Strip Chruch — Bringing the Gospel to Strippers?
The Ministry of Todd and Erin Stevens!
I recently read the most interesting book on evangelism I’ve ever encountered. I’ll be honest: the title alone has gotten more raised eyebrows, snickers, and down right looks of curiosity from any book I’ve ever held in my hands. On the cover the first thing you’ll notice in big bold letters: How To Pick Up A Stripper.
And underneath, written in surprisingly smaller words: “and other acts of kindness.”
I’m sorry, but the humor in the title alone made me want to read this book in public every day. So I did. At work in the break room, in front of my mother, and even before praise team practice at church. The most common response was, “Josh, are you trying to become a pimp?” I would calmly and politely say, “No, this is a book about ministering God’s love in the most unusual places. See? Look inside.” Frankly, the book is a great conversation piece, and it will remain on my coffee table from now until Jesus comes back. I am a humorous person by nature, and these incidents with the book speak bounds about my personality.
All kidding aside on my part, the book is far more than just some marketing ploy dreamed up by the publishing house: it is a remarkable accomplishment. It is the tale of Todd and Erin Stevens and their remarkable ministry. First-time authors Todd and Erin are involved in ministry at Friendship Community Church and Nashville Strip Church (Middle Tennessee represent!)
According to its press release:
“The congregation is known for bringing creative ways to show God’s love to the community, which can be as simple as buying lunch for the person in line behind you or even starting Nashville Strip Church. During a 21-day fast, Todd’s wife, Erin, prayed for God’s guidance, and He told her, ‘Feed the strippers.’ She heeded the call and began serving food to strippers and other employees at a Nashville strip club. She didn’t take a Bible, she didn’t preach, she just showered the love of Jesus on everyone. Before long, questions were being asked about Erin’s faith that led to one of the strippers turning her life over to Christ, going to college, and pursuing a degree in law enforcement. This woman now helps Erin with the Nashville Strip Church ministry.”
Jesus said it very plainly when the Pharisees brought a woman clearly guilty of sin in John 8:7: “So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”
It brought great joy to my heart and a tear in my eye to hear about the love and dedication in the hearts of the Stevens in a recent interview. I felt blessed and inspired just speaking with them, and I knew God sent them to me to enlighten my heart and put a new perspective on the way I look at things. If you only read one thing this year, make sure it is this book. At the very least, you will come out of it spiritually refreshed with a new perspective on certain people and circumstances:
Do you feel the title of this book will be an effective tool for inquiring readers?
Todd: We want to show God’s love to everybody. Just like when Jesus was criticized for who he hung out with that is when He told the story of the shepherd who has a 100 sheep and loses one. He didn’t consider that 1 percent loss acceptable. He went to find that 1. And we as people shy away from reaching out to people we are not comfortable with; we are considering them an acceptable loss. We don’t want to do that. We don’t want to leave anybody behind. We reach out to all because God truly loves everybody.
Why do you think God chose you two to go minister to performers in strip clubs?
Erin: Well, I was doing a 21 day fast back in October of 2012. And I was fasting for a building or land because our church was needing that. We were growing so fast, and out of that God just really broke my heart for people far from him. And that is when I came into the realization that the Muslims are not the enemy. Homosexuals are not the enemy, and strippers are not the enemy; they are the mission field. They are who we are called to love and reach out to. So it was at that time I picked up the phone and called the most famous strip club in Nashville I could think of and talked to the general manager and I said hey I just want to come and bring a home cooked meal and love on your girls. Would you let me do that? I’m not bringing a Bible, I’m not bringing a track, I won’t even talk about Jesus if you don’t want me to: I just want to unconditionally love these girls. And he said can you come next Thursday? I have been going every two weeks since. I just tell the girls they are valuable to me and valuable to God, but I don’t preach to them. The girls are drawn to the unconditional love of Jesus. They see through me. Sometimes they call me the “church lady,” and I’m okay with that because they know that beyond anything I love them and, more importantly, God loves them.
Would you say that most women you minister to in the strip clubs come from broken homes or suffer a deep form of depression or yearn for something?
Erin: I would say most do. However, not all are. There are girls down there who are just working their way through college, maybe they come from a poor home. Unfortunately, when they get into that lifestyle they may be drugged or drink a lot just to make it through the shift.
Todd: And what we found in talks about gateway drugs the stripping often times is a gateway to alcohol abuse and use of all different kinds of drugs. They do that to cope with when they realize how they are disrespecting their bodies. A lot of times these people never dabble with that until they start stripping, and they abuse things sort of as a coping mechanism just to get them through their shift.
If people want to help with your ministry and support the cause, how do they contribute?
Erin: Nashvillestripchurch.com and on the website they can give online or they can write a check.
Todd: Or another great way people are partnering with her is by providing gifts that she takes to the club.
Erin: Makeup kits, finger nail polish, books, CDs or whatever. We have a storage shed in our backyard that is nothing but donations for the girls, and I take them every two weeks. I need a constant flow of donated items.
Do you have any closing remarks?
Todd: Yes, I would just like to say that the people who are least like us are really the people who we have the potential to show the most love to. It is easy to love people who are just like us because we basically like all of the same things and have stuff in common, but when I have absolutely nothing in common with someone, and I am able to connect with somebody then they know that it is not normal, that it has got to be coming ultimately from God.