Strippers vs. Churchgoers

Strippers vs. Churchgoers

August 12, 2010 by

Yesterday we tweeted about a strange little story in Ohio where a group of strippers protested a church. It’s such a bizarre story that we couldn’t help diving in further (it seems the rest of the web couldn’t either). Here’s the story in a nutshell:

Pastor Bill Dunfee and the New Beginnings Ministries church have spent every weekend for the past four years picketing Tommy George’s Foxhole strip club. They show up with bullhorns and video cameras, preaching and capturing the license plates of customers to post online.

George tried suing the church in federal court several years ago and lost on free speech grounds. So he opted to use the church’s own tactics against them and started a protest of his own on Sunday morning. George and the strippers show up with bikinis and burgers, sitting in lawn chairs with their protest signs.

The first few weeks Dunfee had the sermon piped outside, but that only caused the strippers to “dance in the streets” (there’s your new tagline: “Preaching so good, the strippers dance in the streets!”). Now the two sides mostly ignore each other, though the article notes that one church member stopped to pray with one of the women, who appreciated the gesture.

Lessons
Getting people to church is a good thing, but I don’t think this is how you want to do it. Protesting, shaming and antagonizing people is never a good way to communicate the gospel. In this case it’s blowing up in their face as so many point and laugh.

Your strategy should be consistent with your message. If you believe in love, you should communicate with love. Maybe this church believes in judgment and, whether or not that’s the case, that’s exactly what’s being communicated.

The lone example of the one church member crossing the lines and talking to one of the women is encouraging. That’s where the story of the gospel is happening. In the Gospels you don’t find Jesus shouting at sinners with a bullhorn or shaming people into following him.

These kinds of stories show up all too often as Christians and their churches wage a painful culture war. In the end hearts are hardened on both sides and innocent bystanders become victims of holy tirades. You certainly can share the gospel by aiming a sword or a bullhorn at the heathen masses, but history has proven that it doesn’t go over well.

If you want the strippers to stop stripping, you might try loving them instead of protesting them, talking to them instead of shouting at them, befriending them instead of vilifying them.

Reaction
You can find reaction all over the web to this story (and I’m sure in our comments section as folks begin to chime in), but here are a few responses we heard in social media and blogs:

Neto Mejia: “I’m with the strippers. Not just to be oppositional, this is a good lesson on how church foolishness can backfire.”

Chad Neal: “Why did only one church member go out and speak to the ladies? The church should have been overwhelming them with the love of Christ. Bringing them refreshments, and maybe even held an impromptu cookout with them.”

Todd Rhoades: “The one thing this church has done with their actions is pretty much guarantee that none of them will have anything to do with any of these people coming to Christ.”

@SisterSimplify: “I’m afraid I’d be sitting with the strippers. That pastor is an [expletive]!”

Update (Aug. 19, 2010):
This culture clash has turned into hugs and likely reconciliation as two representatives from a strippers-turned-Christian ministry called JC’s Girls went to Ohio and talked to Bill Dunfee and his congregation, as well as Tommy George and the women who work at the Foxhole strip club. Neither side has completely backed down and agreed to end the protests, but this is a giant leap forward. People of the Second Chance give the summary, the local paper has the full story and the JC’s Girls blog has several updates.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks


When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998 and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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12 Responses to “Strippers vs. Churchgoers”

  • Nathan Creitz
    August 12, 2010

    Thanks for highlighting this story. I didn’t see it until you brought it up.

    I think it’s funny how churches like this get their own “license plates” captured. When a church does something foolish, pretty soon the whole world knows about it. They are the ones who ought to be ashamed. Sure, the strippers are in sin, but they are only doing what is natural to a sinner. The members of that church are forgiven, loved, adopted into the family of God, shown mercy, and grace. They ought to do what comes naturally to one who is forgiven, loved, adopted, graced, and mercied (for lack of a better way to put it). Until then, their license plate is all over the internet now and they can either change or be shamed by their behavior.


    • Ian Webster
      August 29, 2010

      Magnificently put, Nathan.
      I’m preaching over here in South Africa tonight on Authentic Christianity. I will be quoting you. Hope you don’t mind!


  • Becky Martin
    August 12, 2010

    I’m so encouraged by Southland Christian Church (my former church in Lexington, KY) and their Bruised Reed ministry, which is the complete opposite of the New Beginnings approach (the irony of their name and behavior is staggering). To read more about Southland’s involvement with strip clubs, you can read any number of articles, including this one in Christian Standard, titled “Church Ladies Spotted at Strip Clubs”.


  • Ian
    August 12, 2010

    What is this I don’t even….

    You’d think they would have figured out after FOUR YEARS of protesting at this place every weekend that publicly condemning and humiliating people wasn’t getting them to change. Bravo to Mr. George and the strippers for having a sense of humor about the whole sordid business, and bravo to the one church member that had enough sense to go out and talk to and pray with them.


  • Revsimmy
    August 12, 2010

    Remind me again…which Gosple was it had Jesus protesting about prostitutes and sinners with a bullhorn and video cameras?


  • Brent Lacy
    August 12, 2010

    I wrote a post on this the other day at MinistryPlace.net and one of my questions about the whole situation was this:

    How does all this show them the Grace and Mercy God has given to us?

    my full thoughts here:
    http://ministryplace.net/2010/08/churchgoers-strippers-protest-one-another/


  • Russ
    August 12, 2010

    Speaking of churches having their license plates captured, one of our local churches decided to put a very simple logo on a magnet for their members to put on their cars. The logo coincided with a billboard campaign to draw attention to this branding. However, I noticed a pattern with many of these folks to the point where I started calling it “the church of non-defensive driving”.

    But that’s sad… why can’t I call them “the church that loves unconditionally” or “the church that gives generously and sacrificially”? Probably because all I know them for is people with these “K” magnets on the back who are speeding, running red lights and cutting people off in traffic.


  • Joy
    August 12, 2010

    OMG…I’m afraid I would have been falling over with laughter when the strippers started protesting the church…I think I would have called a truce at that point and had a big barbeque for everyone! LOL…I wonder if it’s possible to share the love of Jesus without being spooky and outlandish? I feel for that congregation because they will have egg on their faces for a looooong time..


  • Dave
    August 14, 2010

    WWJD? Jesus hung out with the prostitutes.

    I’d pull up a lawn chair, grab a burger and join the party!


  • Kimberly
    August 18, 2010

    Save me a lawn chair and add a burger to the grill next time!

    All I could think about reading this post was the New Beginnings Christian Church that’s exhibiting artwork here in October as part of the First Fridays Art walk. They’re all about love, inclusion and welcoming. http://newbeginningschristianchurch.org/

    I’ve come to know a number of their members through art walk exhibits in the past year and this image from their upcoming exhibit is as on message as it gets: http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4140/4858859037_6923e38988.jpg

    Were I to tweet this reaction, I might note: Virginia’s New Beginnings – 1; Ohio’s New Beginnings – 0.


  • MC
    August 19, 2010

    I think I am with the strippers too – how often have you wanted to protest a church as a Christian because of how they’ve represented YOU as a Christ-follower?

    A church in Lexington, KY actually has a whole ministry dedicated to GOING into strip clubs, serving a meal and loving on girls. They’ve even started a Mobile Ministry with RV’s in the parking lots to serve food, give away clothing and do referrals to the medical clinic they started as well. I think it’s clear what message the communicate…


  • Jay
    August 23, 2010

    Do you think the strippers will show up for the “See you at the Pole” rally?



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