to be labeled as a Christian leader who resembles Spartacus? Do I want to be associated with war and conflict as a Christian leader? No way! Jesus taught, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” not “Blessed are the Centurions.”

Second, there’s the faulty idea that a program equals legacy. Programs help, but it is God who raises up leaders and it is relationships that forge the necessary traits for social change. No program, regardless of its quality, can substitute.

My most glaring concern in Colson’s legacy plans, however, is that the movement he has built to serve prisoners and their families has become a negative to many because of the cultural baggage connected to it. I personally would love to have the impact Colson has had on social change issues in my generation, but it’s not going to happen as a Centurion who bashes Apple over whether they like my latest app and complains about political issues to the extent that people think of me as a politician rather than a servant of Christ.

Yes, I want to change the world. No, I don’t want to be a Centurion. But Colson and I both agree this world doesn’t need more meetings, it needs a movement that transforms society through the love of Christ.


DILLON BURROUGHS is an author, activist, and co-founder of Activist Faith. Dillon served in Haiti following the epic 2010 earthquake and has investigated modern slavery in the US and internationally. His books include Undefending Christianity, Not in My Town (with Charles J. Powell), and Thirst No More (October). Discover more at

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