After serving time for his role in Watergate, Colson was born again—in fact, that was the name of his autobiography—and remade himself as an evangelical leader, primarily through his prison ministry.
The trumpets will be sounding on the other side for Charles W. Colson—not only for what he achieved as a Christian leader but for how much his character changed. His life story is one of the outstanding and best known examples in modern times of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.
Colson’s legacy thus extends far beyond the community of prisoners, although prison ministry has been his primary calling. In his contribution to changing the church, he crossed many denominational boundaries. He started a bold initiative called Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT), which caused controversy but also achieved theological understanding between these wings of the Christian faith. In recent years he has dedicated much of his time to the Centurion educational program. It raises up 100 church leaders a year through an intensive teaching course which he led.
Although Colson’s achievements were remarkable, his example is more important. Back in Watergate times, his secular opponents loathed his spiritual journey and longed for him to stumble and fall. Almost four decades later he has confounded his critics and often won their admiration. This is because he has walked his talk.
Colson’s personal life has been exemplary since he entered into a relationship with this Lord. He has made considerable sacrifices in financial matters. He battled, successfully, against the petty vices of smoking and drinking and against various forms of the pride described in C.S. Lewis’s “Great Sin” that tempted him towards the limelight of trying to be too dominant and too controlling in his ministry. But these struggles have made his journey all the more authentic and effective.