Church Hurt

Tonight we went for our regular strip club outreach. We never know how God is going to show up, who we are going to meet, or what doors He is going to open for gospel conversations. Now, before you continue reading this, I want you to brace yourself… not for the amazing testimony of God but for the conviction of the Holy Spirit on your heart. This post, I pray will cause you to reflect, search your heart, and repent if necessary. I trust that the Lord will be forgiving of any areas where we have fallen short and fill us with the power of the Holy Spirit to be true carriers of the message of hope and redemption.

Club outreach always starts the same, the team meets at my house, and we pray for each other to be sensitive to the leading of the Spirit. We pray over the encounters we will have. We pray for the hearts of those we will meet. We pray for a blessing over the gifts or treats we bring. And finally, we pray for protection as we enter the club. Once we arrive, we are always greeted by the doorman, whom we love and adore, we visit with the manager or club owner (whom we also love and adore!) Then we split off and check in with the DJ and the girls. We are always welcomed into the dressing room where the girls are getting ready for the night. It’s nice in the dressing room because we get to be with the ladies “behind the scenes” and the conversation is more open and free. Tonight, however, my teammate was in the dressing room and met a new lady we had not met yet. My teammate immediately felt a spirit of resistance as she introduced herself. Prayerfully, my teammate considered whether it was the right time to bring up God as she didn’t want to hinder any further relationship that could be established. The Spirit of the Lord told her, yes and without hesitation, the words “God loves you” came out of her mouth. Unfortunately, these were the exact words that caused the new dancer to put walls up and end the conversation. She did not want to hear about God and walked away. Moments like this can be very discouraging for us. It can feel like a complete failure and cause us to ask ourselves if we heard correctly from the Lord or if we have stepped out of alignment with His Spirit.

Later in the evening, while I was visiting with the bartender, I noticed a woman I had never met before (yes, the same girl from the dressing room). I noticed how beautiful she was and made a comment about her eyelashes. Long beautiful natural eyelashes. It was a great way to break the ice and start up a conversation. We spoke for a few moments about natural beauty, minimal makeup, and the outfit she was wearing. She definitely had a unique style, which I admire because it is an expression of her unique personality and the creativity God instilled in her. After a few moments, she said, “You must be Casey, I’ve heard about you.” I’m always surprised when the ladies know my name before I have had the opportunity to introduce myself. He immediately followed her statement with the inquisition, “Why are you here?” We get this a lot, sometimes it is out of genuine and unadulterated curiosity and other times, like this one, this question comes with a defensive and condemning connotation. However, I love this question because it is truly an open door for sharing the unconditional love of Christ with the ladies in their current circumstances. The exact words of my response vary depending on how the Spirit is leading me but at this moment I told her that we are here because we love you, we support you, and we want to encourage you. This is all true, we love, support, and want to encourage every individual we meet in this industry as they are a beloved creation of God and created in His image. I believe these were the words she needed to hear in order to press in more because she asked if we were from a church, (again negative, connotations). I told her yes, that we go to a church but that we were not there to represent the church. I told her that we were there to represent God and His genuine love and care for the people in the strip club. I continued to tell her that God loves and adores her and accepts her right where she’s at and exactly who she is at that very moment. Immediately, the walls came down and she asked if she could be honest with me. Of course, I said yes and was hanging on edge to learn what she was going to disclose to me.

But in reality, I doubt she would have allowed me to refuse her honesty- she told me that the moment my teammate had walked into the dressing room and said “God loves you” her head fell into her hands and she thought to herself, “Oh sh*t, the missionaries are here to tell us we are all condemned.” (Rightfully so, that is a common initial thought from the people we encounter at the strip club.) She continued to open up to me about her life and the ‘church hurt’ she has. Those were her words, not mine. This woman had been shut out and condemned by the church in moments of her life when she needed community and acceptance the most. This is all too common in the sex industry and it breaks my heart. The church should be a place of safety and love where we embrace people no matter their lifestyle and circumstances. I felt compelled to apologize on behalf of the church and for the poor representation of Christ’s love. I told her that I hope that our presence in the strip club displays God’s true love for people no matter who they are or what they are doing because God’s love for humanity doesn’t change. His desire for a relationship with ALL people has never changed. It doesn’t change if we are walking in the Spirit, if we are selling our body for sex, if we are plotting the murder of our next-door neighbor, or if we are a religious pharisee. The woman, who we will call Jennifer, was completely at ease as she continued to pour her heart out and be filled with the love, peace, and joy of the Holy Spirit. I could sense the Father’s arms wrapping around her in those moments as we stood at the bar of the strip club. Moments like this, the music seems to drown out, the people seem to fade away, and the only thing that matters is the person standing in front of you. It’s truly remarkable. I was able to share my own experience of working in the strip clubs for so many years and told her that there is nothing she can do to earn Christ’s love- that it is only a relationship that He desires. She completed the conversation by saying how much better she feels knowing that I can relate to her current circumstance and that there is no judgment coming from me or my team. Jennifer was touched by the Holy Spirit tonight and the true presence of God met her right in the middle of the loud, wild, party atmosphere of the strip club.

In reflection, my teammate and I realize that sometimes God uses both of us to minister to the same person back to back. The encounter she had in the dressing room was all part of his plan, He used my teammate to break the ice and used me to follow up with the loving embrace of ministering to her heart. Please pray for Jennifer as we hope to see her again very soon and continue loving her with the heart of the Father and seeing her through the eyes of Christ.

Furthermore, we pray for the church! We pray that the church leaves judgment aside as it is not our place to judge others. We pray against division as a tactic of the enemy. We pray that the church truly embraces people in their brokenness with tender love and care. It is His love and acceptance that is so attractive to those outside of a relationship with Him. It is His kindness that draws us to repentance. So let’s check our hearts as we stay diligent not to fall into this trap of the enemy. God loves you too, even if you have fallen short in displaying His love to people that live a lifestyle that is considered unacceptable to you. We all need the love of Jesus, whether we are near or far from Him. We are designed to need His love at every moment of our lives. Church, let’s be this to those who know him and those who don’t. Bless you, as you search your heart and wrestle with the areas where you have fallen short. May God keep you and strengthen you to align yourself with the heart of the Father and represent Him to those you encounter.

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